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35 Brutalist Buildings To Visit (After Quarantine!)

Your exhaustive brut-hunt guide to Manila's marvels in concrete

Brutalism is undeniably the black sheep of the architecture world both here and abroad, what with its uncouth appearance, domineering forms, and seemingly unfriendly exteriors. But buried underneath the bad reputation, political connections and polarizing appearance lie a movement that championed honesty in material, functionality, and resource economy, a style brought about by a period of necessity after a world war, and the culmination of a desire to forge a no-nonsense design language that encourages an enhanced sense of community. Association with design meister Le Corbusier surely doesn’t hurt; his material specification of béton brut (raw concrete) for his seminal masterpiece, the Unité d’habitation in Marseille, France helped give the movement its name.

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🔷 17 visites inscrites au Patrimoine Mondial Unité d'habitation Marseille, France, 1945 L'Unité d'habitation de Marseille, œuvre fondatrice du Brutalisme architectural, est l'essai majeur d'un nouveau mode d'habitat fondé sur l'équilibre entre l'individuel et le collectif. Cet édifice de 135 mètres de long, 24 mètres de large et 56 mètres de haut, montée sur pilotis, peut accueillir 1 500 habitants environ. Trois-cent-trente appartements, répartis en 23 types différents, et au 7ème et 8ème étage, une rue commerçante, un hôtel-restaurant, et sur la terrasse une école maternelle et des équipements sportifs. Le principe constructif dit « casier à bouteilles », consiste à construire des appartements à l'intérieur d'une ossature indépendante de poteaux et de poutres en béton armé. L'ensemble de l'édifice et ses équipements sont dessinés au Modulor, l'unité de mesure universelle conçue par Le Corbusier. Plus : 🔶 17 visits listed as World Heritage The Unité d'habitation de Marseille, the founding work of architectural Brutalism, is the major test of a new mode of housing based on the balance between the individual and the collective. The building takes the form of a housing bar 135 metres long, 24 metres wide, 56 metres high and mounted on stilts. Three hundred and thirty apartments, divided into twenty-three different types, can accommodate a population of between 1,500 and 1,700 occupants having at their disposal on the seventh and eighth floors a shopping street and a hotel-restaurant, together with a kindergarten and sports facilities on the roof terrace. The constructive principle adopted, the so-called "bottle rack", consists in building apartments inside an independent frame of posts and reinforced concrete beams. The entire building and its equipment are designed in terms of the Modulor, the universal measuring unit conceived by Le Corbusier. ©FLC/ADAGP/Cémal Emden ▪️UH_ Marseille _ FLC/C. Emden ▪️UH_Marseille_rue commercante ▪️Appartement_50_Marseille ▪️UH_Marseille_façade avec polychromie des loggias _FLC #LeCorbusierChezVous #LeCorbusierFromHome #CultureChezNous #MuseumFromHome

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Brutalism in the Philippines

While it ultimately fell short of its ideals, like its predecessors, Brutalism has birthed interesting examples that embodied its aims far and wide from its birthplace in the United Kingdom. One of the few nations that took to the style in Southeast Asia is The Philippines, where modern local architects like National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin and architect Crescenciano de Castro among many, were enamored by the sculptural potential and tactile qualities of the period’s wonder material: concrete. The Marcoses, who were in power at that time, were quick to pounce on the movement to show off the country’s receptibility to new architectural styles; it doesn’t hurt that concrete, the material most identifiable with Brutalism, is in abundant supply and economical to produce. As a result, brutalism flourished on our shores from the 60s to the late 80s when the Marcos regime was felled. The public reception of the style, already tenuous to begin with, went downhill from there.

The Comeback

Today, Brutalism is making a comeback of sorts around the world as Millenials and today’s architects are starting to fall in love again with the brutal honesty in material and form the style puts in full display; new Brutalist-inspired merch and buildings run aplenty but despite this encouraging development, it hasn’t stopped the demolition of some noted Brutalist examples both here and abroad.

Continuing the Cultural Narrative

Why shouldn’t we demolish Brutalist buildings? It is already part of our nation’s continuing cultural and architectural narrative and is part and parcel of our shared history; to destroy brutalist buildings, of which our nation has prime and distinctive examples, is akin to cultural censorship. This goes for all heritage buildings in our country today and is why instances like the ongoing Philam Life Building saga is a cultural battle that must be waged (and won).

IN PHOTOS: 6 PhilAm Life Building Treasures We Will Miss


IN PHOTOS: 6 PhilAm Life Building Treasures We Will Miss

Documentation, interaction, and an awareness of the state of local brutalist architecture today are but some concrete (pun intended) steps that one can take to help prolong their lifespan. Together with the folks of Brutalist Pilipinas, a Facebook and Instagram based initiative that seeks to draw awareness to the architectural movement by way of a visual database, we plot out 32 brutalist buildings in 8 hotspots within the Metro you can visit (once the quarantine period is over that is!).

You might actually end up making your own brut finds along the way. Don’t forget to tag @brutalist_pilipinas when you do!

Photographs Courtesy of Brutalist Pilipinas

Banner image of Ramon Magsaysay Center by @crservillas