Carte Brute Switzerland & Zürich Feature on SRF 2 Kultur, February 2022. Explore more on

SRF 2 Kultur

Radio & Online Feature

For some, concrete is a sensual material – for others, just cold and destructive. Where does this love-hate relationship come from?

Photographer and author Karin Bürki stands enthralled in front of Triemli Tower at the foot of the Uetliberg in Zurich. “This is one of the most radical brutalist buildings in Switzerland,” she says. “It’s like something out of a science fiction film.”

Bürki’s fascination is shared by others interested in architecture and design. The grey residential tower from the 1960s is a thorn in the side of the masses. In 2018, the readers of the free newspaper “20 Minuten” even voted it the “ugliest building in Switzerland”.

For Karin Bürki, raw concrete is a sensual material and Switzerland is a treasure trove of impressive exposed concrete buildings in which “architecture and sculpture mix”.

She wants to pass on her enthusiasm and has launched the format “Heartbrut”. On a website and on her Instagram account, she presents the concrete beauties in texts and images.

Utopian material

To this end, she travels across Switzerland and also provides inspiration to touch: Two folding cards, the “Cartes Brutes”, each with dozens of concrete icons from Switzerland to discover for yourself.

Among them are many buildings from the 1950s to the 1970s: Schools, churches, residential complexes, office buildings and cultural buildings. All refined masterpieces in the spirit of Le Corbusier. The Swiss architect coined the term “béton brut” – exposed concrete – at the end of the 1940s and thus founded the architectural style of Brutalism….

Even though new solutions are being researched: Concrete in its current form remains the most widely used building material in Switzerland. We won’t get rid of it that quickly. Simply rejecting it is probably too short-sighted. Concrete is not black or white, but grey. Karin Bürki’s pictures show how diverse this grey can be.

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