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What is Brutalist architecture?

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The béton brut, or "raw concrete" is an architectural design which dates back to the late 1950s and until the mid 1970's. It came as a symptom of the developing economy of the United States, which required the construction of more buildings to hold the growing populations and to accommodate the development of stores, companies, factories, banks and other community service organization.

Since the boom was so fast, there came a tendency to build fast without paying attention to aesthetics. What occurred was that almost all buildings looked alike at one point: glass structures that made entire cities look as if made out of glass themselves. When the Brutalists came, their plan was to revolutionize all that was seen in architecture by providing a very rough, asymmetric, stone-based approach to building designs. The typical features of Brut include an expressionist and art-deco style, the allusion to boxes, pigeon holes, and buildings that do not follow a hierarchical pattern (i.e. the bottom might seem smaller to the eye than the top), and the perennial. The most salient feature is the texture of the buildings, which is rough, sandy, and brown or cream-toned.  

There are also walkways usually surrounding the buildings. This is also part of the idea behind the usability of the space that the building provides. The benefit of this building style is that the materials used in the construction insulates the building from natural elements better than mere glass. The style was perfect for London, where it began, due to the harsh weather conditions of the city.

Some of the most famous buildings featuring this style include:

  • The John P. Roberts Research Library in Toronto
  • The Boston City Hall
  • East Campus of the University of Illinois
  • The Barco Law Building at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law
  • The Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago
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