The answer is concrete, duh.
(and also everything).
Brutalist architecture is great, but it often gets a bad rap. Too dark. Too drab. Too cold. Too alienating. Too much concrete (is there such a thing?). Too brutal?
People are too dismissive of things they do not understand, or don’t know how to place. Even me, for instance, the first few times I listened to the album Yeezus, I didn’t know how to take it, I couldn’t articulate how it made me feel so I brushed it off for a while as a disappointment. Revisiting it a week or two later, however, I was finally able to put my finger and articulate the feelings it evoked in me. Mostly, it made me feel angry and aggressive (…in a good way, you know?). Having realised where to place these feelings I could digest Yeezus, and now I love it (seriously, it’s a great album to workout to or do any high-intensity, high-aggression activities to).
The rambling point I am trying to make is that maybe people just don’t know how to place Brutalism in their lives, so they easily dismiss its worth. Frankly, I love Brutalism because it makes everything look like a retro super-villain lair. Classic Dr No stuff, who wouldn’t like that!? While in the documentary Los Angeles Plays Itself Thom Andersen argues that examples of Modernist architecture, that would inform Brutalism, in Los Angeles became villains by association; Modernist houses were continually being represented as dens of inequity and sleazy crime in films, which, like similar tendencies in Brutalist architecture, I think this is something to be celebrated. Enjoy the soul crushing villainy of Brutalism!
Let’s see this in action, conveniently, all in one location: the University of Toronto.
Scarborough College, University of Toronto.
Ohhhhhh, yeahhhhhhhh. Look at that concrete. Slight touch of glass and smoke stack like things, makes the whole thing look like some diabolical factory! Isn’t that great?! Oh, all the schemes that could be cooked up in there. Why don’t we take a peek at its rump.
Another angle on this. Perhaps a bit too bright to get the correct moodiness that I like, but still, it makes you feel like something pretty major is going down in there. Beneath that cold exterior, it is teeming with people rigidly and always efficiently working towards some nefarious end. Say, why don’t have a quick look inside to see what these henchmen and henchwomen might be up to?
This may just seem like an innocuous hallway now, however see it again through my eyes. The hustle and bustle of this corridor packed with jumpsuited men and women rushing past each other to get to their various criminal departments. A powder blue jumpsuit might mean you need to be heading towards the nautical department, those cruise ships aren’t going to hijack themselves! They brush past a woman in a red jumpsuit who regards them with a scowl, the standard standoffishness that the laser team is known for. Meanwhile that fellow in the yellow jumpsuit should really be hurrying to his nuclear laboratory, their plutonium testing schedule is getting pretty tight! Such life! Such vibrancy!
If you hang around long enough, you might even get the chance to see our team repelling an invading secret government agency. Push these interlopers off such a walkway, everyone! Toppling off…let’s not say to their death, but rather falling into a greater appreciation of the building around them!
This view really offers the coup de grace. Clear out the couches. Drape some bold vertical banners from the skylight. Call all your jumpsuited colleagues, friends and loved ones into, of course, colour coordinated lines, and you’ve got a lair going. Stand on that top balcony and just talk to those below you about the new world they will create from the ashes of the old one after you have successfully melted the ice caps or redirected Haley’s Comet to crash into the Earth or something involving the Mole-People. What a glorious time to be alive!
Well, if after all this you still don’t see anything appealing in Brutalist architecture, I’m won’t be angry with you. More, disappointed.
…google images I guess.
Scarborough College, the University of Toronto: keep up the fine buildings!
Boy, is this even history anymore?