Appreciating brutalism, even if it isn’t beautiful

Some brutalist buildings are being saved. Some are being mourned.

Recently in the DJC: 

Brutalism being banished but not all think it’s ugly

  • For all the Brutalist buildings that go down without a fight, a few get a loving farewell. In downtown Providence, kazoo-playing mourners recently held a funeral procession and gave eulogies as demolition crews prepared to tear down the John E. Fogarty Building, built as a government welfare office in the 1960s.“It’s not an easy style to like,” said Marisa Angell Brown, an architectural historian at Brown University who attended the funeral and co-wrote a mock obituary for the 49-year-old building. “We tend to prefer boring to ugly.”

Modernist gem? Eyesore? Debate over the fate of N.Y. building may end soon

  • It was designed by the late architect Paul Rudolph, a celebrated figure of the mid-20th century style known as brutalism. A decision is due next month about renovating the facade. Critics compare the plan to desecrating a Michelangelo; supporters say the building is simply ugly and poorly designed.

Group says design help is needed to make Freeway Park more inviting

  • When Freeway Park opened above Interstate 5 in Seattle on July 4, 1976, it was a big hit as people flocked there to lie in the sun and enjoy the waterfalls.  These days the 5.2-acre city park mostly just gets visitors during special events and conventions at the Washington State Convention Center next door.

Metro Station in Washington, D.C. via

The Sirius Building in Sydney’s The Rocks is slated for demolition following a proposed sale of the site by the NSW state government. Via (Allshots Imaging/Creative Commons)

IKEA’s Pirelli Building in New Haven, Connecticut. Ikea, which owns the property, is allowing artists to use the building as a pop-up exhibit this summer and is entertaining proposals from developers who want to creatively refurbish the building. 

Orange County Government Center
The Orange County Government Center in Goshen, N.Y. The long, heated debate over suburban Orange County’s government center ends with renovations that would trade in stack-of-asymmetric-concrete-boxes look for a sleeker, more anonymous facade. Critics compare the plan to desecrating a Michelangelo and note the building is on the World Monuments Fund’s global watch list. Others say the building is simply ugly and poorly designed. Via  (Mike Groll / AP Photo)

Construction of the $74 million Orange County Government Center in Goshen. Via   (Jim Sabastian / The Times Herald-Record

University of Washington Reactor Building. Via  (Jennifer Mortensen / Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)

When Seattle’s Freeway Park opened in 1976, it was crowded with people who went there to lie in the sun and dive into the water.


Or, maybe the best way to appreciate brutalism is through artistic renditions. 

Offering a delightful new ode to Brutalist masterpieces around the world is a series of illustrations created by Spanish designer Marta Colmenero for insurance company Go Compare. Done in a vintage style with vivid colors, the illustrations add some extra life to these concrete monoliths. See a sample of them below, then head to GoCompare for the full set. Via 

Check out more great photos at the brutalistdc Instagram.