Brutalist style in architecture and design
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of ‘Brutalism’, a very particular design style of “brutalism”, a very particular design style characterised by minimalism of form and the use of raw materials. Today’s designers designers are taking inspiration from this style, which was very popular from the 1950s to the end of the 1970s, to create 1970s to create unique collector’s items. Some of them some of them do not hesitate to claim a “neo-brutalist” design which draws from brutalism a taste for the roughness of certain bare materials (raw concrete, rough wood, bare bricks, weathered plaster). Pieces of furniture attributed to this style are today highly prized by collectors. For example, a very beautiful piece signed Paul Evans is now traded at a high price on a connoisseur’s market connoisseurs’ market.
But what exactly is brutalism? We will try to define we will try to define the contours of this term, with a direct link to the so-called “brutalist” architecture that developed in the “architecture that developed throughout the world in the aftermath of the Second world War II and until the 1980s The term Brutalism refers primarily to an architectural style style that enjoyed a golden age in the post-war years before being before it was gradually banned from public space. Inherited from the modern design championed by the historic figures of Walter Gropius, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier and Le Corbusier, brutalism is characterised by cold, minimalist design, with inexpensive basic materials such as raw concrete that facilitated the inexpensive reconstruction of cities after the Second World War. The French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965) is considered one of the pioneers of this style, with his pioneers of this style, for example the construction of the ‘Cité Radieuse’ in in Marseille (1947-1952), developing the concept of housing units.
Brutalist architecture is a radical radical reaction to certain ornamental styles such as the Beaux-Arts style, which was still very much in vogue in the United States until the 1950s. Its main characteristics are are: massive buildings often marked by a very high verticality, with geometric with angular and repetitive geometrical forms – windows often repeated -, a windows, an interior that is visible from the outside and allows the functions of different parts of the building to be the functions of different parts of a building, and finally a total refusal of any and finally a total refusal of all ornamentation. In addition to concrete, the architects use glass, brick, steel and rough-cut stone
Apart from Le Corbusier, the emblematic figures of Brutalist architecture are Marcel Breuer (1902-1981), Ernő Goldfinger (1902-1987), Bertrand Goldberg (1913-1997), Jacques Kalisz (1926-2002) and Fernand Boukobza (1926-2012). Architectural Brutalism had a particular impact in Great Britain in the aftermath of the war: the architects Alison Smithson (1928-1993) and Peter Smithson (1923-2003) developed an architectural approach inherited from the architectural principles defined by Mies Van der Rohe, tending towards an extreme radicalism (raw finish of the buildings) and the desire to “connect” the building, the user (pedestrian) and the site
The term Brutalism has gradually spread beyond the realm of architecture to include artistic trends/currents in various disciplines including design. One of the first designers to be labelled a Brutalist was the American designer and sculptor Paul Evans (1931-1987), a major player in the American craft movement of the 1960s and 1970s. His work is recognisable by the aesthetic brutality of the furniture he brought to life (angular furniture, repetitive geometry).
Paul Evans is fairly representative of the position of Brutalist design, that is, his work is at the intersection of art, craft and design. Some Brutalist scholars indicate that the style can also be ‘classified’ as borrowing from Brutalist architecture, industrial style and craft. In the late 1950s, Paul Evans began making copper chests with decorative doors, followed by carved steel-fronted cabinets that revealed his unique mastery of welding techniques. In 1964, Evans became the designer for the furniture manufacturer Directional. With Directional, he introduced collectible editions such as the Argente series, the Sculpted Bronze series and the very popular Cityscape series. Unlike his fellow architects, Evans thought of his work as the creation of collectible art pieces.
In addition to Paul Evans, other designers were to break through and propose their vision of furniture with hard, textured surfaces. The term Brutalist was democratized in the 1970s to be associated with any metal object, with pieces that sometimes had botanical rather than geometric shapes. This was the case with the Danish designer Svend Aage Holm Sørensen (1913-2004), who created brass suspensions in the shape of diamonds or shredded leaves. Belgian designer Daniel d’Haeseleer creates brass palm trees set on stone.
Among the designers representing Brutalist design, two American figures stand out: Adrian Pearsall (1925-2011), influenced by Vladimir Kagan and Isamu Noguchi, and whose work on wood is remarkable; as well as Marc Weinstein, a specialist in wall sconces and lighting in general. Also worth mentioning are the Dutch designer Paul Kingma (1931-2013), the Belgian George Mathias, the Italians Sergio & Georgio Saporiti and Marcello Fontani (1915-2011).
Radical, with a modern aesthetic and the use of industrial materials, brutalist style pieces do not generally leave anyone indifferent. Close to a design that would be art, Brutalist furniture is gaining recognition from a public of enthusiasts, who perceive, beyond the functionality of the object, the expression of a certain beauty…