History And Theory Of Environments Cultural Studies Essay

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Designing a "Space Colony" to accommodate a big number of people was my first experience in University. I decided to do some research and find information about group housing. For such a short time assignment I relied on my basic knowledge and tried to develop them. Because of the limited size of the site I didn't want to have curve lines not to waste any small area hence I started looking for a simple form with angular geometries. The parking which covered half of the site area was the first issue of my design because I had to keep it. The other half of the site was exactly on bushes which I personally didn't want to destroy even a small part of it. So I needed to build my Space Colony on top of the Parking. To accommodate three hundred people in different room types I needed to have multiple layers. The simplest geometrical form with clear lines for my site was rectangle. My first sketches were just some rectangle cubes with different sizes which were put on together without following any architectural concept but they remind me the form of "Ziggurat". I tried to put the cubes on each other in order to make a building resembling to Ziggurat. One of the significant elements of Ziggurat was the shrine at the top of it (the last level in Ziggurat) which was functionally different from other levels. In my design I put the smallest cube on top which was the public area of my student accommodation such as restaurants, libraries and a computer lab. Security was one of the practical functions of Ziggurats and the access to the top shrine was provided by staircases which were controlled by guards. I thought that security should be one of the functionalities of my design as well because I was going to design a place for on campus students. In fact providing security for the residence was completely related to my design. Because of this basic similarities Ziggurat became my precedent. Therefore I tried to search the buildings resembling ziggurat to find their architectural specifications.


The Brutalist movement flourished in 1950s by English architects Alison and peter Smithson. Le Corbusier's post-world war II designs, Unité d'HabitationĀ in Marseille and Chandigarh in India in which he used raw concrete to build them had a big influence on this movement of architecture. The term "raw concrete" from the French "béton brut" became more common when Rayner Banham - British architectural critic - used it in the title of his book, The New Brutalism in 1966.

Brutalism was established when communities were looking for inexpensive construction and low cost designing system as they were economically depressed after World War II. Many Brutalist style buildings with big budgets were also designed by architects who respected the honesty, anti-bourgeois and nature of the style.

2.1. Definition of Brutalist Architecture

There is no clear explanation for the theory of Brutalism and in fact the definition which has described by contemporaries is based on individual assertion. For instance what made Alison Smithson to define the Soho design as Brutalist, was the 'exposed structure' however in another article Alison and Peter Smithson believed in 'reverence for material' as one of the characteristic of Brutalism. But Reyner Banham, who was a prolific architectural critic and writer believed in four specifications for Brutalist buildings:

Formal legibility of plan.

Clear exhibition of structure.

Valuation of materials for their inherent.

Clear exhibition of services.

2.1.1 Legible PlanC:\Users\Hengameh\Desktop\Brutalist Photos\Hunstanton School.jpg

What is completely visible in the structure of Hunstanton (jpg...) and the Soho house as a Brutalist architecture, designed by Smithsons is the formal plan with axial symmetry. Architects used repetitive angular geometries form to produce a simple form in this movement.

My building was formed with different size of rectangular cubes ranging from bigger in the first floor to smaller at the top (jpg...).C:\Hengameh\University\ARBE2203-History 2\Assignment1\Photos\Text Photos\Rhythm-Model.jpg

I have actually followed this specification of Brutalist architecture and I believe this will provide a simple usage for the inhabitants of the building especially for public buildings such as schools, universities and student accommodation.

C:\Users\Hengameh\Desktop\Brutalist Photos\First Floor plan.jpg

2.1.2 Exposed Structure and Services

Structure and services in Brutalist architecture were two elements which were left exposed. Although many critics thought this approach is anti-aesthetic but the pioneers of the movement Alison and peter Smithson believed that 'truth to materials' is the basic principle of the movement (jpg...). So many architects later followed this principle to show their respect to the honesty, anti-bourgeois and the nature of the style.

C:\Users\Hengameh\Desktop\Brutalist Photos\250312139_3bae938d60_o.jpg http://www.imagineschooldesign.org/typo3temp/pics/d856f4c351.jpg

Exposure of services was one of the similarities of my design to Brutalist. However it was only a visual similarity. The reason why I decided to have exposed services was not to show my respect to Brutalism, it was because I thought that for the building like on campus accommodation with 300 residents it must be very difficult to demolish the walls, ceilings or floors to fix the pipes, cables and other services. Hence I left them exposed to provide a better access when they need maintenance.

2.1.3 Durability of MaterialsC:\Hengameh\University\ARBE2201- Architectural Design 2A\Assignment1\Group House 3D\1.jpg

Although not all the Brutalist buildings like Smithson's private house were made of concrete but it was the common material of this movement as Le Corbusier used the term béton brut to explain the material he used in many of his Brutalist designs. As having a rough, blocky facades were one of the qualities of Brutalist architecture, concrete could be a good solution to achieve this goal. By considering the sustainability of the building I chose concrete as the main material of my design (jpg...) because it is a good thermal mass and it doesn't age in maritime climate like Newcastle. It was also a good material to keep the texture of the site as it was surrounded by two buildings which were made of concrete.

Similarities and Differences to Other Movements

Brutalism which formed after Functionalism has some specification that makes these two movements similar as they were both the subdivisions of Modern Architecture. What we can see in both movements are the mass-production designs in which Brutalism was criticized as a 'pile of concrete' (jpg...). Use of concrete columns was common element of buildings in both movements.

C:\Users\Hengameh\Desktop\Brutalist Photos\Brutalist\3 photos.jpg

There were also some differences between Brutalism and Functionalism. Architects of Functionalism believedĀ in Louis Sullivan's slogan which said 'Form Follows function' and the buildings usually formed by horizontal lines with composition of freed facade and free interior plans. While the main elements in the form of the Brutalist buildings are exposed structures without interior finishes (jpg...).

C:\Users\Hengameh\Desktop\Brutalist Photos\250304308_1ed6e83f78_o.jpg

Brutalism and Campus Buildings

In the late 1960 many North American's universities started to expand their buildings. As a result many Brutalist structure were built for university campuses in Canada and America. Some of the best examples of these buildings are the Yale Art and Architecture Building and the University of Massachusetts designed by Paul Rudolph in 1958 (jpg...). As I was designing an on campus student accommodation I could find a functional similarity between my design and these campus buildings which were the good examples for introducing the Brutalism movement.

C:\Users\Hengameh\Desktop\Brutalist Photos\Brutalist\Yale art and architecture.jpgC:\Users\Hengameh\Desktop\Brutalist Photos\Brutalist\University of Massachusetts.jpg

Ramification to Specific of Design

The Brief: to find out the type of the building which the client is requesting. For example if it is residential or commercial. The client's theory and philosophy or even the culture. The budget and the client's needs to start the process of designing.

Context: Is not just a building or an architectural structure. To create a creative design I need to search through history, art, politics, economy, culture, religion and etc...

Concepts: Practical or abstract ideas that suddenly comes to my mind or the thing you have inspired by and this completely depends on my experiences in designing.

Site: I believe that the site for architects is like a canvas for a painter. Site is a very small sample of a big environment with particular specification due to its location. To understand the specification of this little sample I need to search the bigger environment in which my sample is located.

Plan: Designing a plan and its orientation most of the time is affected by the location of the site, the function of the building and the client's needs.

Section: anti aesthetic massive structure with a mixture of solid, heavy and naked elements which inspires honesty.

Elevation: A massive, solid structure with the texture of wooden forms. The texture of the elevation is designed in a way that you can easily indicate the nature of the areas which is hiding behind it.

Materials: Although the designers nowadays are looking for new light weight materials and prefabricated structures which has its own logic, I still believe the choice of the material is depended on the form, function, geographical location and the function of the building. Sustainability and the aesthetic principles should not be forgotten.

Sun Control: sun is not just providing lights for the building; it can also be a natural source of energy to provide warmth. Sun control is the most important issue to design a sustainable building. The orientation of the buildings, providing openings and overhanging roofs where they are needed are some of the facts which should be considered by architects.



As Rayner Banham wrote in one of his essays in 1955 Brutalism is the unique art movement which is an invention of Cubism and Futurism. We cannot start studying about Brutalism without consideration how this movement affected on architectural thoughts and language of communication between critics and architects.

In another paragraph he mentioned topology as an important subordination of architecture however geometry is the master regulation. But in Sheffield project designed by Smithsons this discipline has been reversed and topology has become dominant and geometry is the subordinate. This makes Sheffield as an extreme point reached by any Brutalists.

Banham also asserted that the axiality of Hunstanton designed by Smithsons is not integral by the Brutalist and he has modified the definition of Brutalism as memorability as an Image, Clear exhibition of Structure and Valuation of Materials.

Although Brutalism had a big number of proponents such as Reyner Banham, Theo Crosby and Philip Johnson who believed Brutalism as a radical turn of architectural movement after world war period but it damaged its reputation by making confusion for intellectuals about new Brutalism. Banham believed that the extreme dishonour of this movement were the numerous buildings with concrete surfaces which used Le Corbusier's term of raw concrete as an excuse for low cost material. Brutalism was largely dead by the mid 1980s