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Exposing American Brutalism
Arch. Jonathan Letzter (Ph.D.)  
My research seeks to deepen the understanding of the theory and practice of Brutalist architecture. Brutalism, emphasizing ethical and aesthetic values, emerged during the 1950s as a reaction to the Modern Movement. The main premise of Brutalism is that the exposure of materials reveals the ethics of society. I claim that the building’s physical appearance (its complexity, the playfulness of its surfaces, and its exposed construction) eventually hides, rather than reveals, its social and historical essence. Therefore, my goal is to explore the gap between design and its physical outcome on the one hand, and the political and social outcomes on the other.
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Links to Albums: Brutalist Buildings in the United States
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Links to Albums: Brutalist Buildings in the United States
 
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Brutalism morphology and the grid

The grid is a conceptual, morphological basic structure representing a mental state.

Rosalind Krauss elaborates on the peculiar power of the grid and describes it as antinatural, antimimetic and antireal. (Krauss, 1979)

The grid flattens the surface, simplifies and rearranges the space between two-dimensional surfaces and three-dimensional volumes. It also relates to social matters of equality and equal justice in a non-hierarchial form.

In many cases, Brutalist architecture uses the strict grid as a reference for spatial perception, determining the building’s construction.

The Brutalist architectural grid representation is threefold:

1. It is an easy form to grasp

2. Enables an infinite possibility of expansion

3. Represents the repetitive industrial constructive elements.

Examples of Brutalist Grid Facade
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Brutalism and housing developments in New York
New York Gridiron
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Upper East Side, Park Ave.

Souce: https://thegreatestgrid.mcny.org/

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The area around Washington Park.

Source: https://thegreatestgrid.mcny.org/

Off-Grid Housing

Housing developments in New York first set the layout as an off-grid / tower-in-a-park concept. 

2018
1950
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My research examines the housing developments of New York, especially those constructed between the 1950s-1970s, showing the implementation of Brutalism characteristics. Housing initiatives in New York first set the layout as an off-grid / tower-in-a-park concept. Therefore, the result is a grided Brutalist building laid within a non-grid layout as part of the New York gridiron.

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My research seeks to deepen the understanding of the theory and practice of Brutalist architecture. Brutalism, emphasizing ethical and aesthetic values, emerged during the 1950s as a reaction to the Modern Movement. The main premise of Brutalism is that the exposure of materials reveals the ethics of society. I claim that the building’s physical appearance (its complexity, the playfulness of its surfaces, and its exposed construction) eventually hides, rather than reveals, its social and historical essence. Therefore, my goal is to explore the gap between design and its physical outcome on the one hand, and the political and social outcomes on the other.

 
 
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Brutalism and the built environment

In many cases, Brutalist buildings resulted from the demolition of historical tissue (for example, Boston City Hall or the “slum clearance” projects in New York City). Thus, the public may perceive Brutalism as the destruction of historical, sentimental architectural memories. 

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Lincoln Square Slum Clearance Plan, NY, ​1950

Source for Drawings: https://www.johnmjohansen.com/

 
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(1918-1997)

Source for Drawings: https://paulrudolph.org/

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(1916-2012)

Source for photos and drawings: https://www.johnmjohansen.com/

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Brutalism Additions to Historic Buildings and tissues

Brutalism may blend in with its surroundings as a new construction in a historic built environment