Brutalism has been catching flack for far too long, and it’s refreshing to see a take on Brutalism from someone (else) who appreciates the architectural style. Blake Gopnik wrote a lovely reflection called “Growing Up in a Concrete Masterpiece,” on Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ’67 in Montreal, which came out in the May 4, 2017 edition of The New York Times.
BrutalistDC founder Deane Madsen was lucky enough to be interviewed for the piece, and a short snippet of that conversation was included in Gopnik’s piece:
Last fall, a British publishing house called Blue Crow Media added a “Brutalist Washington” map to a series that includes maps of Brutalism in London, Paris and Sydney, Australia. The one on Washington, D.C., was the brainchild of a local writer named Deane Madsen, a fan of postwar concrete who was also aware of the abuse it still suffers. “I’d seen so many lists of the least popular and ugliest buildings in D.C., and almost all were Brutalist,” said Mr. Madsen in a recent phone call.
His map applauds concrete buildings like the cylindrical Hirshhorn Museum, once reviled but now widely admired, and the block-spanning F.B.I. headquarters, still so disliked that its demolition seems almost certain.
BrutalistDC will host an architectural tour of L’Enfant Plaza with Atlas Obscura, the definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders, on Saturday, May 6. We’re thrilled to bring you an in-depth look at one of the major clusters of Brutalist buildings in the nation’s capital.
Attendees will follow along with a copy of the Brutalist Washington Map, which is included in the price of tickets. More information is available through Atlas Obscura’s listing of the event.
This afternoon, WAMU dives into the questionable painting of the Union Station Metro station in Washington, D.C., which was recently coated in a layer of white paint. Local architecture reporter Amanda Kolson Hurley, the recipient of this year’s Sarah Booth Conroy Prize for Architectural Journalism, and Matt Johnson, editor of Greater Greater Washington, will discuss the issue on air today.
BrutalistDC founder Deane Madsen was a guest on WAMU 88.5’s Kojo Nnamdi Show with architect, professor, and writer Roger Lewis for a discussion about Brutalism in Washington, D.C., on Thursday.
The triumphant headline of an Oct. 6 article in the New York Times Magazine proclaimed that “Brutalism is Back.” With the fate of the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building not yet determined, and several other examples of D.C.’s Brutalist architecture threatened or facing renewal, host Kojo Nnamdi asked Lewis and Madsen to share opinions on Brutalism, to dive into histories of the origins and definitions of the style, and to weigh in on issues of ethics versus aesthetics. The question of aesthetics, as Lewis pointed out, rests largely in the eye of the beholder, but it’s a conversation well worth having.
New map celebrates Washington, D.C.’s Brutalist architecture
Brutalist Washington Map by Blue Crow Media in collaboration with Deane Madsen
The rising popularity of Brutalist architecture is being celebrated with the publication today of the Brutalist Washington Map by city guide publisher Blue Crow Media in collaboration with Deane Madsen of Architect Magazine.
The guide features 40 leading examples of Brutalist architecture from the Hirshhorn Museum and the J. Edgar Hoover Building (FBI HQ), Dulles Airport and Georgetown’s Lauinger Library to lesser known buildings like the the Woman’s National Democratic Club Annex, National Presbyterian Church and Reston’s Lake Anne Plaza. Details for each building and metro station, include the location, date and the architect or practice responsible.
Deane Madsen, Associate Editor of Design at Architect Magazine said: “As moreand more examples of classic Brutalism face demolition by neglect, we hope that putting these examples of D.C.’s Brutalist architecture on the map will foster public appreciation that ensures their longevity.”
Brutalism rose to prominence in the mid-1950s, and has its origins in post-war architectural experimentation dealing with new realities of material expense. The style’s forms and ethos evolved out of works by Le Corbusier, who specified béton brut (concrete that is raw or unfinished) in his Unité d’Habitation apartment buildings, the first of which was completed in Marseille in 1952. Architects around the world grew to appreciate the plasticity with which reinforced concrete could be shaped as well as its economical means of construction.
Washington, D.C. experienced comprehensive overhauls in the post-war era, following the Redevelopment Act of 1945. Brutalist architecture proved a fit for government mandates that the new buildings not be identifiable for the agencies they contained, and its economical construction methods proved efficient for structures housing millions of square feet of office space. Architects Nathaniel Owings and I.M. Pei played large roles in master planning efforts surrounding the National Mall, and Harry Weese’s vaulted Metro station design for WMATA was deployed throughout the region starting in 1976.
The Brutalist Washington Map is designed to affirm the value of these buildings and to inspire further consideration of Brutalist architecture today. Priced at $10 USD (£8 GBP) plus shipping, it is available to purchase through Blue Crow’s website, and at the National Building Museum shop in D.C. Two sided, with a map on one side and an introduction to Brutalism and post-war construction in Washington, along with architectural details for each building and photos on the other, it opens to 16.5 inches (420mm) x 23.5 inches (600mm) and folds down to 8.25 inches (210mm) x 6 inches (150mm), and is protected by wide band.
This is the Blue Crow Media’s fourth architecture guide, following Brutalist London Map, Art Deco London Map and Constructivist Moscow Map. Modern Berlin Map will be available in November 2016.
About Blue Crow Media
Blue Crow Media is an award -winning London-based independent publisher of
distinctive city guide maps and apps. Brutalist Washington Map is Blue Crow
Media’s 14th folding map guide and second dedicated to Brutalist architecture.
Brutalist Boston Map will be published in 2017.
w: bluecrowmedia.com ; i: @bluecrowmaps ; t: @bluecrowmedia
About Deane Madsen
Deane Madsen is the associate editor of design at Architect Magazine. Based in
Washington, D.C., Madsen started @BrutalistDC as a way of celebrating the
capital city’s collection of Brutalist gems, which add texture to corridors of
all-glass lobbyist headquarters. Madsen earned a Master of Architecture degree
from UCLA before altering course to an architecture adjacent career writing about
what makes buildings work.
i: @deane_madsen ; t: @deane_madsen
World Architecture Day at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden was a smashing success! Many thanks to Hilary-Morgan Watt and Allison Peck from the Hirshhorn and to Carl Maynard of WalkWithLocals for hosting, and thank you to all the 200+ folks who showed up to hear dubious comparisons between strawberry purée as doughnut filling and crushed “Swenson” pink granite as concrete aggregate.
The Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C.’s “Brutalist Donut,” has announced a World Architecture Day celebration set for October 3, 2016, with locally-made donuts and architecture tours. BrutalistDC founder Deane Madsen has been invited to lead an architectural tour in collaboration with @WalkWithLocals, a Washington, D.C.-based photography meetup group that regularly hosts photography walks in and around the capital city.
September 20, 2016—Visitors are invited to the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Monday, Oct. 3, to celebrate #WorldArchitectureDay by enjoying “Donuts with the ‘Brutalist Donut’”—a day of complimentary donuts and free architecture tours of its iconic circular building.
Tours by experts, including the Atlantic’s Kriston Capps and Architect’s Deane Madsen, will reveal the genius of the Hirshhorn’s unique spaces and how the museum’s rebellious, modern style changed ideas of design. Then, visitors can enjoy a delicious Hirshhorn-inspired donut from Zombie Coffee and Donuts, created especially for this day (while supplies last).
A new special session, ARTLAB+ Storytime at 10 a.m., invites the museum’s youngest visitors ages birth to preschool, to enjoy a read-aloud of the children’s book Iggy Peck Architect and a hands-on building activity. Nursing moms and strollers are welcome.
Affectionately nicknamed the “Brutalist donut,” the Gordon Bunshaft-designed Hirshhorn, the Smithsonian’s museum of modern art, is one of the most celebrated examples of the Brutalist architectural style that flourished during the 1950s–1970s. Other well-known local Brutalist landmarks include Washington’s Metro stations and the J. Edgar Hoover (FBI) Building.
10 a.m. tour: ARTLAB+ Storytime for young visitors birth to preschool and their caregivers
Noon tour: Critic Kriston Capps (@kristoncapps) writes for the Atlantic’s CityLab on art, architecture and the shape of cities today. The public can join online via FacebookLive at facebook.com/thisiscitylab.
3:30 p.m. tour: Gallery-guide tour of architecture-inspired artwork in the Hirshhorn’s collection.
6 p.m. tour: Deane Madsen (@deane_madsen) is the associate editor of Architect magazine and runs @brutalistDC, an Instagram celebration of the District’s concrete masterpieces.
The wrecking ball nearly swung early for a lesser-known work by Marcel Breuer situated in Reston, Va. So far, the motion has been stayed, but Reston planning officials meet on July 26 to discuss the building’s future. An ongoing “Save the API Building” petition, which is still soliciting signatures, allows you to voice your support for the building.
Here at BrutalistDC, we’re suckers for some bona fide Brutalism, and Marcel Breuer provided many striking examples of the style during his long architectural career. In Washington, D.C., Breuer was responsible for two massive government offices: the Department of Health and Human Services Hubert H. Humphrey Building, and the Department of housing and Urban Design Robert C. Weaver Federal Building.
On a more diminutive scale, and a little bit of a trek outside of D.C. proper (but still within reach of the Metro system via the Wiehle-Reston East Station on the Silver Line), Breuer designed the American Press Institute in 1972, and it was completed in 1974. The two story, 25,000-square-foot API Building served as a headquarters for journalist training until the API merged with the Newspaper Association of America and vacated the Breuer building in 2012.
The API Building has been empty ever since, and had fallen off the radar until housing developer Sekas submitted an application for rezoning of the property on which the API Building sits, claiming that there were “no known heritage resources” on the property, according to a report by Karen Goff for Reston Now.