The Atlas Of Brutalist Architecture: a love letter to untreated concrete

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One of the significant changes in architecture since Umbrella’s launch in 2010 has been in the perception of brutalism, the architectural movement of the 1960s-80s that used untreated concrete as its main construction material. While some criticism of brutalist buildings was fair – too austere; poorly suited to local weather conditions; designed by people who never had to live in its buildings – some was not. In fact, a fair bit of brutalism’s bad rep comes from negligence on the part of local councils, and unrelated economic and social problems.

Thankfully, brutalism’s legacy is now seen in a more positive light: something that can be seen in a new book, the Atlas Of Brutalist Architecture. As the title suggests, this is a worldwide tour of the genre, one that showcases the ambition, craft and beauty of modern architecture from the mid-20th century to today. Highlights include St Joseph’s hospital in Tacoma, USA (stilts, round windows); Preston bus station (beautiful ‘waves’ of concrete contrasting with old-fashioned buses); and the Poplavok cafe in Dnipro, Ukraine – a waterside paradise that looks like it was designed either for George Best or a Bond villain (if it goes on sale, we’re interested). 

And while the book will never make everyone fall in love with brutalism (especially in cold, damp locations where concrete can degrade in an ugly fashion), it does show, that at its best, the genre points to a better, and more beautifully designed world. 

The Atlas Of Brutalist Architecture is out now, published by Phaidon, phaidon.com









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