Neobrutalism in Architecture

Among the various directions that developed in the architecture of capitalism, neo-ruthlessness began to occupy a prominent place. Supporters of this direction considered the basis of composition a functional and constructive concept. However, they try to oppose the sophistication of modern architecture with its complex technical solutions and a huge selection of artificial finishing materials, the simplest approaches to design, the rough expressiveness of the texture of the stone, the unplastered brick, and the wood.

The neobrutalists seek to revive the characteristic attitude of the functionalism of the 1920s to the architectural form determined by its purpose. Opposing themselves to the functionalists who consistently refused natural materials, neo-ruthless people propagate the widespread application of all the expressiveness of their colors and textures. This is the main and fundamental difference between these two directions.

The creativity of the architects-neobrutalists was influenced by masters of different aspirations, such as Mies van der Rohe and Corbusier.

The works of Mies van der Rohe acted on neobrutalists by the manifestation of constructive logic, the open use of metal structures. Creativity Corbusier attracted them to themselves tirelessly searching for new architectural constructions. Especially great influence on the development of neo-ruthlessness was provided by the new aesthetic qualities of “rough concrete” discovered by Corbusier, left without plaster, with impressions on its surface of the timbering boards and seams between them.

Alison and Peter Smithson

The founders of neobrutalism consider the English – the couple of the Smithsonians (Alison and Peter). In 1954, according to their design, a secondary school building was built in Hunstanton (Norfolk).

High school building in Hunstanton (Norfolk)

Since the second half of the 1950s, the unroutallist structures in the architecture of England have begun to occupy a very prominent place. In housing construction, among the first, vivid examples of neo-ruthlessness are the houses in Ham Common, near London, built in 1958 under the project of James S. Shirling and James Gowan. In the external appearance of this complex, not plastered brick walls dominate, cut by the belts of reinforced concrete interstorey floors. The neo-ruthless tendencies were clearly expressed in the design of university complexes, which began in England at the dawn of the sixties.

So, for example, in the Sussex University in Brighton, erected in the mid-sixties by Basil Spence’s project, the simplicity of architectural forms corresponds to the simplicity of building materials – concrete and brick without plaster. Alternating interstorey belts made of reinforced concrete with arched windows and deaf sections of brick walls is the leading motif in the composition of the facades. The architect emphasizes the massive nature of the building, contrasting it with the “weightlessness” of glass walls – cases so popular in the previous decade.

University of Sussex in Brighton

Even more massive and the weight of the building was revealed in the library of the Oxford University (the project of L. Martin and S. Wilson, 1967). Heavy, horizontal divisions, deaf planes of coarse concrete create here a feeling of almost fortress power, somewhat unexpected for the library building.

Brutalism has spread widely in Scandinavia. An example of this is the library in Helsingborg (architects E. and H. Anderson, 1968)

Library building in Helsingborg

Neobrutalists seek to revise the existing methods and in the construction of cities. In particular, they do not support abstractness and schematism, along with “diagrammatic” thinking in town planning, which has evolved since the “Radiant City” of Corbusier. They advocate a comprehensive consideration of the peculiarities of the constant renewal of the city structure.

The rationalistic teaching of Mies van der Rohe, “organic” architecture, neo-expressionism, structuralism in all its varieties and neo-ruthlessness are only the most significant and influential creative trends in modern capitalist architecture. The diversity of its general picture is increased by such phenomena as attempts to create “neoclassicism”, “neo-baroque” and so on.

This diversity is also enhanced by the creativity of some large architects who are trying to create their own architectural “handwriting” and not belonging to any particular school (Edward Stone, Minoru Yamasaki and others). The laws of capitalist competition inexorably affect the development of architecture. Forecasts for the establishment in the architecture of the capitalist countries of a single “international” style, which were in vogue the first post-war decade, were decisively not justified.