The Atlas of Brutalist Architecture certainly lives up to its name. This enormous coffee table title chronicles 850 buildings (both existing and since demolished) from famed trailblazers such as Le Corbusier, Ernö Goldfinger and Frank Lloyd Wright, alongside contemporary architects who have been heavily influenced by the style. In what could equally be termed an encyclopaedia, this resource groups buildings by region and categorizes them by various terms, using a key that alludes to their function, habitable status, or whether they are even extant.
Brutalism is an unmistakably divisive aesthetic, lauded and despised in equal measure, and one of the pleasures of reading this book is seeing the artistic range of the buildings. Far from simply following the mould of stacked concrete slabs (though there are some fantastic examples) there are plenty of playful interpretations including curvaceous façades, such as St Mary’s Church in Alberta, Canada, or the hole-punched cylinders of St Joseph’s Hospital in Washington, USA.
“There’s something post-apocalyptic about seeing vacant structures that look as if they’ve been dropped in from outer space”
In-keeping with the austere style so often associated with brutalism, images of these structures are presented in black-and-white, which might be a capitulation on the part of architectural purists. One can’t help but wonder what a full-colour version of the Noisy-Le-Grand Car Park, complete with vehicles and actual people, might do to the sweeping curves of its various floors, for example. The absence of life in architectural photography is nothing new, but there’s something particularly post-apocalyptic about seeing pages of vacant structures that already look as if they’ve been dropped in from outer space. But then again, isn’t that all part of the twisted romance?
The Atlas of Brutalist Architecture
Published by Phaidon