Le Corbusier, Unité d'Habitation under construction
Le Corbusier had originally designed the Unité d'Habitation (1946-52) with a steel-frame, but given the scarcity and expense of steel in post-war France, he had to look elsewhere for a suitable material. What he found was Béton brut--raw, unfinished concrete --which, through its material dexterity and brute presence, offered him an ideal medium with which to fully and physically convey the power of his new architecture. It is possible to pinpoint the Brutalist movement, which flourished from the onset of the 1950s through the 70s, with the the completion of the Unité d'Habitation, whose influence can be found in all parts of the world, from Western Europe to Northeast Asia, the Subcontinent to the tropics of South America.
London City Coucil Architect's Department, Alton West, Roehampton Lane Housing, 1951-61
The English were among the first to adopt the nascent aesthetic, which by the end of its cycle, would become, as Reyner Banham suggested, an ethic. Spearheaded by Team 10--the successors to CIAM (International Congresses of Modern Architecture) who sought a break with the paternalism which governed the development of modernist architecture at the time--the new movement was to reinvigorate architecture, imparting it with a sense of social welfare and activism. Through the writings and work of Alison and Peter Smithson, who were more than a little under the spell of Le Corbusier's idealistic Radiant City, the New Brutalism was founded.
Alison and Peter Smithson, Robin Hood Gardens, 1972
Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith, Park Hill Flats, Sheffield, 1957-61
Ernő Goldfinger, Trellick Tower, 1972
Le Corbusier, Maisons Jaoul, 1954-56
Aesthetically, the New Brutalism produced work which unabashedly riffed off Le Corbusier's post-war work, from large scale structures such as the Unité or the Secretariat in Chandigarh to smaller, residential works such as the Maisons Jaoul. The latter would open up new avenues where which Brutalism could develop. Rough brickwork and even regional materials such as stone were incorporated within the voids of pre-cast concrete frames.
James Stirling and James Gowan, Ham Common Flats, London, 1958
Colin St. John Wilson and Alex Hardy, Extension to the Cambridge School of Architecture, 1957-59
Le Corbusier, Convent of La Tourette, 1956-60
By the time work was completed on the Convent of La Tourette, Le Corbusier had fashioned economy of means into a sensuous, emotive aesthetic, which, in La Tourette's case, had produced an engaging dialectic between religious and secular notions of fetishism. However, somewhat inexplicably, the same formal considerations were beginning to be employed in the service of civic institutions in North America, Western Europe, and, given Le Corbusier's involvement at Chandigarh, India.
Paul Rudolph, Yale Art and Architecture Building, 1959-63
I.M. Pei, The Mesa Laboratory, Boulder, Colorado, 1964-67
Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles, Boston City Hall, 1969
Witold Cęckiewicz and Stanisław Deńko, Polish Embassy New Dehli Complex, 1973
Le Corbusier, Shodhan House, Ahmedabad, India, 1956
As Le Corbusier's influence began to recede, his work grew both more introspective and daring, producing designs which questioned and subversively played against his patented ideas and artistic motivations. At this time, the movement began to splinter into categorical fragments which were to find full, new expressions when combined with regional sensibilities. South America was to see some of Brutalism's most radical and idiosyncratic designs.
Paulo Mendes de Rocha, Paulistano Athletic Club, Sao Paulo, 1958
João Batista Vilanova Artigas, College of Architecture and Urban Planning (FAU) Center at University São Paulo, 1969
Clorindo Testa, Bank of London and South America, Buenos Aires, 1966
Kenzo Tange, St. Mary's Cathedral, Tokyo, 1964
Takamasa Yoshizaka, Inter-University Seminar House, Tokyo, 1964
Moshe Safdie, Habitat, EXPO 67, Montreal, 1967
Jean Renaudie, Ivry-sur-Seine near Paris, 1970-72
William Pereira, Geisel Library, San-Diego, California, 1970 (via Xavier de Jauréguiberry's flickr)