Buildings around the world are getting taller. Since the year 2000, global skyscraper construction has increased by 402%. Cities like Dubai are home to nearly 1000 high-rise buildings, and New York’s vibrant luxury real estate market has shown no signs of slowing down, with more high-rise additions slated to be added to its already towering skyline. There’s good in this – high-rises create much-needed space in already dense cities and can reduce urban sprawl in city centres, allowing for better preservation of natural areas.
Brutalism: The Latest Architecture and News
Marcel Breuer’s Pirelli Tire Building, a beacon of Brutalist architecture in the United States, is being reimagined as a hotel by development company Becker and Becker. After being abandoned for years, the structure was sold to architect and developer Bruce Redman Becker in 2020 with plans to transform it into a sustainable 165-room hotel. The sculptural concrete structure aims to be a model for passive design hotels using its unique architectural features and innovative adaptive reuse techniques.
"Demolition is a waste of many things – a waste of energy, a waste of material, and a waste of history," says Pritzker-winning architect Anne Lacaton. In recent years, refurbishment and adaptive reuse have become ubiquitous within the architectural discourse, as the profession is becoming more aware of issues such as waste, use of resources and embedded carbon emissions. However, the practice of updating the existing building stock lacks consistency, especially when it comes to Brutalist heritage. The following explores the challenges and opportunities of refurbishment and adaptive reuse of post-war architecture, highlighting how these strategies can play a significant role in addressing the climate crisis and translating the net-zero emissions goal into reality while also giving new life to existing spaces.
Designed by architect Renée Gailhoustet in 1972, the Cité Spinoza residential complex is part of the master plan created for downtown Ivry-sur-Seine, France. The project is a rendition of the Unité d'Habitation de Marseille by Le Corbusier, a major architectural reference for architects at that time. Architectural photographer Anthony Saroufim took the streets of the Parisian Banlieue and captured the modernist architecture's distinct concrete geometry.
The little-known and remote area of North Caucasus is an intricate assemblage of territories, ethnicities, languages, religions, and, consequently, architectures, from Tsarist-era buildings to mosques, traditional bas-reliefs, and Soviet Modernism. The setting of controversial events and a heterogeneous cultural environment, in many ways, North Caucasus is a borderland between Europe and Asia, the former USSR and the Middle East, Christianity and Islam. Photographs by Gianluca Pardelli, Thomas Paul Mayer and Nikolai Vassiliev provide an introduction to the architectural landscape of the region.
In his book “The New Brutalism in Architecture: Ethical or Aesthetic?,” Reyner Banham establishes what he deems the semantic roots of the term 'Brutalism,' explaining that it comes from one of the " indisputable turning points in architecture, the construction of Le Corbusier's concrete masterpiece, la Unité d'habitation de Marseille. It was Corbusier's own word for raw or rough-cast concrete, "Béton brut," that made Brutalism a mainstay in architectural jargon and, in many ways, the term, as well as the architecture it described, flourished." In the book, Banham highlights the historical milestone marked by Corbusier's Unite d' Habitation and the socio-political context that shaped it. In steel-starved post-World War II Europe, exposed concrete became the go-to building material within the burgeoning Brutalist movement, which quickly defined itself by its bare-bone, rugged surfaces and dramatic, geometric shapes.
The first house ever built in the United States made entirely out of only concrete and glass is no longer standing. It was demolished in 1999, but that doesn’t mean we can’t visit it virtually to witness what it would have been like to be inside. This video and link below focuses on a single house — the Lincoln House — designed by Mary Otis Stevens to resurrect and explore. It uses the program Enscape to walk through the building and resurrect the experience of what it would have been like to be inside. The video offers a timeline to contextualize the role of the house in the career of the architect and the evolution of Brutalism in Architecture, an analysis of the building, and initial reactions to walking through the building for the first time. What magic and other lessons are lurking in the design, hidden until we could experience it?
Chilometro Verde: Five Women Architects Revitalizing the Corviale, a Giant Public-Housing Project in Rome
Corviale is one of Italy’s biggest postwar public housing projects and, arguably, one of the most controversial. Both revered and abhorred, the complex remains a pilgrimage site for architectural schools from around the world. Il Serpentone (The Big Snake), as it is affectionately called, stretches nearly a kilometer in a straight line, a monolithic, brutalist building that hovers over the countryside on the outskirts of Rome. But there is nothing sinuous about a construction made up of 750,000 square meters of reinforced concrete condensed into 60 hectares. This hulking horizontal skyscraper is formed by twin structures, each 30 meters high, connected through labyrinths of elongated hallways, external corridors, and inner courtyards. Divided into five housing units, each with its own entrance and staircase, it contains 1,200 apartments and houses up to 6,000 people.
Located 108 kilometers to the south of Tel Aviv, Beersheba (Be'er Sheva) is one of Israel's oldest cities. Although in existence since biblical times, military campaigns and occupations have seen it destroyed and rebuilt throughout the centuries, resulting in the juxtaposition of various time periods and cultures that can be seen throughout the city. One of Beersheba's principal transformations happened during the population boom of the 1950s sparked by the formation of the State of Israel in 1948. To keep up with the need for housing, the government rebuilt and expanded the city, which soon transformed from a small military outpost of 4,000 people to a vibrant urban center in the middle of the Negev Desert.
Construction Begins on MVRDV's Renovation Project of the Pyramid, a Brutalist Monument in Tirana, Albania
Construction has begun on MVRDV’s project for the Pyramid of Tirana in Albania, as of February 4th, 2021. Rehabilitating what was once a communist monument, the proposal transforms the brutalist structure into a new hub for Tirana's cultural life. Preserving the concrete shell, the intervention will open the atrium and the surroundings, while a small village of cafes, studios, workshops, and classrooms will permeate the site.