Brutalism is architecture in the raw with an emphasis on materials, texture, and construction, creating dramatic and memorable images.
It was both an ethos and a style. The leading protagonists were Alison and Peter Smithson who advocated a back to basics approach to architecture, seen in their school at Hunstanton in Norfolk because of its uncompromising approach to the display of structure and services. Called New Brutalism, and championed by the architectural historian Reyner Banham, the Smithsons saw it as a natural development from the Modern Movement. Their philosophy encompassed a reverence for the materials of the built world, an affinity between building and man and architecture as way of life. In practice, the architecture that emerged was characterised by the use of raw concrete (beton brut), massive scale, textured surfaces, and emphasis on displaying the different functions of the building, particularly the services, seen in large ventilation towers.
What to look for in a Brutalist building:
Rough unfinished surfaces
Clearly displayed structure and services
Emphasis on materials
Explore these galleries from the RIBA Collections illustrating the main features of Brutalism.
NOTES: Designed in 1968 by Neave Brown of Camden Council's Architects Department, this multi-family, 8-storey council housing estate, properly known as the Alexandra and Ainsworth estate, was built between 1972 and 1979.
Greater London Council. Department of Architecture & Civic Design
NOTES: The South Bank Arts Centre, known as the Southbank Centre since 2002, comprises the Royal Festival Hall (completed in 1951), the Queen Elizabeth Hall and the Purcell Room (completed in 1967), and the Hayward Gallery (completed in 1968).