Melissa Collison


let's be brutal

Brutalist design has had a bad name over the years.  Clockwork Orange's Brutalist housing commission estate... or the fact that Ian Flemming hated his Brutalist architect neighbor, Erno Goldfinger, so much that he named a James Bond villain after him... or perhaps even the fact that London's The Barbican Centre has been voted its most ugly building hasn't helped this design period.

The Godfather of Brutalist, Le Corbusier designed some of our most highly regarded buildings.  I love his Palace of Justice and his Assembly Building in Chandigarh, India... and the Carpenter Centre in Harvard is simply magnificent.  But who could overlook his Flintstones-style Notre Dame du Haut in Ronchamp?  I just love this tongue-in-cheek dig at one of Paris' most notable buildings:

Brutalism gets its name from Le Corbusier’s term ‘beton brut’ ('raw concrete'), which focuses on a building’s function above all else.  The raw and heavy grey concrete is unmistakably sixties.  But Corbusier wasn't the only one. I'm also filled with inspiration when I look at London's National Theatre, with it's wings of concrete balancing proudly and bravely showing its strong masculinity...

...or to the more feminine forms displayed in the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum in Washington (below).  The softness of its rounded shape with one peek-a-boo window, and the femininity of the centrally-located fountain, are just a little proof of Brutalism's cleverness and beauty.  I just love it.

Over the past years raw concrete has shown its pretty face in many interior design projects.  But let's not pat ourselves on the back for being totally cool and edgy.  It was way before our time and we can thank some of the design greats for leading the way, yet again..