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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Not So Brutal Brutalism

Brutalism, popularized around the mid 20th century, is a style manifested in architecture, furniture, and accessories.  Most people either love or hate the hard lines of brutalist architecture.  When I think of brutalist architecture, I have to admit it's usually not the most pleasant image that comes to mind.  Think boxy concrete buildings with lots of right angles and no embellishments whatsoever.  Function over form.  Le Corbusier is often associated with the popularization of brutalist architecture, which really became prevalent in the 1950's, 60's, and 70's, originally designed as an inexpensive and efficient type of building.  Many buildings in Washington, DC, including the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building shown below, have brutalist characteristics. 

The first Washington Metro stations were designed in the brutalist style by American architect Harry Weese.

Weese's Pentagon City Metro Station

Boston's City Hall was designed and built in the 1960's and is a classic example of brutalist architectural style.

Even if brutalist architecture isn't your favorite (I will admit that it is growing on me), there are certain brutalist design elements that are truly amazing.  Brutalist furniture and accessories are much less form-obsessed and are even (gasp) decorative.  They often have industrial characteristics, like rough metal or wood composition, but they also have decorative features.  Many of Kelly Wearstler's designs interpret brutalist styles in a Hollywood Regency light.

All photos courtesy of Elle Decor
This coffee table, consisting of a rough, deconstructed brass base topped with glass, incorporates brutalist elements.
1st Dibs

C. Jere, who has regained popularity recently thanks to Jonathan Adler, designed eyecatching brass accessories such as this sea urchin that could be characterized as brutalist.

1st Dibs

Our favorite brutalist interpretation comes in the form of lighting.  This brutalist brass chandelier was designed by Harry Weese.  It serves as an eyecatching work of art and adds the perfect element of edginess to a room.

A brutalist chandelier adds such interest and complexity to this otherwise simple bedroom.
Laura Stern Designs

In an absolutely amazing yet edgier room, a brutalist chandelier blends seamlessly and beautifully reflects light all over the neutral walls.
Judy Aldridge 

We are THRILLED to be listing a very similar brutalist chandelier for one of our readers on MoS Marketplace very soon!! Here is a sneak peak of this one-of-a-kind chandelier we are listing!

Be sure to stay tuned to MoS Marketplace for full listing details! 

So tell us what you think about brutalism!  Can you appreciate the architecture, or do you prefer brutalism in the form of furniture and accessories?


A Flair for Vintage Decor said...

Great post! I was just in that Washington Metro Station this past weekend! I am unsure if it is my style-- but great to learn about and appreciate it. Take care, Caroline

Barbara@HausDesign said...

such a cool, unique post - I love it! I think I could enjoy that coffee table and the chandelier you are going to be listing quite easily!

traci zeller designs said...

While I wouldn't call it my favorite, I love it! I think those metro stations are fabulous!

ArchitectDesign™ said...

They're usually the most reviled buildings of any city! they really became popular in the early 70s during the energy crisis: no windows and super thick concrete walls uses very little energy! Some of the forms are pretty cool though -if you have to find SOMETHING to appreciate!

Lisa said...

I went to law school at RU-Camden, which is in a brutalist building. No windows anywhere in the lower three levels where all the classrooms were, and the top two levels (professor offices) had slits for windows. The entire interior was exposed concrete blocks (no drywall). It looked a six story bunker. It was like being inside a dark casino with no concept of time and without any of the fun.

Over the past 4 years RU-Camden has added on a large addition and is currently remodeling the interior. I'd say brutalism is rarely an attractive style. Not really my favorite.

Aldina said...

I also like these! Interior decorations are beautiful (table, pictures, lamps etc.)
I'm not sure if I would like the window-less buildings.

Cirlce of Design Fashion Illustration

LindsB said...

I actually dont mind this style at all, and the pieces you have shown here are pretty, BUT- Boston City Hall has got to be one of the ulgiest buildings around! It just doesnt go with the classic, old style of Boston and I think its such an eyesore. The rest of Boston I love though :)

Anonymous said...

Jere was in revival long before Adler jumped on the bandwagon

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