BRUTALISM (1950-1970)

Brutalism is a branch of the modern movement. Brutalism was intended as a utopian style, but this relationship was not cemented due to the urban decay immediately following the style's popularity. The name of the style comes from the French term, béton brut, for rough concrete. Le Corbusier often used the term to describe his choice of material. Concrete is the predominant choice of material in this style, but it can also incorporate glass, wood, brick and stone. Brutalism is not widely used throughout Alaska. According to Reyner Banham, brutalism exhibits three main qualities including exhibition of structure, transparency of space typology and honesty of materials.

Primary Stylistic Features
  • Exposed concrete.
  • Disproportionately arranged.
  • Heavy, blocky appearance to highlight the sculptural aspects of concrete.
  • Evidence of functionality in the exterior form whether it is human function or building function.
  • Window and doors appear as voids in the massive concrete.
Secondary Stylistic Features
  • Abstract in nature.
  • Hammered concrete to give a distressed look.
  • Waffle slabs.
  • Intentional avoidance of traditional materials.
  • Repetitive patterns.

Evaluation Considerations

Brutalist buildings are rare in Alaska.  They will be found individually throughout the state and should embody a majority of the primary stylistic features and at least one secondary feature.  Modifications to the form and materials could render them not eligible.  Materials, workmanship, and design are extremely important when assessing eligibility.  Preservation of the surrounding site may be an important consideration since many landscapes are incorporated into the design of Brutalist buildings.

For Further Information

Whitely, Nigel. Historian of the Immediate Future: Reyner Banham. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA. 2002.