What images does the word “Brutalism” bring to mind? Most likely, you are thinking cold, dark, and uninviting. And from the outside, Brutalist homes fit the bill. Concrete blocks with no character. Utilitarian structures that evoke a sense of a post-apocalyptic future. Except that’s the Brutalism of the past. There’s been a slow resurgence — and with it, a rethinking — of Brutalist architecture in recent years. Here are five houses that prove Brutalism is back, and it’s amazing.
Built in 2006 by architectural firm Cadaval & Sola-Morales, the TDA House in Puerto Escondido is a stunning example of new wave Brutalism. The color of the concrete is more taupe than gray, the warm tone helping the simple structure to fit into its tropical environment. The cantilevered second floor adds unexpected visual interest, a playful touch not seen in Brutalist structures of the past. With warm wood accents throughout the home, mobile walls that allow rooms to become open air, and bright red hammocks sprinkled throughout, TDA House shows us that concrete can be beautiful — an important aspect of Brutalist designs.
Deep in the heart of Costa Rica sits Jungla Moderna, an over-the-top vacation rental that takes full advantage of the jungle views (hence the name). This home is Brutalism at it’s finest. The concrete is used in a variety of ways, making the space far from boring. From polished concrete on the floor to walls of concrete blocks to rough concrete support pillars, the varying textures add endless visual interest. The strength of concrete allows for a massive, two-story family room that faces a wall of glass, which offers plenty of natural light and unobstructed views of the jungle. A key concept of Brutalism was incorporating “found” materials, meaning only using supplies native to the area the home is built. This is seen in the solid wood dining table, bamboo flooring in the kitchen, and rough stone mosaic tile in the bathrooms.
Maralah Cliff House
Brutalism and cars don’t seem to go together, but when Infiniti approached architect Laertis-Antonios Ando Vassiliou to design a home as part of a promotion for their new QX80, that’s exactly what he gave them. Maralah Cliff House is a concept home set into a cliff in Calgary, Canada, overlooking the Bow River. Cold and sleek, yet natural and rugged, the design is a darker, sexier take on new wave Brutalism. The Brutalist movement developed from the Modernist movement of the 1950s and ‘60s and, as such, incorporates many of the same principles. This can be seen in Maralah Cliff House, where the man-made structure is designed to blend in seamlessly with its natural surroundings. The rough exposed stone of the cliff makes up one wall of the cabin, steel and glaze combine to create a glass cube bedroom overlooking the water, and the concrete used throughout was left raw, letting the naturalness of the materials shine.
House Van Wassenhove
An original Belgian Brutalist, House Van Wassenhove is getting its second act thanks to the renewed interest in this style. Built near the end of the movement in 1974 by architect Juliaan Lampens, the home strayed away from some of the Brutalist principles. While the dramatic V-shaped concrete entry certainly wows guests, the overall structure of the home is a simple stepped style, not the wild shapes Brutalism had come to be known for. The concrete exterior is similar in shade to stone, allowing it to blend in with its wooded surroundings. Inside, wood accents reflect the Brutalist ideal of using locally sourced, natural materials.
The newest addition to the Brutalist revival movement, Binh House from VTN Architects, caught the world’s attention by proving Brutalism has a place in contemporary design. The most refreshing aspect of this new take on an old style is the focus on incorporating greenery into the design. Binh House features cut outs in the facade of the building, allowing places for miniature gardens to pop up. Inside, a tree set into a rock garden acts as a room divider. This literal combination of man-made and natural elements is a new take on a core principle of Brutalism. Whereas in the past we saw nature being used as a material (like wood flooring), Binh house allows nature to take center stage in this unusually shaped concrete structure.