I hate brutalism because of... A really stupid reason


So, I love brutalism, but a lot of people hate it and when I ask them why there response to a particular work comes down to "it is so run down, and there is trash everywhere!"

Needless to say this is a really dumb reason to dislike the architecture, and it seems akin to blaming a child for an abusive parent.

Does anyone have any good counters to this bad argument for any (not just brutalism) architecture type?

Sep 9, 14 1:55 pm


the amount of trash near a building effects the merit of the work? I don't think so.  I also don't think the era in which it was built demeans its value in the discourse of architecture. Corbusier buildings are run down because they are over 60 years old.  That doesn't mean they are bad buildings.  

Brutalism rules.  People that say otherwise are brutally wrong.  

Sep 9, 14 2:29 pm

samuel, point out to them that Victorian architecture was once considered excessive and tasteless and was allowed to become run down and beat.  Once people started painting all those San Francisco rowhouses pretty colors they became likable again. 

Sep 9, 14 2:56 pm

Why bother replying to flawed logic? If someone's that damn vapid, let it go.

Sep 9, 14 2:56 pm

You'll never be able to convince someone with words, it takes seeing some WELL DONE brutalist work in its context.  Sadly the scale of most brutalist buildings out there make that difficult, but sometimes you get to see some memorable stuff.  A few years ago I was visiting Kyoto, just got off the bus in Gion on the steps of the Yakasa shrine, looked across the street down Shijo Dori, and saw a small brutalist building nestled into the shopping arcade lining the street.  It was that juxtaposition of classic Kyoto and that building which really struck me, I had to go take a closer look.  I think it's the impact of a brutalist building, done well, in its context that really sets them apart.  However, a good example is hard to find. 

Street View Here >>>  LINK

Sep 9, 14 4:30 pm

For every style there are good designs and bad.

Except parametricism.

And postmodernism.


Some brutalist buildings are beautiful. Others are just brutal.

Sep 9, 14 5:08 pm
go do it


Sep 9, 14 8:47 pm

point out to them that Victorian architecture was once considered excessive and tasteless and was allowed to become run down and beat. 


many neighborhoods with largely victorian stock became run-down primarily due to redlining and blockbusting (combined with the federal highway program) - and people hate brutalist architecture because it's the architectural style of government buildings associated with horrible 60s urban renewal projects.


people don't just abandon buildings because the architectural style has somehow gone out of fashion.

Sep 10, 14 12:06 am

Sure they do. Also for profits in redevelopment. And ego. Where I am people buy $20m houses and tear them down to build even more expensive ones.

One has to ask, if you didn't like the house, why did you buy it in the first place?

Sep 10, 14 7:51 am

toaster I think it's both. Twenty years ago you could barely give away a Mid Century Modern house unless it was to knock it down for a new building site.  These days MCM's are in high demand.

Sep 10, 14 11:08 am

they're not buying the house miles. my guess is they're either buying the land, the view, or the neighbors.

people focus on thae poor people with the whole increasing wealth gap thing, but the other side of the coin is that rich people are getting richer.  they were already too rich to begin with.  what do you do if you have billions of dollars?  that's too much to invest in the stock market, too much to donate to a charity, too much to buy a business with.  might as well buy a strip mall and tear it down to build another strip mall.  you might not make your investment back, but if you have to find a place to put a few million, that's as good of a place as any.

Sep 10, 14 11:40 am

BULLSH*T, sure you can. You can spend money however the f*** you want for however much. If you want to donate $1 Billion out of your $10 Billion to a church, the church or church denomination would gladly accept that. It you want to buy a business, sure, it can cost that much. Maybe, not just buy a business but many businesses.


Well, I love Brutalism. Where else can you find buildings that make Auschwitz look like Disneyland? I especially like the way they used to press the wet concrete with wooden boards so that it would look like that something once live came that way. Can't imagine anyone wanting to tear one down.

Sep 10, 14 12:13 pm

I especially like the way they used to press the wet concrete with wooden boards [...]


Haha, you are ripe for derision! Construction techniques, what are those?

Sep 10, 14 12:40 pm

curt, it was a rhetorical question. The answer is "for all the wrong reasons".

Sep 10, 14 1:41 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

"Mommy.... can Billy and I go out to the sterile, inhumane concrete wasteland and play?"

"Sure, honey...don't hurt yourself!"

Sep 10, 14 7:58 pm

Brutalism's just like any other mode of expression; there are good and bad examples.

Sep 10, 14 8:05 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)


Sep 10, 14 8:18 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

"Despite the best efforts of the doctors, little Billy's anxiety did not improve.  They were uncertain as to the reason why the antidepressants were ineffective."


Sep 10, 14 8:24 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

"The highlight of their day was playing on the trapezoidal pedestal of grey cast concrete.  In the winter it proved to be a bit cold, but they had to made do."


Sep 10, 14 8:36 pm
Billy seems to be the common denominator here...
Sep 10, 14 8:37 pm

Perhaps someone could post an attractive brutalist building. The color photo above looks like an embalming room. The others could be a set for a remake of the movie "1984", where every room is Room 101.

Sep 10, 14 8:38 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

"Billy seems to be the common denominator here..."

You feel sorry for little Billy, don't you.

Sep 10, 14 9:13 pm
Billy sucks...
Sep 10, 14 9:26 pm

I visited the amazing Barbican complex in London over the summer.  Somehow I'd never even heard of it.  Though Brutalist with a capital B, it's not brutal: there's a nice level of nuance and articulation to its multiple components (towers, slabs, rowhouses, institutional structures, plazas and circulation elements) that's striking to me.


It's effing huge as a piece of urban design, too.  I was gobsmacked that a project of this size (~40 acres) and scale was carried out with such a high level of continuity.

A big, modernist, yet green and watery plaza winding between, along, and underneath housing blocks and "civic center" piece is fantastic.

Topping it all off--or buried inside, actually--is a massive, multi-story arts complex including library, conservatory, a school or two, performing arts space, concert hall, exhibit hall, café, bar... all connected by multiple stairs and galleries that seemed to have no end.  Wonderfully, it was all a hive of activity on a Sunday night in July.  (Waffle slabs throughout! favorite part of big concrete architecture of the period.)  Of course, I bought a cool, Helvetica-logoed Barbican ruler in the gift shop.

 Go and see this amazing place when in London.

Sep 10, 14 9:31 pm

Nice enough for ya?


Sep 10, 14 10:18 pm

Much better, but the tall building is as much a "glass box" as a Brutalist structure? The expanse of green grass vice poured concrete plaza is a big help also. Some landscape architects work well in the "minimalist" format but still manage to bring in shrubs, trees, water features, and hardscape elements that are attractive without being "busy". They should be brought in to improve this undertaking as well. The interior of the church part of the building is well done. Thanks for posting.

Sep 11, 14 8:29 am
won and done williams

Actually, trash collecting around a building is a good reason to dislike a building. It points out an inherent design flaw - the type of thing an architect should be able to anticipate through the design process. In fact, conversely, simply liking a style without a critical eye towards its design, is not really how designers think. It's akin to saying, "I like it cause it's cool."

EKE's posts are funny and do point out some real problems with brutalist design. Large concrete plazas are hot. They are more easily windswept, so you do see trash collecting at the perimeter. Concrete and children don't mix. My kids have sustained multiple bumps, scrapes, and bruises from some architect's idea of what a great public plaza or park should look like; I have no doubt other children have fared worse.

I don't hate brutalism. In fact there are some buildings I love - Alden Dow's Corson Auditorium set at an arts camp in northern Michigan is a great building in a beautiful setting. But I think any rationale person can admit brutalism had some inherent flaws as any dogmatic style tends to have.

Sep 11, 14 9:27 am
won and done williams

View of Corson looking through the pines:

Sep 11, 14 9:31 am

My kids have sustained multiple bumps, scrapes, and bruises from some architect's idea of what a great public plaza or park should look like;

i got those from falling out of trees and playing outside, where nature's idea of public plazas also had ticks and snakes and such.

Sep 11, 14 10:17 am
won and done williams

curtkram, I'm guessing you either don't have kids or have never had to take a two year-old to the emergency room after hitting her head on a concrete walkway. Some materials are more forgiving on the cranium than others, and architects should be aware of the differences when designing spaces inclusive of children.

Sep 11, 14 12:03 pm

Nature's public playground also has bears, wolves, coyotes, and alligators, happy to have you or your child for lunch.

In short, nature is not the tame fantasy utopia you might think it is.

Reality check for those who have bogus ideas about nature just because the child falls. Lets not forget rocks with jagged edges. Parental responsibility and children needed to get with the program of reality and maybe learn something like STOP BEING STUPID and exercise self-control. Children have to learn and so yes a few bumps and scrapes along the way is just part of the learning.

Erik Evens (EKE)

The photos I posted came form a Brutalism fan blog named, appropriately enough, "Fuck Yeah Brutalism"  Check it out here:

I had to search hard to find photos that actually had people in them.  This should be a clue about the priorities of the architects

The problem I have have with most so-called Brutalist architecture is that is feels so...grim, almost totalitarian.  It's joyless. 

Sep 11, 14 12:55 pm

won, just to be that snarky contrarian: your kids (and mine) are in far more danger every time you buckle them into a car and go for a drive than they are running across a concrete plaza.

Sep 11, 14 1:06 pm

back in my day we didn't go to the emergency room every time we stubbed our toes either.  put a band-aid on it and walk it off.  save the emergency room for emergencies.

i don't have kids....

Sep 11, 14 1:14 pm
I think we can all agree that concrete should be outlawed because someone may get hurt or, heaven forbid, be asked to supervise their children؟
Sep 11, 14 4:05 pm

Lets just outlaw humans from Earth. That shall fix the problem on Earth.

won and done williams
Who said anything about "banning concrete"? This thread is a good reminder of why I stopped posting here. Sayonara, suckers!
Sep 11, 14 4:57 pm

Does anyone else see the the irony in not liking or even hating brutalism because your kid cracked their head open on it? Why not architecture in general? 

Sep 11, 14 5:12 pm

Well supposedly architecture is designed for people. if your kid does a face plant in a grassy park you might give a glance his way; if he does it on a concrete plaza you gotta check for cuts, scrapes, and possible concussions. Then you have to ask what is the point of a featureless concrete plaza in the first place other than showcase the architects total lack of imagination?

Sep 11, 14 5:32 pm

Just lock up the child in a thick soft rubber padded room where the floors, walls, and ceiling are all rubber or maybe be the F***ing parent and teach the kid how to walk, jog, and observation skills as well as teach them how to fall gracefully as well as teach them to be agile. Oh wait, you need to teach yourself and maybe have to exercise and get yourself fit.

If it was featureless the kid wouldn't have ate it...

But that is not the total issue - grass doesn't work everywhere and neither does concrete. How about a measured contrast?
Sep 11, 14 5:44 pm

How about hiring a landscape architect who knows what he is doing?

Sep 11, 14 5:56 pm

I think we should ban concrete... and children... and grass... and landscape "architects."

Sep 11, 14 7:41 pm

How about ban the humans.

won, it's all good fun. I know you aren't saying that all concrete should be banned, and I'm not saying kids should never get in cars.

There *is* good Brutalism out there.  The Barbican looks incredible.  There's also a lot of really bad Brutalism out there.  Same with every other style.

I believe one of the reasons Brutalism is maligned is its name sounds mean.  If it was called Beton Brut, or just Beton, or Betonism, or Stableism, or Solidissimo, people would like it better.

Sep 11, 14 8:28 pm
Erik Evens (EKE)

Why don't we call it, "warm and fuzzy love architecture"?  Then every thing will be ok, and little Billy's anxiety will be diminished.

Sep 11, 14 9:32 pm

EKE, nothing about Brutalism *is* warm and fuzzy.  But Brutalism is lots of words with positive implications: proud, bold, rigorous, lasting, elegant, solid, ordered, unabashed, tall, strong, etc etc etc.  Granted it can also be relentless, but when it's well-done it has all those qualities above as well as some elements of intimate scale, softness, etc.

Sep 11, 14 10:27 pm

let's call it 'traditional.'  that will build a fan base

Sep 11, 14 10:39 pm

Where's surixurient when you need him?

Sep 11, 14 11:48 pm
chatter of clouds


I'm reminded of the vocabulary used by luthiers and violinists in describing differing characters of violins (noting, of course, that all violins cover the same range of frequencies) :

-strident-warm-mellow-sparkling-woody-throaty-deep-rough hewn-honey like-transparent-etc

in fact, here is a topic on the subject - scroll down to Michael Darnton's post. He's a well known luthier.

Anyway, its interesting to see how we associate, through language, impressions we gain from elsewhere to another medium. There is a danger there of course.  Concrete might be elegant to you....and might be a naked incomplete ugly surface to someone else. There has to be agreement on this association to begin with. Within a culture of associative consensus. Thayer-D, for instance, I expect she or he belongs to a culture of another associative consensus--perhaps seeing itself as a competing one to yours.

Sep 12, 14 12:35 am

Oh, t a m m u z that thread is delightful! 

Lesser violins, again no matter what their tonal spectrum, can be gruff, choppy, obstinate.

You have dark like turning the bass up and the treble down, and you have dark like the sound that comes from the bottom of a still pond at midnight...and then there's there's dark like the heart of a serial killer

Warm: Good bass, adequate low frequencies, adequate fundamentals relative to harmonics. Not thin. Also excessive bass or midbass. Also, pleasantly spacious, with adequate reverberation at low frequencies. Also see Rich, Round. Warm highs means sweet highs.

Love that there's one obstinate guy in there who posted "This thread is ridiculous". There's always one killjoy in every good discussion! But I could chatter on about what words describe Brutalism, and how that changes our perception of the work, all day long.

But could we ever reach a real consensus on what is beautiful that everyone agrees on? I just don't think it's possible.  I do think variety is good, though, and I think we can have a consensus that a variety of built form is more engaging to the human brain than if everything looked alike.

Sep 12, 14 8:40 am

There is also atonal, described in music as the absence of functional harmony as a primary structural element.

Sep 12, 14 9:28 am
Erik Evens (EKE)

"There is also atonal, described in music as the absence of functional harmony as a primary structural element."

Sep 12, 14 2:27 pm

We've been working on this project for most of 2017. We'd love it if you could share the link. Have a look:

Sep 12, 17 5:39 am

Just discovered this thread because of tricorn's post...what a lovely pieces of architecture you are posting Erik. I don't know if it was your intention to make me like Brutalism even more but you succeeded :)

Sep 12, 17 6:07 am

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