The New Brutalism

You can now download Reyner Banham’s Brutalism polemic

Architecture International News
Robin Hood Gardens (stevecadman/Courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

The arts, media, and humanities-focused wiki Monoskop has published a scanned PDF of Reyner Banham’s 1966 tome, The New Brutalism. The 100-page book, long out of print, is impossible to find in stores.

Recent years have seen Brutalism jump to the fore of several important preservation and development battles. Structures as diverse as Alison and Peter Smithson’s Robin Hood Gardens, Marcel Breuer’s American Press Institute headquarters, and Paul Rudolph’s Buffalo Shoreline Apartments have all been threatened with the wrecking ball. Over these years, as brutalist buildings and their admirers have made the case for preserving the complicated historical legacy these buildings embody, discourse on Banham’s text has been conspicuously absent, leaving a critical void in public debate. Monoskop’s recent publication of The New Brutalism could remedy that deficit.

The book began as an essay in 1955 that Banham refined and expanded over the following 11 years, as his observations regarding the coalescence of the New Brutalist style took shape. Banham’s analysis begins with a political-historical discussion regarding the origins of the term “Brutalism.” He also chronicles the style’s historical underpinnings, chalking up the movement’s origins to a confluence between Nikita Khrushchev’s Soviet building program, Le Corbusier’s Unite d’Habitation, Mies van der Rohe’s Illinois Institute of Technology building, and Alison and Peter Smithson’s Secondary School complex. The remaining four-fifths of the book is dedicated to chronicling New Brutalism’s manifestations in the built environment while discussing the political, philosophical, and tectonic underpinnings of the featured structures.

Banham’s The New Brutalism is available for download at the Monoskop site here.  

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