For several decades Brutalist buildings were vilified as architectural eyesores, and torn down or left to decay. Does the current hype herald a reversal in this trend? The global online initiative SOS Brutalism – which has already compiled over 1000 buildings in a database (www.SOSBrutalism.org) – inspired a major exhibition project at the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt. The exhibition to have emerged from the global online platform offers, for the first time, a world-wide survey of Brutalist buildings completed on every continent between 1853 and 1979. What societal developments, which architectural and political ideas provide the context for this international phenomenon? However the exhibition also pursues the question of whether Brutalism can even be defined, or how, and addresses possible strategies for renovation in line with accepted conservation practice.
“SOS Brutalism Save the Concrete Monsters!”
May 3 – August 6, 2018
Museumsplatz 1, Vienna
Brutalist architecture celebrates raw, bare construction. It is exceptionally photogenic and hugely popular on Facebook and Instagram. That said many only see brutal concrete monsters. The expressive buildings emerged in a time of experiments and social change. Today many are at risk of demolition. In light of this the rescue campaign #SOSBrutalism extends the exhibition online with a database of over 1000 projects.
Unusually large cardboard models and 25 sculptural concrete models in the exhibition clearly convey the fascination and quality of Brutalist architecture. The extensive collection of the Architekturzentrum Wien is a rich resource for the special focus on Austria added especially for Vienna, and enables us to show great original material, including models, photographs, sketches and plans. The ten Austrian highlights range from iconographic buildings, like the Wotruba church, to less well-known examples, such as the Oblatenkloster by Johann Pleyer in Vienna-Hietzing, or the Mariannhill boarding school in Landeck by the recently deceased Tyrolean architect Norbert Heltschl – some of which are in acute danger of demolition or modification.
Back in 2012, with the ‘Soviet Modernism 1955-1991’ exhibition and the database compiled in parallel to it, the Az W was substantially responsible for the international rediscovery of Brutalist architecture. With the hosting of and addition to the exhibition ‘SOS Brutalism’ we are joining in this work and reacting to rising interest in the architecture of the 1950s to 1970s, which occupies an key place in the Az W Collection. A cooperation by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum and the Wüstenrot Stiftung, for a focus on Austria added by the Architekturzentrum Wien.
#SOSBrutalism is a growing database that currently contains over 1000 Brutalist buildings. But, more importantly, it is a platform for a large campaign to save our beloved concrete monsters. The buildings in the database marked red are in particular jeopardy. This is an unprecedented initiative: #SOSBrutalism is open to everyone who wants to join the campaign to save Brutalist buildings! It is a powerful tool that allows fans of Brutalism to communicate with one another across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and so on. You can follow our social media feeds below.
…what characterises the New Brutalism…is precisely its brutality, its je-m’en-foutisme, its bloody-mindedness.
Reyner Banham, 1955
#SOSBrutalism will also lead into an exhibition which will be jointly organized by the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM) and the Wüstenrot Stiftung. It will be on display at the DAM, Frankfurt am Main, Germany, starting in November 2017.
What exactly is Brutalism anyway? The term was coined in the 1950s by a young generation of architects and architecture critics in Great Britain who used the expression “New Brutalism” to distance themselves from the dreariness of post-war architecture. Architecture critic Reyner Banham described the Hunstanton School by Alison and Peter Smithson (and their unrealized Soho House) as “points of architectural reference by which the New Brutalism in architecture may be defined” and names three characteristics: “1, Memorability as an image; 2, Clear exhibition of structure; and 3, Valuation of materials ‘as found’. ”