FZ-24: City of Brutal



This is my hometown. I don’t know what your hometown looks like, but I bet it’s nothing like mine. This is where I live. This is my street. This is my school. I like my city, but over time I learned that most people don’t. They hate it. Turns out, most cities aren’t like mine. In 20th century people built houses that were weird, pure cement, no decorations. They thought it was the future. They proved to be in the wrong. As time went by, more and more people got disappointed, and eventually they agreed that it was nothing but a huge mistake. This style, came to be known as brutalism, became the definition of all that’s wrong with 20th-century beliefs about urban planning. And they decided to get rid of these buildings. My father, an architect, tried to convince people all around the world to not to destroy them. He wanted to preserve his favourite style: where others saw ugliness, he saw novelty and beauty. Thanks to his efforts many buildings survived. They all were moved to a single city — the world’s largest brutalist museum. I grew up here. Come along — I’ll show you around. Welcome to FZ-24.

Concept I. “Misfits”

Concept: an imaginary city where brutalism replaced and outlived the norm

A project about brutalist architecture all around the world. We imagine a city in which “normal” buildings don’t exist — instead, brutalism is the norm. Wherever you look, you’re looking at weird ugly constructions that are the outcasts, the misfits of regular cities of today. Weird shapes, materials, angles — all serves as a backdrop for mundane daily life. A child is coming back from school. A woman rushes to buy groceries for lunch. Two men in suits are eating sandwiches in a park. A young couple lie in a park. The life looks very ordinary, at least on the surface — but the surroundings aren’t. What could it look like? Let’s explore. Maybe it’s only normal at a first glance, but they are all just pretending, and truth is that the city is evil.

The purpose is to explore the historical and social contexts behind brutalism and to understand why it seemed so promising but eventually didn’t work. Archive footage, interviews with architects and locals who live there, a compelling (or confusing) mix of fiction and truth. First and foremost we focus on the human aspect — it’s not just cool pictures or impressive buildings. We dig deeper to find out how this movement shaped the lives of people who grew up and lived surrounded by these monstrosities and were happy to get out.

Other themes:
  1. the transition between “new urban planning for new society” and ghettos
  1. interviews/archives with people who lived there back then and were happy to get out
  1. interviews with people who live there today and have 0 idea of the historical context — could be an attempt to discover how powerful the architecture is to shape living habits of modern people today

Concept II. “Timeline”

The timeline of one specific building / housing project that tells the story of how brutalism started off as an ambition to change urban living and human behavioural patterns and died turning into ghettos / being demolished

Trivial references:

  • Prut-Igoe, Illinois
  • Joint urban housing projects first occupied in 1954[2] in the US city of St. Louis, Missouri. Living conditions in Pruitt–Igoe began to decline soon after completion in 1956.[3] By the late 1960s, the complex had become internationally infamous for its poverty, crime, and racial segregation. All 33 buildings were demolished with explosives in the mid-1970s,[4] and the project has become an icon of failure of urban renewal and of public-policy planning
  • Bijlmer, Amsterdam
  • Robin Hood Gardens, London
  • Plan Voisin, Paris

Phase 1: Architect and their ambitions 

Archive photos of preliminary drawings and designs, quotes from essays, etc. that supply enough context not only for how the building / project construction was planned but how the entire eco-system was meant to improve social interactions and wellbeing of people

Phase 2: Construction and massive changes behind → living conditions of real people


Phase 3: Social outcome 

Footage or photos of buildings dynamited in a haunting display of literal and symbolic implosion. 
Architects and their stand towards it 
(Minoru Yamasaki (also the designer of the World Trade Center, which went up as Pruitt-Igoe came down) did not mention the projects in his autobiography).