Modernism and Brutalism
PERIOD OF POPULARITY: 1945 – 1980s
BACKGROUND AND INSPIRATION: Modern architecture follows similar characteristics of International style, though is freer and more flexible with its forms and designs. This is really an excercise in categorizing and labeling, as the International style could be placed under the broader category of modernism. However, for purposes here and in other published materials (see Cunliffe, et. al.), there is enough variety in post-war modern architecture to separate out the International-style “boxes” and place the rest here.
Like International style, Brutalism is sometimes classified as its own distinctive subtype, though it is considered a variant of post-war modernism. Despite its apparently appropriate name, Brutalism is derived from the French term, beton brut, which translates to “rough concrete”. It is essentially a style based on the shaped and molded forms of concrete, a thick, masonry variation of modernist architecture. Regardless of how the International style, Modernism, and Brutalism are classified, they all share the fundamental modernist principle promoted by Louis Sullivan and his contemporaries and successors, that “form forever follows function,” without relying on revivalist architectural styles of the past.
The post-war modernist era also influenced American suburban housing. Early forms of modern houses included rare examples of the prairie style for wealthier clients, designed to blend into the prairie landscapes of the Midwest and inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright and his contemporaries. The American foursquare and craftsman bungalows, distant cousins to the Prairie style, gave us more common forms of early modern housing styles up to and including World War One.
After World War Two, when the suburban boom gained momentum, variations on the modern style became the prominent form of building for suburban neighborhoods and large tracts of standardized middle-class housing were built throughout the U.S. These sprawling suburban neighborhoods mirrored the modern movement and the more prominent International style. Taking cues from earlier craftsman bungalow and cape-cod cottage forms, post-war modern houses included the California ranch, raised ranch, split-level, and “sea ranch” after the 1950s. Similar to International style, these houses really don’t include much “style” at all — they are designed to look to the future – not to the past – for their inspiration.
By the 1970s architects and developers started slipping subtle hints of past stylistic features into their houses, in part riding the patriotic wave of the Bicentennial celebrations surrounding 1976. By the 1980s the postmodern movement was gaining steam, and the anti-style of the ranch was itself a thing of the past. Architects and builders were moving away from modern forms, favoring instead a revived interest in past styles and ornamentation — the postmodern era had emerged.
For More Photos of Modern and Brutalist Architecture and Housing on Flickr, Click Here.