NEW BRUTALISM

The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. Brutalist architecture didn't really die. They just needed to stop using it to build British ghettos.

Cathedral_of_Our_Lady_of_Angels_(from_plaza),_Los_Angeles

Click to embiggen.

31 thoughts on “NEW BRUTALISM”

  • Brutalism may not be dead, but it's definitely a tough sell for the public. In my hometown of Oklahoma City, one of the city's few genuine architectural gems is very close to being demolished. One of the reasons the city is finding it relatively easy to destroy a building that won renown around the world for its unique design is that many people think it's "ugly", and if you ask them what they mean by "ugly" they'll give you a general description of the brutalist style (without realizing that that's what it is). I wish these people felt the same about the 735,298,460 Walgreens and Starbucks all over town, or about the obnoxious proliferation of low-rise office parks in which the buildings are designed to look just like suburban McMansions. (Is it really that important that our dull, boring office space look as much as possible like our dull, boring living space?)

  • c u n d gulag says:

    Looks like something Picasso might have created if he had had a tan building-block period, was an Atheist, drunk, stoned, and high.

    I'm not religious, but I'll take Gothic Cathedrals, or the onion domes or Russian Orthodox Churches.
    This looks more like a large Roach Motel.

  • It's like a half-eaten pineapple with a cross on it.

    Wes, office parks and strip malls are plenty awful too, but at least they're awful in a familiar, low-key way. This is eyecatchingly awful.

    Maybe I'm a philistine, but if I were going to spend a bunch of money to have a masterpiece built for my place of worship, I sure as shit wouldn't give it to the guy who took a close-up picture of a salt crystal, painted it beige, and stuck a door on it.

  • c u n d gulag Says:
    January 10th, 2013 at 5:08 pm

    Looks like something Picasso might have created if he had had a tan building-block period, was an Atheist, drunk, stoned, and high.

    I'm not religious, but I'll take Gothic Cathedrals, or the onion domes or Russian Orthodox Churches.
    This looks more like a large Roach Motel.

    Nick Says:
    January 10th, 2013 at 6:07 pm

    It's like a half-eaten pineapple with a cross on it.

    Wes, office parks and strip malls are plenty awful too, but at least they're awful in a familiar, low-key way. This is eyecatchingly awful.

    Maybe I'm a philistine, but if I were going to spend a bunch of money to have a masterpiece built for my place of worship, I sure as shit wouldn't give it to the guy who took a close-up picture of a salt crystal, painted it beige, and stuck a door on it.

    ladiesbane Says:
    January 10th, 2013 at 6:26 pm

    It looks like the employees' entrance to Azkaban.

    See what I mean about brutalism being hard to sell to the public? :D

  • @Mo
    When Ed trails his coat, the troops are at point, shouting, in unison, "I know shit about architecture, but I know what I like!"

  • Hey, I really like Brutalism, if it is the charming sci-fi prefab kind, or the so-humorless-it's-comical Soviet kind, or the kind of concrete bunker that houses a religious cult that takes the end of the world *very* seriously. If it looks like the mailbox says "Deckard" or "Blofeld", count me in.

    But this looks like those enormous, crappy megachurches blighting the highways from Texas to Oklahoma, designed by a sixth grader during the perspective lesson in art class, built from bricks the color of a chainsmoker's teeth. Graceless, disproportionate, ill-considered…there is no time of day when it could please the eye. It's more the New Cruelty than the New Brutalism.

  • Have you seen the building that houses the Architecture Department at UC Berkeley? Seriously. Brutalist.

    Actually, some of it works. There's enough human-scale detail that it doesn't fall into the Soviet/council model. Though the stairwells look like the worst parts of Alphaville.

  • As someone who has traveled the US and Europe, and is a decided fan of temple building, it pains me that this monstrosity is the excuse for a "cathedral" we Angelinos rate.

    After having felt more than seen the awesomeness of the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, this building reminds me more of the downtown Mens' Jail than that artifice. And you should use it's unofficial local name, The Taj Mahoney, as it more appropriately defines to whom it is dedicated. (Cardinal John Mahoney, noted obscurer of truth about "wayward" priests, instigated the waste of $150 million on this monument to his holiness. Someone should have told him that buying indulgences doesn't work anymore. Especially overpriced banal ones.)

    All the worthy causes, and worthy hardworking poor, that he could have spent some money on, but no. The old Our Lady church had the dignity and modesty one expected of an old poor mission church, you know, dedicated to helping people. Something Mahoney wouldn't know jack shit about.

  • @Jhombi: you've more or less summed up the sentiments behind "Piss Christ" minus the Latino cultural imperative.

    The reason this fails for me as a church structure is simple. It is massive. As in dense, heavy, oppressive. To me it was designed and approved by people who have lost sight of what the church — both the body of believers and the structure is supposed to do — is supposed to do. Lift people up people up from the misery that is life.

    Perhaps Jhombi, given the back story you've given makes such an oppressive structure fitting?

    Which is why I prefer high gothic, Norman gothic and the Slavonic othordox church architecture. At the very least they try to direct eyes upwards. To remind people that there is better to come. To inspire people. To encourage people to aspire to greater things.

    Instead we have churches that have assisted in the oppression of people, not uplifted them to the glory of God.*

    So if the former was the goal this structure it has succeeded.

    *I believe I have addressed and sympathised w/ the criticisms of Christianity many of you have, so lets stay on topic about the structure's design. If you'd like to debate the merits of my analysis of the architecture and how brutalist architecture can uplift and point me to examples that can, please do. I don't mind being corrected.

  • Looks like a building from a lost level of Doom. It just needs some imps hurling fireballs from the windows.

  • Every single brutalist building, with the exception of the library at UCSD, should be blown to smithereens. Brutalism is an affront to the very idea of how buildings should interact with their surroundings, in addition to being grossly inefficient from an operating perspective. (Because concrete in cold weather climates isn't expensive to maintain at all.)

    If I won the lotto tomorrow, I would spend all of my winnings to buy the Ameritrust Tower and the manpower and explosives to blast that fucker out of the sky and haul it's decaying disgusting remains away. In a city full of depression and sadness, that building stands out as the anus of it's hollowing downtown.

    Double my money and I'll start razing brutalist buildings off of college campuses where, at least in the US, they show up most often. This includes, to pick one example, the entire center quad of buildings at Northern Kentucky University. From the library to the union it should be blown up and rebuilt.

    Utter garbage from an era of building design best forgotten.

  • If I tell you that I have studied both straight-up history as well as the history of art and architecture, and that I know what Brutalism is and where it came from and the historical context and everything else…

    …THEN can I then say that it's all a horrible goddamn ugly fucking mistake, regardless of how it's justified, explained, or contextualized? Also, that it's just ugly, ugly, ugly?

    Or am I still a philistine*?

    * A word I even know the origins of!

  • I didn't say it was good architecture for a church. I still think it's an interesting building – as a siege fortress, perhaps. And I'll bet it's nice and cool and roomy inside.

  • I think it is a very good building, designed by the greatest living ecclesiastical architect, and is particularly impressive inside. Gothic cathedrals took hundreds of years to build and ornament before they became what they are today. Give this one some time to develop, come back in two centuries, and then give us your opinion. Brutalist, by the way, it is not.

    And as for brutalism, if you destroy it all, you will lose such architectural masterpieces as Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation and La Tourette Monastery, the great Paul Rudolf Massachusetts Government Center in Boston, and many more that I'm sure you can think of, if you really know anything about the period.

  • "And as for brutalism, if you destroy it all, you will lose such architectural masterpieces as Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation and La Tourette Monastery, the great Paul Rudolf Massachusetts Government Center in Boston, and many more that I'm sure you can think of, if you really know anything about the period."

    Masterpieces? Maybe. Historically important, I'm sure.

    Still think they're all utterly hideous.

  • My favorite brutalist building was, for years, in lower Manhattan. It presented a blank 20 plus story block long face to the public, mitigated only by a few oversized windows on the upper floors. It was a telephone exchange for the financial district, probably pricey Tribeca condos now, but it made sense. Telephone switching gear doesn't need views or sunlight, and it probably saved a bunch on window washing over the years. Interestingly, I remember it as across the street from the world's second largest gold reserve.

    Brutalism can work when it makes functional sense. For example, it's great for power plants, warehouses, and evil villain lairs. As for a church, I suppose a lot depends on what their message is.

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