Of all the architectural movements, Brutalism is perhaps the most reviled. For a long time, it stood for everything that people found ugly about modern architecture. And yet there now seems to be a revival and reappraisal for Brutalist architecture. For example, a book was recently published called Bruut, in which the authors give an overview of brutalist buildings in the Netherlands. After years when ornamentation and excessive decoration prevailed, brutalism marks a yearning for luxury in austerity. Therefore, it is in fact a raw kind of minimalism. But what exactly is brutalism and what is a brutalist interior? Stilst designer aims to Reinier de Jong answer these questions in this blog He has a long-standing fondness for Tadao Ando’s architecture, for example, as well as art related to this movement.
Brutalism originated in the 1950s and celebrated its heyday in the 1960s. Features include the use of raw, unfinished materials, especially concrete. Designers employed large, often simple gestures and created voluminous structures. The better architects managed to let daylight play a subtle game with the heaviness of the concrete volumes. The seeds of the movement were sown by earlier modernist architects such as Le Corbusier. The La Tourette monastery complex he designed is a good example. I spent a day and a night there about fifteen years ago, absorbing the building in detail.
Light and dark
Other architects whose work is classified as Brutalist include Louis Kahn in the United States, Kenzo Tange in Japan, Juliaan Lampens in Belgium and Gottfried Böhm in Germany. I myself have visited some of Juliaan Lampens’ projects including a chapel in Oudenaarde. I also once visited Le Havre’s cultural center designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Another famous example of Brutalist architecture is the Barbican in London. More recent projects akin to brutalism, as far as I am concerned, are the work of Japanese architect Tadao Ando and the Therme Vals designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor. They are both masters at playing with light and dark, heaviness and lightness. I also visited the Therme in Vals myself before it was renovated. The interior in particular is very impressive, sacred almost. It is definitely one of my favorite buildings.
So the basis of a brutalist interior is the use of raw materials but never without a sophisticated use of natural light and lighting. For further decoration, austerity is essential. With subtle lighting fixtures, delicate furnishings and lush plantings, create a distinctly stylish and timeless interior. It is an interior style closely related to the architecture of the building. The ideal scenario is when architecture and interior are designed integrally.