In the Fall 2022 semester, the Yale School of Architecture Gallery will host a traveling exhibition that began at the DAM (German Architecture Museum) in Frankfurt am Main in 2017. The exhibition represents a selection from the first-ever global survey of the Brutalist architecture of the 1950s to the 1970s. The website sosbrutalism.com now covers over 2180 buildings.
The term Brutalism does not originate from the word “brutal”, but rather from the French word brut, meaning “direct, rough and dry.” As used by the British critic Rayner Banham to describe the work of Alison and Peter Smithson, it represented a new kind of ethos in architecture that was direct and unadorned. The term was soon associated with the work of Le Corbusier, whose work during this period featured very rough concrete surfaces called béton brut. Spurred on by this, architects worldwide developed buildings made of exposed concrete and celebrating an aesthetic that could often appear brutal.
This expressive style emerged during a post-war period marked by experimentation and societal upheaval. It came to represent a heroic image of institutions, both existing and newly founded in regions that had recently gained independence from Colonialism. It is also exceptionally photogenic and, in recent years has reached cult status on social media. That said, many people still only see these buildings as ugly concrete monsters and many face the risk of demolition or have already been lost. Considering this, #SOSBrutalism was started as a campaign to connect initiatives with the goal of preserving Brutalist buildings worldwide.
The exhibition is organized in 11 geographical regions and 7 thematic chapters, giving a sense of the breadth of Brutalism’s global spread and nuanced depth in understandings some of the features, complexities, and critiques of the movement. In addition to these illustrated panels, the exhibition at the Yale School of Architecture includes several unusually large-scale models and a series of cast and 3D printed miniatures. For this installment, a new thematic chapter was added to the exhibition covering the unique legacy of Brutalist architecture in New Haven.
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