CARTE BRUTE BASEL
CARTE BRUTE BASEL
RAW BEAUTIES: A FRESH LOOK AT SWISS BRUTALISM
Our message is simple: go out and discover those concrete icons with your own eyes. We take care of the inspo and info.
Brutalism is an architectural movement that emerged in the UK in the 1950s. It championed raw, unfinished materials, bold geometries and massive forms, rewriting the rules of what a building should look like. Although controversial from the start, the style opened up completely new possibilities for architectural expression. The golden era of Brutalism was in the 1960s. The term, by the way, has nothing to do with brutality, but refers to “béton brut” – the French expression for exposed concrete. The Swiss-born architect Le Corbusier made the building material famous with his seminal “Unité d’habitation” apartment block in Marseille, built entirely in rough-cast concrete. With its raw materiality and radicality, it is considered the original brutalist building.
Switzerland embraced concrete early on. The bold and elegantly curved concrete bridges designed by the Swiss engineer Robert Maillart caused a worldwide sensation at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1928, the first exposed concrete church was built in Basel. Until the 1950s, Swiss architects regarded concrete as a noble material. Swiss brutalism therefore tends to avoid crudity and provocation. The aim is always to blend the nobility and roughness of concrete in an ambitious but efficient and cost-effective way. The architecture is characterised by a pragmatic approach, attention to detail and a commitment to high-quality craftsmanship. It boasts a rich variety of styles, ranging from stark asceticism and opulent expressiveness to the subtle and poetic.
In postwar Switzerland concrete played an important part in building a new and modern national identity. As the country began to radically modernise during the 1960s, a tremendous building boom set in. Concrete, which was affordable and functional, made it possible. The numerous housing projects, schools, civic buildings, cultural centres, churches and essential infrastructure in bold exposed concrete optics bear witness to an optimistic era that looked confidently into the future. The buildings tell of a nation in motion in a time of unprecedented economic prosperity.
Switzerland has never really fallen out of love with raw concrete. Nowhere is the building material more omnipresent and part of the everyday fabric than here. Brutalist references remain resonant in the pared-down, all-over-rough design of many contemporary objects.
Contemporary architecture is expressing a new desire to embrace material imperfection and natural finishes. Keeping it raw and real is the credo. Recycled concrete, Co2-reducing technologies and renewable natural resources make the new raw more environmentally friendly.
Brutalist architecture has cultural resonance and relevance for what is happening today. These buildings are more than bold exclamation marks; they brought social ambition, creativity and courageous optimism to postwar Switzerland. They are about self-confidence, defiance, rebellion and resilience and that is why they connect so strongly to today's reality, which is often tough and challenging, but also full of innovation and reinvention.
Karin Bürki, Head of Heartbrut
HEARTBRUT - It means: be bold and brave. It's about sharing concrete love in a tough world.
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