Brutalism: Brusque, Ugly And Totally Functional

Published June 8, 2015
Updated December 6, 2018

Brutalism Buffalo

In terms of style, brutalism is to architecture what Hemingway is to literature. Taking an axe to Haussmann-style architectural flourishes in favor of honest functionality, brutalism represents a certain frankness and seriousness within 20th century architecture.

The movement hit its peak in popularity from the 1950s to the 1970s, with brutalism’s strong, fortress-like elements being employed in many governmental projects and commercial centers around the world. Built in 1974, New York’s Buffalo City Court Building (featured above) is one such example.

The style did not come without its critics, especially by those well-accustomed to spaces loyal to more classical aesthetics. Prince Charles is one of them. Charles has referred to brutalist-influenced buildings as “piles of concrete” and in 1987 went so far as to say that “You have to give this much credit to the Luftwaffe (Germany’s air force during World War II): when it knocked down our buildings, it didn’t replace them with anything more offensive than rubble.”

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