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The concept of New Brutalism has fallen victim to a series of misunderstandings, myths and aporias. The original definition was manipulated, diluted, and finally fragmented. Even today, discussions on New Brutalism are pervaded by ambiguity, confirming the need for a thorough reconstruction of its trajectory. By challenging its current categorization, this book recounts the critical debate around New Brutalism through its many actors, philological incongruities and heroic visions.

New Brutalism emerged in the 1950s as a rebellious response by the younger generation of architects, who infused architecture with popular culture, multidisciplinary influences and a call for reality based on “truth to materials”. It reflected the post-war period’s aspirations and anxieties, revealing the uncertainties of a rapidly changing society. War, reconstruction, mass consumer goods and the ‘atomic age’ became episodes that were translated into several perspectives, radically renewing the notion of architecture. At the heart of this renewal was the debate on New Brutalism, fuelled by the works of architects but above all by the aspirations of critics.

The central core of the book follows the ways New Brutalism was conceptualized – and exploited – by various international protagonists. Its trajectory is double-sided, not only because of the dual identity of New Brutalism and Brutalism, but also because it simultaneously encompasses both the affirmation of ethical and universal values and the pursuit of an aesthetic ideal. Of the exposed-concrete phenomenon of the 1960s, New Brutalism is both the promoter and the victim, caught between the verification of ethical principles and a repetitive obsession with surface finish.

What can we take from the trajectory of New Brutalism and from Reyner Banham’s dilemma between ethics and aesthetics that would accompany it until its ‘sad end’? Ironic, polemical, revolutionary and at times even Dadaist, New Brutalism opened a debate to renew the cultural trajectory of the Modern Movement. Its critical revision steered architecture onto a new course, admitting notions of ‘process’, ‘as found’ and ‘relations’ into the design project. Amongst the intricacies of the debate, we can glimpse the proposal for generative principles integrating a new awareness of flows and technology, intercepting the aspirations of a democratic society, against the backdrop of the search for a visionary synthesis of art, architecture, and urban design.


  • A Game of Patience for a New Art History; Roberto Gargiani
  • Chapter One. The British Debate in Search of a New-ism – Reactions to the International Style and the Myth of the Pioneers of the Modern Movement – Principles of Truth: The Revival of Pugin, Ruskin and Morris – Roughness, Accident and Irregularity for a New Picturesque – New Humanism, New Empiricism, New Monumentality – The Functional Tradition for National Unification – The Neo-Palladianism of Wittkower and Rowe
  • Chapter Two. Le Corbusier and Béton Brut – From ‘Béton armé’ to ‘Béton brut’ at the Unité in Marseille – Architecture d’Aujourd’hui and Art Brut – Le Point and the Concept of Béton Brut – The Humanism of Béton Brut
  • Chapter Three. The Invention of a Definition: from Asplund to the Smithsons – The First Brutalist Building: Villa Göth – The Unité as a Model for English Reconstruction – New Movement-Classical-Complex-Human – The Smithsons’ New Brutalism – Early Definitions of New Brutalism: Segal and the English Magazines – Johnson’s Anti-Design – Banham’s Radical Philosophy – Formalism, Roughness and Brutality – Smithsons’ Anti-Art Architecture for a New Aesthetic – New Brutalism Will Take Many Forms – The Case of the School at Hunstanton – Piranesi and Mies in Blake’s New Brutalism – Futurist Connections for a ‘Mechanistic Brutalism’ – Stirling and the Primitive Aesthetics, or the Maisons Jaoul Model
  • Chapter Four. Banham’s Memorable Article – A Category of the New Art History – The Origins in Le Corbusier’s Béton Brut – Early Brutalism – Anti-art and As Found: For ‘une Architecture Autre’ – Wittkower, Rowe and the Anti-Brutalists – The Role of the Yale Art Gallery – Image, ‘Quod Visum Perturbat’
  • Chapter five. Critical Precisions: from Summerson to Lasdun – The Old Rigour according to Summerson – Le Corbusier’s Brutal Concrete, from Zevi to Scully – The Strict-Brutalists – Thoughts in Progress on the Brutalist Canon – The Smithsons’ Ethics – Style and Attitude
  • Chapter six. International Brutalism: from Zevi to Joedicke – Zevi and the First Italian Brutalist – Romantic, Informal, Naturalistic: Italian Variations – Premises for American Brutalism – The Carnegie Institute Student Questionnaire – Kallmann’s Action Architecture – Directions and Dilemmas beyond the International Style – Pevsner and Stirling vs. the Brutalist Aesthetics – The Essential Ethic of Brutalism Is in Town Building – Anti-Miesian Brutalism by Pehnt and Joedicke
  • Chapter Seven. The New Brutalism: Ethic or Aesthetic? by Joedicke and Banham – Joedicke’s Proposal for a Monograph on New Brutalism – Towards the Final Structure of the Book – Banham’s New Brutalism: From Materials to Ethics – Beyond Brutalism: ‘The Total Environment’ – Brutalist Style – The Economist Building vs. Leicester University
  • Chapter Eight. The Sad End of New Brutalism – Pevsner and the Anti-Pioneers – New Brutalism’s Obituary – The Old Brutalism – The Smithsons’ Answer to Banham: Robin Hood Gardens
  • Bibliography: Primary Sources
  • Bibliography: Secondary Sources


Publisher: EPFL Press English Imprint

Author(s): Silvia Groaz

Collection: Architecture

Published: 31 august 2023

Edition: 1st edition

Media: Book

Pages count Book: 272

Format (in mm) Book: 170 x 240

Weight (in grammes): 820

Language(s): French

EAN13 Book: 9782889155101

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