Launch Slideshow

Esto Gallery: Brutalism

Esto Gallery: Brutalism

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    © Jeff Goldberg | Esto

    Orange County Government Center, Goshen, N.Y., by Paul Rudolph

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    © Jeff Goldberg | Esto

    Orange County Government Center, Goshen, N.Y., by Paul Rudolph

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    © Jeff Goldberg | Esto

    Orange County Government Center, Goshen, N.Y., by Paul Rudolph

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    © Jeff Goldberg | Esto

    Orange County Government Center, Goshen, N.Y., by Paul Rudolph

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    The Salk Institute, La Jolla, Calif., by Louis Kahn

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    The Salk Institute, La Jolla, Calif., by Louis Kahn

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    The National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo., by I. M. Pei, FAIA.

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    The National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder, Colo., by I. M. Pei, FAIA.

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    Boston City Hall, Boston, by Kallmann McKinnell (later Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles).

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    Boston City Hall, Boston, by Kallmann McKinnell (later Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles).

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    New Haven Parking Garage, New Haven, Conn., by Paul Rudolph

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    New Haven Parking Garage, New Haven, Conn., by Paul Rudolph

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    Portrait of Paul Rudolph at his Parking Garage in New Haven, Conn.

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    The Whitney Museum, New York, by Marcel Breuer.

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    The Whitney Museum, New York, by Marcel Breuer.

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    L'Enfant Plaza, Washington, D.C., by I. M. Pei, FAIA.

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    The Carpenter Center at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., by Le Corbusier.

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    © Wayne Andrews | Esto

    The Carpenter Center at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., by Le Corbusier.

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    The Carpenter Center at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass., by Le Corbusier.

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    Milwaukee War Memorial, Milwaukee Wis., by Eero Saarinen.

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    © Ezra Stoller | Esto

    Milwaukee War Memorial, Milwaukee Wis., by Eero Saarinen.

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    © Wayne Andrews | Esto

    Southeastern Massachusetts Technical Institute, North Dartmouth, Mass., by Paul Rudolph.

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    © Wayne Andrews | Esto

    Southeastern Massachusetts Technical Institute, North Dartmouth, Mass., by Paul Rudolph.

Given recent controversy over Brutalist buildings being put in the path of the wrecking ball, it seems appropriate to re-examine some of these structures that, while often lauded in their heyday, are currently demonized by the public. ARCHITECT Editor-in-Chief Ned Cramer, Assoc. AIA, noted in a recent editorial that “it’s a bad time to be a Brutalist building.” But as supporters of Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center learned when they won a vote to not tear down the building (albeit by a narrow margin), the tide may be turning.

Brutalism as a concept evolved, according to architectural critic and theorist Reyner Banham, from "reference[s] to béton brut (raw concrete), which had been one of the most controversial features of Le Corbusier's recently finished Unité block in Marseilles ... and, not least, the art brut of Dubuffet." [quoted from Reyner Banham's Historian of the Immediate Future, page 125]

Admirers of the genre celebrate Brutalist buildings for their precast concrete walls with rough, unfinished surfaces; detractors tend to see only their massive forms, which can seem leaden, heavy, and overbearing. Take a look at these pictures, and decide for yourself whether you’re in favor of preservation or demolition.