Brutal and Beautiful: 25 Iconic Brutalist Buildings

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Brutal and Beautiful: 25 Iconic Brutalist Buildings

Once despised and even feared, Brutalist architecture is now experience a major revival. Conservation efforts combined with a newfound appreciation for the unique, bulky structures has lead to an outpouring of praise for the controversial style, and it’s not hard to see why.

The aggressive (and perhaps off-putting) name stems from the French word béton brut, meaning “raw concrete,” the style’s primary material. While it began as an affordable solution to the massive destruction brought on by WWII—and you’ll notice many of our best examples are in Europe—Brutalism took on a life of its own. As it developed, Brutalism became both a sharp response to previous architectural movements that focused on airier designs, and a subtle political statement dripping with socialist undertones. Famed architects such as Marcel Breuer, Le Corbusier and Lina Bo Bardi took the fundamentals of Brutalism and created something awe-inspiring. Massive, imposing and with little to no embellishments, Brutalists buildings exhibited a bold new way forward into Minimalism—though some might exchange “Minimalism” for “Totalitarianism.”

While these buildings are now experiencing landmark status, at the time of their conception they were seen as hulking, unsightly, and cold—certainly anything but airy and light. Residents of Brutalist buildings even reported psychological symptoms of anxiety and depression. Then there’s the issue of building a structure completely out of concrete. Many people associate concrete with superficiality and coldness, and it’s easy to see where they’re coming from. However, concrete is actually an interesting reflection of its natural environment. The surface texture can be dictated by a number of climatic elements that add a wonderful vulnerability to concrete structures. As the years have past, we can see the passing of time, literally, on the face of Brutalist buildings. Rain stains, for example, showcase an artful display of time in motion.

Love it or hate it, Brutalism is here to stay—check out the gallery to get a sense of some of the most iconic examples. Think we’ve overlooked a Brutalist building that can’t be missed? Let us know!