Anybody who knows me knows that I absolutely despise brutalist architecture.* The concrete dominated structures often remind me of Havana’s early Soviet-era high rise government and apartment buildings I saw three years back that remain in use despite being near collapse. Even in states of advanced decay that can add some bit of personality to structures of other design, the only interesting thing about those buildings usually was the colorful laundry hung on balconies.

*That bit about my feelings on the subject being such common knowledge is not even close to true. Some friends are probably surprised that I knew how to spell the word. What is true is that while I know next to nothing on the subjects of brutalist or Art Deco styles, I know that I generally dislike the former and love the latter.

In Perth, there were two brutalist buildings that stood out. One because it was typical of the architecture; the other because it is the rare exception to the rule. 

Check out the first picture below. How could anybody in a proper frame of mind view that as a good design, especially for a police department? Does that not put you in mind of East Germany’s Stasi? Or the Ministry of Love from 1984?

By contrast, the building in the second picture houses government services for Perth and Western Australia. Nice, right? But many citizens hated the design, so a bit of work was done after it first opened so that the building now lights up with bright and changing colors at night. For whatever reason, that was enough to put it into the city’s good graces.

The key difference between the two buildings, of course, are the windows. The one building apparently has many windows, but they’re all small, suggestive of prison cells in my mind. The other building also has many windows, but they’re tall and wide, they work to offset the blandness of the concrete, and they represent openness*.

*”Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” -David McAlary, (unfortunately fictional) candidate for New Orleans City Council. Don’t know what the hell I’m going on about? Watch HBO series Treme, specifically Season 1 Episode 6.

And in the month since I first started this post (I’m bad and unreliable at this blogging thing, probably because it takes a long while to put together the posts, possibly because I tend to drone on and on and on and on and…), I came across this icon in Sydney. The third pic is of the much-denigrated Blues Point Tower, often described as Sydney’s ugliest building. Yikes.

One thought on “Brutalism

  1. True confessions: I was an art history major who took quite a few courses in modern architectural history. Since I went to school in the late 1960’s — I’m afraid you had to like Brutalism – if you liked modern architecture at all. Two of my favorites back then were Boston City Hall and Yale Art and Architecture building.

    You would be happy to know that if given a choice between Brutalism and Art Nouveau – there would be no contest. I have few things on my bucket list – but going to Barcelona to see the Gaudi buildings is on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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