Screw Brutalism


“The New York Times” asks the questions no one needs to ask, much less answer:


The short answer is “No”, or at least it should be the answer. There is nothing redeemable about it – even if the external and internal quality and livability weren’t as shocking as they are, the aesthetic of it can only appeal to soulless totalitarians.

Polish Brutalism was inextricably associated with Communist rule. Once, these buildings had promised a new future. Their modernity — their sheer scale — heralded all the potential of a rebuilding nation, and of a more just ideology that would provide an alternative to Western capitalism. By the 1990s, however, the sheen had vanished from the ideology and the buildings, too. Communism was a bad memory, and its architectural legacy inspired, at best, ambivalence. To this day, many Poles mutter about the poor quality and ungainliness of the buildings: gray, soulless reflections of an equally bleak era.

The tides of history move in and out, though, and recently, Brutalism has undergone a remarkable rehabilitation. This revitalization is driven in part by a new appreciation of the structures themselves, and also by a sense that, like them or not, these “strange, angry objects,” as the British critic and author Owen Hatherley has called them, are an irrefutable part of the country’s architectural and social legacy. At a moment of rising anxiety over unequal wealth and social exclusion, there’s also a fresh appetite for an aesthetic that, in its idealized form at least, emphasizes austerity and egalitarianism.

To be fair to the NYT, the piece does not rhapsodies too much. I would strangle if it did.

Courtesy of Google, this is where I’ve spent the first few years on Earth (the upper dirty salmon-coloured high rise). It actually wasn’t too bad as far as the commie mass housing went – for starters there was much greenery unlike around other similar “projects” (to use an Americanism) and there was the Vistula next door (the brown triangle in the upper right corner). Yet it still scarred me for life. No Brutalism, no Daily Chrenk. Architecture has much to answer for.