So What is Brutalism?

Picture of The Brutalist

The Brutalist

A Brutalist Laundrette at The Barbican

From Google’s Dictionary:


  1. 1.
    cruelty and savageness.
    “exchanging one kind of social and economic brutalism for another is not what they had in mind”
  2. 2.
    a stark style of functionalist architecture, especially of the 1950s and 1960s, characterized by the use of steel and concrete in massive blocks.
    “the long, low, concrete-faced buildings were remarkable solely for their brutalism”

The Tate Museum use the following definition:

Brutalism is an architectural style of the 1950s and 1960s characterised by simple, block-like forms and raw concrete construction

they go on to say:

The term was coined by the British architectural critic Reyner Banham to describe the approach to building particularly associated with the architects Peter and Alison Smithson in the 1950s and 1960s.The term originates from the use, by the pioneer modern architect and painter Le Corbusier, of ‘beton brut’ – raw concrete in French. Banham gave the French word a punning twist to express the general horror with which this concrete architecture was greeted in Britain.
A Brutalist Laundrette at The Barbican
A Brutalist Laundrette at The Barbican

That font of all knowledge…Wikipedia has this to say

(Brutalism)…descended from the modernist architectural movement of the late 19th century and of the first half of 20th century. It is characterized by simple, block-like structures that often feature bare building materials. Exposed concrete is favored in construction; however, some examples are primarily made of brick…

Brutalist designs have historically been polarising.

Go on to any Facebook discussion forum and look at the sort of images of “Brutalist” buildings that are being shared and you will see that not everyone necessarily agrees with what does, and does not, fit into the Brutalist category.

I’ll be basing my “definition” around the Tate Modern’s examples. I’m not as keen on the brick built Brutalist structures…but I’m certainly not going to exclude them from this project if I capture them photographically in a particularly pleasing way!

I’ll also be including what is going on inside (and around) these buildings because it should not be forgotten that a lot of these are living, breathing communities and the buildings are used day to day.

A Brutalist Garage underneath The Barbican
A Brutalist Garage underneath The Barbican

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