The last few years have seen a resurgence in many classic architectural styles. Everything from mid-century modern to art deco is back on trend but with contemporary twists. One surprise in the design world is new wave brutalism. In the late 1980’s we gladly left the style behind, relegated to government buildings and communist countries. But forward-thinking architects have seen the value in brutalism’s principal philosophies — creating homes that take the best of a boring style and turn it into something new and exciting. This new wave of brutalism is turning out homes that are functional, good for the environment, and built to last with a timeless, almost futuristic design.
Over in Berlin, the folks at Graft have pushed the limits of what architecture can be by thinking outside the box and employing a few brutalist principles along the way. One look at the group’s project Villa M tells you this isn’t any ordinary home. The team went about completely redesigning the classic villa, using digital synthesization to turn every wall into a polyhedron. It’s like a cubist boulder in a sea of green grass and trees that stands out among its neighbors yet still manages to fit right in.
From the outside, Villa M falls right in line with new wave brutalism. Rather than dark concrete, the exterior is clad in bright ceramic plates. This is meant to be a reflection of natural stone while providing a softer finish than concrete. The four stories of the home rise up in competing angles, accented by rows of glazing that wrap around corners. It takes your mind a minute to understand what you’re seeing, but the longer you look, the more welcoming it feels. Villa M wants you to step inside and explore every angle.
Where perfect symmetry was the name of the game in classic brutalism, new wave brutalism loves the asymmetrical. Villa M embraces this inside and out, finding balance in the skewed. Everything from the footprint of the home to the winding staircase is contrasting angles — even the furniture is angular.
The two most important principles of brutalism were respect for nature and the clearly defined function of spaces. Taking the form of a stone boulder, simplicity in finishes, materials that are natural and recyclable, and maximum windows framing views to the outside make Villa M a place that honors nature.
Despite the unique layout, the spaces inside Villa M are clearly defined while also offering the flexibility to be closed off and turned into bonus rooms like an office as the family grows and changes over time. This adaptability is another element that has helped revive brutalism in recent years.
Perhaps the trouble with brutalism is the name — it just sounds harsh. But the fact is, this is one architectural style that offers everything we’re looking for in home design today. It is environmentally friendly, warm, easy to maintain, and sturdy. And with innovative minds like the folks of Graft at the helm, we are seeing just how fun brutalism can be.
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