-By William O'Connor
|Boston City Hall. Boston, MA USA 1968|
Unless you went to a posh school like Princeton or Oxford dripping with ivy covered gothic architecture, chances are your higher education was done on campuses that evolved after WWII and the massive baby-boom of students in the 1960’s and ‘70’s. To keep up with demand many of the libraries, administrative buildings and offices built all over the world at this time embraced the Brutalist Architecture movement. Cheap, big and modern. I can still remember the massive bunker-like concrete walls of my university art school with its arrow slit windows, coffered fluorescent lights, minimalist Norwegian furniture, and sun-scorched concrete plaza where no living thing could survive. I hated it!
|Folsom Library. Troy, NY USA 1976|
|University of Toronto Library. Toronto CA|
|Depart of Health and Human Services Bldg. Washington DC, USA 1975|
|J Edgar Hoover Bldg: FBI HQ. Washington DC, USA 1970|
I’ve tried to take a second look at Brutalism, to try to find any redeeming qualities instead of simply casting it aside based on first impressions. Recently I’ve discovered a hesitant appreciation for the designs, not completely disassociated from my daughter’s interest in Minecraft, with its titanic designs very reminiscent of the style. Their strong fortress like lines put me in a mind of ancient castles, Aztec pyramids or even a Dwarven citadel or SciFi bunker. Their simplicity and monumental heaviness conveys stability, permanence and strength. When I showed my daughter the pictures in this blog she loved the buildings, not because they are pretty (they aren’t), but because she can see their structure and understand how they were built, and she digs that. It may be forty years afterward, but The Brutalists have a new generation of admirers.
Text © 2014 William O'Connor. All images are used for educational and editorial purposes only as outlined in the US Copyright Code of Fair Use.