Brutalist Libraries – You Gotta Love Em

According to Yahoo! News this morning, the website VirtualTourist.com has come up with a list of the World’s Top 10 Ugliest Buildings and Monuments. Reuters did not endorse this list.” [Disclaimer – I went to VirtualTourist.com and couldn’t find this list myself.] Here’s the Yahoo! story:  Travel Picks: 10 top ugly buildings and monuments – Yahoo News

What caught my attention is that one unfortunate library, Birmingham Central Library in Birmingham, England, made the list. Naturally, I felt bad for them! However, after visiting its website,  I want to send to Birmingham Central Library a message of solidarity. The reason stated for placing this monumental library building at number nine on the ugliest buildings list is its “Brutalist” style of architecture. Here’s a photo from the library’s website: http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/GenerateContent?CONTENT_ITEM_ID=1581&CONTENT_ITEM_TYPE=0&MENU_ID=260

Brutalist Style Library

Brutalist Style Library

We too have a Brutalist style library.

CSU-Pueblo's Brutalist Style Library

As we’ve been planning for a major remodel and expansion of our library over the past two years, I’ve actually come to develop an appreciation for this style. In essence our entire campus is built in this style, and, while some joke that it was done so that the buildings could be used as a prison if the University should fail, I think there is a certain appropriateness to both the aesthetics and scale of our buildings. We are perched on a hilltop out in the prairie with awesome views of the mountains to the West and the plains to the East. Our library is definitely a strong landmark! And, I argue, its stark style and vintage 1960s look is almost “cool” again. We definitely plan to enhance but not try to disguise the original style of the building.

However, I am looking forward to better lighting and less “vintage” furnishings!

Brutalist Libraries of the world unite!!

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7 Responses

  1. I couldn’t find the list either on virtualtourist. Btw, I think it’s “did not endorse” 😀

  2. Thanks adde, I fixed that typo. Do you have brutalist library yourself?

  3. Yeah, I didn’t find it on VT.com either.
    I took a trip to Boston a little while ago and took some pictures of the City Hall. It is devastatingly ugly: http://fiturl.com/1jN

  4. Brutalism visited sub-tropical climes at The Orlando Public Library. Built in 1966, it was designed by John M. Johansen, who called it “a composition in monolithic concrete.” No kidding. Sadly, it replaced a beautiful Doric-columned Beaux Arts library built in 1922-1923 by Murray S. King. But it is not uncommon in Florida for buildings to come and go like stage sets.

    In 1985, Johansen’s building was seamlessly enlarged by Duane Stark to cover an entire city block. However citizens may feel about the architecture, its bulk is now unavoidable. One can respect the library’s uncompromising style and blow-to-the-gut expressed structure, creating an interplay of light and shadow. But Brutalism’s harsh aesthetics (in characteristic lifeless gray cement) defy much affection — especially with Disneyworld’s nostalgia shtick operating nearby. To be honest, if the present library were swept away like the Neoclassical Revival gem before it, I wouldn’t mourn.

    • I am the opposite. I hate all the neoclassical revival stuff. This is an honest architectural style not some pseudo Greek revival claptrap. Doric columns are so yesterday’s news. The library in Orlando is a great building and with the addition of some greenery isn’t as imposing as one might think of a building covering an entire block. The Disneyfication of Orlando need not extend to this concrete beauty thank you very much, we don’t need any more buildings masquerading as something they aren’t.

  5. I just had to post to say how much I love your site, keep up the good work.

  6. John Johansen, at 95, is perhaps the greatest living American architect. Orlando, and this philistine “critic”, should be proud to have one of his buildings. Meanwhile, why not learn something about architecture?

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