Brutalist Architecture

Brutalist Architecture

Brutalism is a 20th-century architectural movement that significantly influenced the development of global architecture. This article examines in detail the origins of Brutalism, its key features, the most famous structures in this style, and the criticism it faced.

Emergence of Brutalism

Following the destruction of World War II in Europe, there was an acute shortage of housing and public buildings. This necessitated fast and inexpensive construction. Architects increasingly used concrete and glass. The renowned Le Corbusier characterized such buildings as "brutal" (from the French "brut" - rough, unfinished), which gave this new architectural direction its name.

Distinctive Features of Brutalism

Brutalism is characterized by:

Rough appearance of buildings. Architects intentionally emphasize the texture of the used materials, most often rough concrete or brickwork, without hiding them under plaster or cladding panels. Concise, stern, angular forms, dominating over decor. Functionality is more important than aesthetics. Modular construction system using standard elements (panels, beams, etc.). This increases the speed and cost-effectiveness of building construction. Large areas of facade glazing, enhancing the expressiveness of the structures.

These characteristics of Brutalism create a unique visual impression, often evoking contradictory feelings. Despite their rough appearance, Brutalist buildings possess a certain strength and power. They symbolize honesty and directness in architecture, where functionality and simplicity are paramount. The modular construction system, characteristic of this style, makes it very practical and economical, especially in the context of the need for rapid construction of large-scale social and public objects. Large glass planes give the buildings a special expressiveness, demonstrating the power and scale of Brutalist architecture.

Iconic Examples of Brutalist Architecture

One of the most recognizable Brutalist structures is the Unité d'Habitation in Marseille, designed by the great Le Corbusier. It's an entire residential quarter of houses on thin concrete stilts, elevating the buildings above the ground. The facades are distinguished by simple strict lines, ribbon glazing, and an absence of decor.

Another Brutalist architecture masterpiece is the National Theatre in Mannheim by CG Baumhauer. Its facade with a robust frame of concrete columns and slabs and vast glazing creates a sense of monumentality and conciseness simultaneously.

The inverted stepped pyramid of Boston City Hall, designed by architects Kallmann, McKinnell, and Knowles, is highly unusual. Stair flights encircle the entire structure, creating a play of light and shadow on the facades. It's one of the brightest examples of Brutalism in public buildings.

Many other structures worldwide also demonstrate the fundamental traits of this avant-garde architectural style of the mid-20th century.

Criticism of the Style and Its Influence

Despite its innovation, Brutalism did not escape criticism. It was reproached for excessive asceticism, neglecting human scale, and lack of attention to the aesthetic component. Nonetheless, this style significantly influenced world architecture. The principles of Brutalism find application in the creations of many contemporary architects.


Thus, Brutalism is a distinctive direction in 20th-century architecture. It is characterized by concise forms, exposed textural surfaces, a tendency towards functionality, and a predominance of concrete and glass. Brutalism has significantly changed the appearance of our cities and had a substantial impact on the development of global architecture.