Word of the week

Word of the week: Brutalism

I am a reluctant user of WhatsApp, as has been mentioned more than once in these pages. I am a member of two WhatsApp groups, and am the only link between the two of them: one (which has gone very quiet in recent months) contains cousins on my father’s side; the other consists of half a dozen friends from college. 

Late last year there was a message thread in the latter group regarding architecture. I offer it here, tidied up a bit, so that it will be easier for me to find than scrolling through WhatsApp messages on my phone. The messages are from “R” (not an architect) and “A” (an architect) and reveals what “A” thinks of Brutalism. He’s a fan.  

R: A… can I ask. I have a student who has an interview for Cambridge in architecture v soon. Fitzwilliam college. Buildings designed by Denys Lasdun. Remind me why National Theatre and brutalism is something great, so I can brief her if she agrees.  

A: Brutalism is REAL. No flimsy flimflam frippery or fakery. No sham showiness. It is solid, grounded, forever. Its raw permanence and strong plasticity make it both the architecture of the common man and the medium for pure spatial and formal poetry.
Not sure if Fitzwilliam College quite achieves all that.  

R: Thanks. But Fitzwilliam has 3 of Lasdun’s brutalist style buildings from 1963 just before he did national theatre 

A: They’re a bit soft by comparison 

R: OK 

I have never been in a room with people who were discussing Brutalism. The exchange above is the closest I have come to it. I now know that one of my friends sees it as “REAL … solid, grounded, forever”. I cannot imagine a time when I will use words like this: “Its raw permanence and strong plasticity make it both the architecture of the common man and the medium for pure spatial and formal poetry”. I am glad to have a record of someone else saying them, or typing them. 



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