After decades of marginalization, Brutalism has enjoyed a cultural Renaissance of late, with fresh focus and appreciation for one of modernity’s most global and contradictory architectural movements. But even as the most influential figures are recognized for their peculiar genius, the wider canon of architects who have embraced or experimented with Brutalism remains obscure. The Brutalists (Phaidon, 2023) by Owen Hopkins is an indispensable codex of the genre, presenting some 250 architects in an A-to-Z encyclopedia of blocky concrete and utopian ideals.
“When you’re putting these long lists together, you get to 50 really easily, and then it becomes much, much harder,” Hopkins told Hyperallergic. “I think the beauty of a project like this is, while it’s meant to be of broad interest, it actually has another role, which is to be of use to scholars and the study of the history of architecture in this period, because it helps expand the canon.”
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Listed alphabetically by architect, but also broken down chronologically at the end of the book, The Brutalists is a definitive tome for fans of the form, as well as those looking to expand their understanding of Brutalism’s context, contradictions, and contributors. Here are a few lesser-known Brutalist architects, according to Hopkins — still just a sampling among dozens of entries.
Högna Sigurðardóttir — Iceland is probably not a place most associated with Brutalism, and Sigurõardóttir also holds the distinction of being one of the only female architects in the Brutalist fold. Her Bakkaflöt residence, built in Garõabær, Höfuõbargarsvæõiõ, Iceland in 1968, somehow makes Brutalism look cozy, tucked like a bunker into three sheltering earth mounds.
Masaharu Takasaki — The Kihoku Astronomical Museum, built in Kanoya, Kagoshima, Japan in 1995, is perhaps the most whimsical that Brutalist architecture can manage to be. It looks a bit like a Studio Ghibli creation, with concrete flourishes sticking out at odd angles in every direction.
Otto Glaus — With the Swiss chalet aesthetic that demands harmony with the surrounding mountainside, Brutalism seems an odd fit. But Glaus’s 1969 Konvikt der Kantonsschule built in Chur, Grisons, Switzerland, casts the boarding school in a cascade of stark rectangular forms. Hopkins describes the work as “being simultaneously discordant and harmonious in a way that is particular to Brutalism.”
Tao Gofers — Far from being a name brand, the Netherlands-born Gofers worked as a mid-rank architect for the New South Wales Housing Commission, but the Sirius Building in Sydney, South Wales, Australia, has become one of Australia’s best-known Brutalist structures, since its construction in 1979.
Giuseppe Perugini — Argentinian by birth, Perugini built Casa Albero (translated as “tree house”) in Fregene, Lazio, Italy, in 1971. The boxy, concrete outlines of the building are punctuated by banks of windows, and suspend a huge globe room, the Palla sphere, with a single portal looking out to the surrounding forest.
Georges Adilon — The Sainte-Marie Lyon School, built in La Verpillière, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France in 1976 takes those rectilinear forms and skews them on saucy slants, with Adilon’s exterior walkways and undulating angles creating an Escher-esque aesthetic.
Aldo Loris Rossi — Hopkins characterizes Rossi (not to be confused with Italian post-Modernist Aldo Rossi) as one of those Brutalists “whose route took them through the emotional intensities of Expressionism or the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright.” Perhaps that’s why Casa del Portuale (1980), in Naples, Campania, Italy feels less like a governmental building and more like a ship of dreams.
Kuldip Singh — Responsible for two of New Delhi’s standouts of Brutalist architecture, Singh studied at the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi Polytechnic. Though an active member of a cohort of architects who leveraged Brutalism in India’s fresh independence from Britain, Singh’s legacy was seemingly eclipsed by bigger names like Charles Correa and Raj Rewal (each of whom also merited their own entries in Hopkins’s book).
Clorindo Testa — Testa is responsible for the Bank of London and South America Headquarters (1966), one of South America’s best-known Brutalist buildings, located in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The building’s concrete “hood” features keyhole cut-outs that telegraph strength and depth, and also shield an interior plaza in a reversal of what would have typically been a street-facing feature.
Jadwiga Grabowska-Hawrylak — Though Grabowska-Hawrylak reportedly hated Brutalism, she seems to have come to it through a love of “slick and smooth” finishes, according to Michal Duda, curator of the Museum of Architecture in Wrocław, Poland. The housing complex at Grunwaldski Square in Wrocław, Lower Silesia (1975), manages to metabolize a lot of visual complexity from its columns of private balconies with curving lines that almost transform the front of the building into a kind of industrial basketweave.
These are just a few of the architects who find themselves presented on the level with well-known names like Zaha Hadid, Walter Gropius, I.M. Pei, and Louis Kahn. By offering each architect roughly the same space, Hopkins expands the canonic possibilities of an expansive movement.
“There are all these amazing figures, and we are familiar with lots of their buildings now, thanks to this sort of revival of interest in Brutalism, and its proliferation on social media,” said Hopkins. “Suddenly, a number of iconic examples from around the world have entered the visual lexicon, but there are many who haven’t been brought to a kind of broader attention. That’s what the book aims to redress, and I hope, therefore, can act as a kind of spur for future interest in Brutalism.”
The Brutalists: Brutalism’s Best Architects by Owen Hopkins (2023) is published by Phaidon and is available online and in bookstores.