Let me introduce you to Brutalism, the blocky unfinished concrete architectural style that was very common in cities around the world at one time, but is now buildings of this style are being demolished at an astounding rate. From just looking at one of its buildings, one can easily assume that Brutalism got its name from its “brutal”-looking exteriors, it’s actually derived from the French term for béton brut, or “raw concrete” (still, the earlier assumption works). That material was used by Swiss-French architect and Brutalism originator Le Corbusier in his genre-molding work during the 1950s, which served as a variant on the steel and glass of the Modernist era, but Brutalism’s windowless bunkers with chunky facades make them appears as impenetrable, permanent sand-castles.
It turns out that Brutalism was popular in the 1960s and 70s for that very reason: it was affordable, durable, and could be easily erected in places like urban plazas where architects were concerned with possibility of civic unrest. Unlike the resurgence of mid-century Modernism, Brutalism hasn’t seen that type of interest today (and the style probably was never really embraced at all in its earlier years). The style wasn’t beautiful like the more classic styles were, concrete is often seen as a utilitarian material for highways and drainage channels, and UNFINISHED concrete requires an exceptional amount of maintenance to make it age aesthetically, repair from leaks, and remove stains.
Anthony Paletta has been chronicling Brutalism’s disappearance on at The Awl, where three of the five Brutalist buildings he featured 2012 were already gone — including the Stage Theater in Oklahoma City and the Morris A. Mechanic Theater in Baltimore. As of this writing, the Prentice Women’s Hospital (which I covered before) in Chicago was demolished back in February. I guess it’s safe to say that Brutalism is one of the most endangered architectural styles on Earth.