There’s nothing brutal about Brutalism. The moniker is derived from the French phrase béton brut, meaning raw concrete. With an emphasis on materials like concrete (chosen for its simplicity and strength) and metal (for industrial support and texture), it’s a mid-century movement born of post-World War II postmodernist sensibilities. Brutalism is simply architecture in the raw—both unadorned and unapologetic.
It’s also a mode of building that’s well suited to Miami—with the strength to withstand nearly anything the tropics can throw at it, and a modern edge that just feels right for the city’s vibe. Examples across town include the Claude Pepper Federal Building in Downtown, almost any building on Miami Dade Community College’s north campus, and the 1111 Lincoln Road structure by Herzog & de Meuron, which has become one of the most popular landmarks in Miami Beach.
From a residential perspective, Brutalism keeps flourishing in Miami. One superior example is the Prairie Avenue residence shown here by architect Rene Gonzalez. With glass windows set in titled concrete walls, the house appears to float up toward the sky despite its heaviness. “It was natural to develop a home with floating concrete planes that may be perceived as in the Brutalist style,” says Gonzalez. “I carefully consider the environmental factors and the client’s interest, and then design a project that originates from its site-specific qualities.”
Brush up on your Brutalist knowledge with this primer on three of the architectural style’s most prolific pioneers
Architect: Le Corbusier
Known for: The father of the Brutalist aesthetic, French-Swiss architect Le Corbusier was known for this signature look, and gave the movement its name in the late 1940s.
Notable Brutalist work: The Palace of the Assembly in Chandigarh, India (above), a piloti-supported concrete structure featuring grid lines and a swooping roof.
Architect: Carlo Scarpa
Known for: The undisputed master of simplicity, this Italian architect’s work is marked by his use of concentric squares, steps, and vesica piscis (interlocking circles) motifs.
Notable Brutalist work: The Brion Cemetery in San Vito d’Altivole, Italy, and the Olivetti showroom (right) in Venice, Italy.
Architect: Marcel Breuer
Known for: The Hungarian designer and architect is known for his Modernist use of rough board-formed concrete slabs that seem to soar into the sky.
Notable Brutalist work: The former Whitney Museum of American Art building, now the Met Breuer (above) in New York City.
Text by Kristen Desmond LeFevre
Photography by Michael Stavaridis