Brutalist Architecture: The Resurgence Inspiring Modern Design
Brutalist Architecture
Brutalist Architecture: The Resurgence Inspiring Modern Design

Brutalist architecture, renowned for its straightforward, raw construction using primarily concrete, thrived from the 1950s to the mid-1970s.


This style is rooted in the concept of “béton brut” or “raw concrete,” a term popularised by British architects Alison and Peter Smithson. The defining features of Brutalist buildings include their massive rugged forms and an intentional lack of decorative embellishments.

This architectural movement emerged as a counterpoint to the light and optimistic designs of mid-century modernism, emphasising material honesty where the form and functionality of structures were foremost.

Public sector projects often favoured Brutalist architecture for its cost-effective and durable qualities. Government buildings, educational institutions, and housing projects favoured this style. The form defined the spaces they occupied.

Brutalist architecture

Ref: Robert E Kennedy Library

The style’s focus on the inherent aesthetic of concrete not only emphasises strength and solidity but also dramatic, sculptural forms.

Yet, Brutalism was sometimes criticised for its stark, monolithic appearance, which could be perceived as oppressive and unwelcoming. The critics often point to the style’s harsh, unembellished surfaces and an association with urban decay, exacerbated by the challenges of aging concrete. This view led to a decline in its popularity.

However, Brutalism’s recent resurgence in popularity underscores a renewed appreciation for its architectural candour and innovative approach to space and form. This revival is partly driven by a desire to preserve these structures as cultural artifacts that encapsulate the historical and political zeitgeist of their era.

Brutalist architecture

Ref: Brick Building Valencia

Beyond architecture, the principles of Brutalism have inspired various realms of product design, where designers adopt its philosophy of functionality, raw materiality, and expressive forms.

Organic Brutalism
Ref: The rough-hewn wood of Brent Comber’s Béton Brut collection—crafted from Douglas fir and scorched with black hardwax oil—plays into the perceived permanence of béton (French for concrete) while commenting on the transience of nature.

In furniture design, Brutalist pieces often feature heavy, solid materials like rough-hewn wood and cast iron, emphasising sculptural beauty. These pieces incorporate simple, geometric shapes and an unadorned aesthetic that echoes the bold, utilitarian spirit of Brutalist buildings.

Modern design : Chabanel Collection By Atelier Barda

Ref: Chabanel Collection By Atelier Barda

In interiors, items such as concrete planters, lamps, and shelving units reflect the movement’s raw aesthetic and robust functionality. This approach results in designs that are not only visually striking but also highly functional and long-lasting.

The Brutalist ethos also finds expression in contemporary digital design. Websites and apps inspired by Brutalist architecture often feature minimalist interfaces with a focus on usability and clarity. These designs strip away unnecessary embellishments, much like their architectural counterparts, to create a user experience that is straightforward and efficient. This trend towards digital Brutalism highlights the timeless appeal of the movement’s core principles in creating impactful and enduring designs.

This architectural style, with its robust and minimalist essence, provides a rich source of inspiration for designers worldwide, encouraging a deeper exploration of materiality and form in various contexts. By embracing the raw beauty and honest functionality of Brutalism, contemporary designers can create products that are both innovative and timeless.