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Art Brut: Revisiting Brutalist Architecture

Derived from a descriptive term used by Le Corbusier, béton brut (raw concrete), Brutalist architecture is an offshoot of modernism that trades the spatial poetry of steel and glass for grounded, castle-like structures of exposed concrete.
The Egg -- Albany, New York (1978) The oblong, sculptural, saucer-shaped performance venue appears to rest on a pedestal, when in fact it’s supported by a stem that goes six stories into the ground. Designed by Harrison & Abramovitz, and celebrated in a song by They Might Be Giants, the curious, curved building showcases the flexibility possible with Brutalist forms. Photo courtesy Padriac, Creative Commons.

En vogue from the ‘50s through the ‘70s, Brutalism screamed functionality and immovable strength and was revered for its honesty and relatively low construction costs, all of which made it a favorite of institutional and government clients. The trend found many adherents in England -- the term was coined there in 1953 by English architects Alison and Peter Smithson -- as well as some serious critics, including Prince Charles, who quipped “You have to give it to the Luftwaffle. When it knocked down our buildings, it didn't replace them with anything more offensive than rubble.”

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