On the evening of October 2, The Hirshhorn, IGDC, and BrutalistDC will co-host a World Architecture Day sunset tour of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. The Hirshhorn, which was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, and opened in 1974, is a prime example of Brutalist architecture in Washington, D.C., sited at the midpoint between the Capitol and the Washington Monument along the National Mall. Its sunken sculpture garden offers a quiet, shaded refuge from the expansive lawn of the Mall, and the museum was envisioned by Bunshaft to be “a sculpture on the mall.”
From the Going Out Guide listing:
The Smithsonian’s lone brutalist building has affectionately (or derisively) been referred to as a “brutalist doughnut.” The museum will celebrate its round, empty-in-the-middle design on World Architecture Day with free Sugar Shack doughnuts for all visitors, in addition to architecture-focused talks and tours. Highlights include Amanda Kolson Hurley, author of a Washington Post Magazine article on preserving — and improving — brutalist architecture, discussing her story at 12:30 p.m., and @brutalistdc founder Deane Madsen leading an Instagram tour of the building at 6:15 p.m. 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Free.
BrutalistDC will take over the Instagram feed of the Southwest Business Improvement District (@SWBID) on Thursday, October 5. Expect a walking tour starting from the Waterfront Metro and ending at the U.S. Department of Energy.
We plan on covering a lot of ground, and hope to make it to the following buildings, most of which are on the Brutalist Washington Map:
Tiber Island Cooperative & Carrollsburg Square Condominium
DocomomoDC announced today that it will feature Washington, D.C.’s Brutalist architecture in a walking tour to be held on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017. The tour, called “Rediscovering Brutalism,” will begin at the AIA National Headquarters (which was designed by The Architects Collaborative) with a lecture by Michael Kubo, followed by a walking/Metro-riding tour to Dupont Circle. Kubo is co-author of both Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston and the Brutalist Boston Map.
Details for the tour, courtesy of DocomomoDC, are below: Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017, 1pm to 5pm, rain or shine
Downtown Washington, D.C.
Lecture followed by Walking + Metro Tour with happy hour.
Registration for the tour is through Eventbrite. Tickets cost $35. Students and members of Docomomo, the DC Preservation League, and APT DC receive a discounted admission of $25. Those in attendance will each receive one keepsake copy of the Brutalist Washington Map.
In the smashing cover story of the Washington Post Magazine last weekend, Washington, D.C.-based architecture critic Amanda Kolson Hurley makes the case for local Brutalism. Hurley’s 10-page feature, entitled “Crushing on Concrete,” boasts a cover illustration by Peter Chadwick, author of This Brutal World, and includes striking black-and-white photographs by Astrid Riecken.
There’s this kind of weird valley in which people either love or hate the buildings. I definitely feel like brutalism is in exactly that zone.–Michael Kubo
Despite the losses of some Brutalist buildings Washington, D.C. (namely, Araldo Cossutta’s Third Church of Christ, Scientist, and Marcel Breuer’s American Press Institute), Hurley argues, there have been a few Brutalist triumphs, such as Boston City Hall and U. Mass. Dartmouth’s Claire T. Carney Library by Paul Rudolph. Hurley also exposes the renewal in Brutalism’s popularity, citing the blog F— Yeah, Brutalism, maps by Blue Crow Media, and even our Walk With Locals x Hirshhorn collaboration for last year’s World Architecture Day.
Washington’s impressive catalogue of Brutalist buildings, however, means that the preservation battles are only just beginning. Many of the structures that face greatest peril are those that have aged enough to be in disrepair, yet aren’t quite old enough to have been designated as landmarks. As Hurley puts it, “In Washington … brutalism’s ubiquity means we will have many chances to decide whether it is worth saving.” One notable case in point is the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, which tops many a list of “Ugliest Buildings in D.C.” for its impenetrable massiveness. Its future is a story to which we’ll be paying close attention as it develops.
For further reading, pick up these Brutalist titles:
Update: Not all of the readers of the WaPo article are concrete lovers, and maybe that’s not news. One particularly scathing comment on the article: “Any chance we get to remove a polyp of this soul-crushing, dismal, ugly architecturally worthless concrete crap from our beautiful city, we should take. It is joyless, ugly and represents all that is sick about sick buildings.” Couldn’t disagree more, chum!
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.
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