My first brush with the architectural style known as Brutalism occurred at this building. I spent many many hours at John P. Robarts library at the University of Toronto, poring over original journals for my thesis “British Travellers in France During the Revolutionary Era”. The building was commonly referred to as Fort Book, but comparisons were also made to a peacock or Viking ship. The latter seemed apt to me as I often felt like a prisoner trapped in the hull. Good times.
You’d be forgiven if you assumed the term ‘Brutalism’ was a derivative of the word brutal. After all, take another look at that building. It’s a brute. In fact, Brutalism originates from the French be?ton brut, or “raw concrete”, a term that describes the material used to clad these buildings. Brutalism was reviled by many. Haters gonna hate, including Prince Charles.
But you know how sometimes the coolest thing to do is embrace the thing most people think is ugly? Well, that and a good dose of nostalgia, are behind a new appreciation of Brutalism.
In the decorative arts, the style is realized in rough hammered bronze, oxidized brass with jagged edges and bulky wooden case goods decorated in geometric designs. A recent trip to New York to tour the 1st Dibs gallery at the New York Design Center confirmed that Brutalism is definitely happening. Here are some finds.
This 1970s wall sculpture by Silas Seandel called “Sunspots” was tagged at $20,000.
I didn’t catch the price on this mirror, but I predict you will be seeing modern reproductions of this type of item more and more in the coming year or so.
Brutalist lighting takes statement lighting to another level. I love this 1966 chandelier by Tom Greene, $5,200. Do you love it or hate it?
Here’s another Tom Greene design, $3,800. This one reminds me of a wasp nest.
The 1st Dibs bricks and mortar location doesn’t lend itself to displays of larger furniture pieces, so I clicked over to the site and found this interesting piece. It’s a cerused oak credenza made by The Lane Furniture Company in the 1960s. This block front design is a reference to the Cityscape line by Paul Evans. I must say it also makes me think, hmmm, I wonder if you could DIY a plain credenza by adding blocks of wood and then staining it all black?
And for reference sake, here is a pair of wall-mounted cabinets by Paul Evans featuring the geometric Cityscape design. I’m pretty much in love with these. Just need $13,500.
What do you think of Brutalism? Love? Hate?