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Picture Dictionary of Modern Architecture: Brutalism, or Béton Brut


Rugged reinforced concrete construction, or Béton Brut, lead to an approach popularly known as Brutalism.
The Paulo Mendes da Rocha Residence by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, Architect

The Paulo Mendes da Rocha Residence in São Paulo, Brazil by Paulo Mendes da Rocha, 2006 Pritzker Architecture Prize Laureate

Photo © Annette Spiro
The Bauhaus architect Le Corbusier used the French phrase béton brut, or raw concrete, to describe the construction of his rough, concrete buildings. Brutalism grew out of the Bauhaus Movement and the béton brut buildings by Le Corbusier and his followers.

Heavy and angular, Brutalist buildings can be constructed quickly and economically. Common features include:

  • Precast concrete slabs
  • Rough, unfinished surfaces
  • Exposed steel beams
  • Massive, sculptural shapes

The Prizker Prize-winning architect Paulo Mendes da Rocha is often called a "Brazilian Brutalist" because his buildings are constructed of prefabricated and mass-produced concrete components. Shown here is his home in São Paulo, Brazil.

The Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer turned to Brutalism when he designed the Whitney Museum in New York City and the Atlanta, Georgia Central Library.

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