In this modern age, classifications are so far distorted by academic writings and their interpretations that it is hard to distinguish where things belong categorically. Architectural historians have assisted in this prevailing confusing by wrongly labelling styles, movements or types, or by simply remaining them. However, there has been rough attempt to fix this confusion as explained in Reyner Banham essay ‘The New Brutalism’1. Here Banham1 provides clarification on the architectural language associated with the ideas of Modernity, particularly related to New Brutalism.

The article first outlines the use of ‘isms’, which are commonly used to describe current or past modern movements. Banham1 points out that this is the main source of confusion and attempts to roughly explain two ways this classification can be used; (1) a label, or recognition tag applied to a body of work that have certain consistent principles and (2) a banner or slogan consciously adopted by a group of people, whatever the product. From here, Banham reveals that New Brutalism, unlike other historical classifications is subjective to both these categories.

The term was first established to enable common recognition, to definite architectural qualities that governed a building. However, the definition of Brutalism in the context of architectural aesthetic seems to be deceptive. The word ‘brutal’ implies something coarse, crude and harsh which in reference to the style seems to have little or no relationship, even if in purely abstract terms. Nevertheless, Brutalism is governed by this term ‘brutal’ according to its treatment of logical design1. The style is based on ruthless logic that is apprehensible and coherent of the building as a visual entity. Every single aspect of the building, externally and internally, contributes to the building as an ‘image’.

Banham uses the architecture of the Smithsons as a reflection of the Brutalist attitude. Their architecture strongly follows the rigid qualities of Brutalism, in that is has a direct focus on straight forward planning with very simple and rational in details. The Simthsons also have a great deal of concern with the realities of the present which is supposedly the fundamental principle of the Brutalism. Without these characteristics Banham dictates that the style is a mere interpretation and does not represent New Brutalism.

It is too easily assumed that structure and function creates architecture when it is the architectural totality that creates apprehensible and memorable buildings. New Brutalism, while rigid in its method, is an evolutionary step in creating architecture that not only works together functionally and visual as a whole, but emotively stimulates the public through its geometric forms1.


 [1] Banham, Reyner. Age of the Masters : A Personal View of Modern Architecture. Revised ed. ed. London: Architectural Press, 1975.
 [2] Corbusier, Le. "Architecture or Revolution." In Toward an Architecture (Vers Une Architecture 1924) Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2007.