Defending Brutalism

by Don Friedman on June 16, 2016

What can you say about an often-hated architectural style, when even its name is misunderstood? (Brutalism is not the same thing as brutalism.)

I took the pictures of the Orange County Government Center (below) three and half years ago, before the decision was made to greatly alter Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist office building. I’d seen pictures of it before but as I was walking around it that day I realized that, despite the name and my general impression of the style, it was possible to have such a thing as delicate Brutalism.

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For another perspective, try this essay: “The Concrete Buildings of Brutalism are Beautiful.”

Taste is personal, and I know a lot of people who will never like these buildings. But they are not inherently any better or worse than buildings created in any other style, and therefore should be judged – in general, and with regard to the ideals of historic preservation – on their merits. And most of them benefit from a strange form of underdog logic: architects designing in an unpopular style have to have the strength of their convictions about that style’s worth. Rudolph certainly did.

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