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Term applied to the architectural style of exposed rough concrete and large modernist block forms, which flourished in the 1960s and 1970s and which derived from the architecture of Le Corbusier. The term originated from béton brut (Fr.: ‘raw concrete’) and was given overtones of cultural significance not only by Le Corbusier’s dictum ‘L’architecture, c’est avec des matières brutes établir des rapports émouvants’ (‘Architecture is the establishing of moving relationships with raw materials’), but also by the art brut of Jean Dubuffet and others, which emphasized the material and heavily impastoed surfaces. The epitome of Brutalism in this original sense is seen in the forms and surface treatment of its first major monument, Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation de Grandeur Conforme (1948–54) in Marseille. The ultimate disgrace of Brutalism in this same sense is to be seen in the innumerable blocks of flats built throughout the world that use the prestige of Le Corbusier’s béton brut as an excuse for low-cost surface treatments. In Le Corbusier’s own buildings exposed concrete is usually very carefully detailed, with particular attention to the surface patterns created by the timber shuttering, and this can be seen in the work of more conscientious followers of the mode such as Lasdun or Atelier 5.

Royal National Theatre London



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