Raw Desires: Brutalism and Violent Structures

With works by Frank Thiel, Michael Wesely, Jan Kempenaers, Christoph Morlinghaus, Karin Székessy, Benjamin Antony Monn, Andreas Gehrke, Thomas Kellner, Fette Sans, Dirk-Michael Schulz

You can observe the desire for the ‘raw’ that is present in all segments of contemporary culture: a yearning for the authentic, the natural, the free and the real. In an architectural context, the choice of raw concrete and the creation of powerful structures enabled by its brutal looking textures stood for a whole era in the 1960s. A time when natural values, the hippies and “back to nature” mingled with new paradigms in construction techniques and urbanist utopia. The brutalist movement was born.

Today, we can feel parts of that era coming back to life. Overfed by plastic, pollution and consumption, we hark back to humble and natural values. From L.A. to Shanghai to Berlin, we are going back to unprocessed and healthy food. In our local coffee spots we get lost in nostalgia for ‘the little farm on the prairie’, and sheer simplicity is experiencing a renaissance among the global interior design community through the Japanese philosophy of Wabi Sabi. Back to raw is not just another global hipster trend, it reflects the deepest and most healing reflex of humankind to feel connected to nature, things and through that to the universe.

The fiercely active Facebook community “The Brutalism Appreciation Society” celebrates that longing for brutally naturalistic architecture fantasies with its very existence. One would suppose that such a passion for textures and violent structures appeals to our almost erotic reflexes. Our deep human condition is touched, embraced. Also our collective unconsciousness is talking aloud—a liberation of consumptive oppression and destruction of our nature by industrialised artificiality. Humanity has just begun to understand that it needs to adapt to nature and not the other way around. Preserved indigenous tribes of the Amazon rainforest still cultivate an integrative and respectful way of life in relation to the planet, the flora and fauna: wisdom and sagacity that we lost thousands of years ago in the pursuit of power and money.

“Raw Desires: Brutalism & Violent Structures” is less an architectural review on brutalism than an attempt to translate a specific feeling, one that captivates so many in our society. The various works here are challenging in their questions. They focus on realities, psychologize urban structures, redefine the given, recontextualize nature and eroticize roughness.

Johann Haehling von Lanzenauer