Europe in the ’60s was slowly filled with brutalist architecture, a style emerged from the modernist architectural movement. The buildings are defined by their blocked-like design and frequent use of concrete. The outer exterior of the building is designed in a way that shows its functional structure. This causes it to look fragmented and sometimes even odd-looking.
Today, these buildings are home to public libraries, churches, entertainment venues, apartments and many more. You might even recognize a few of them, as they are hard to overlook when you pass them by. Because the buildings attract so much attention, we listed 10 of the coolest and outstanding brutalist architecture found in different cities around Europe.
Banana Flats – Edinburgh
Built-in 1963, The Cables Wynd House, also known as The Banana Flats, is a fascinating megastructure to watch. It’s ten stories high and part of the skyline of Leith. Leith was previously known for its ghetto’s and slums, where the original Cables Wynd has lived in the earliest years of his life. This part of town became unsuitable for people to live in, because of its deteriorating living conditions that affected many families. These families sometimes consisted of parents with 10 children, all cramped up in a small bedroom apartment. Which eventually led to the construction of this building. It had to be built in a way that made it possible for all of these families to live in and it worked out quite alright. Fun fact: it’s called ‘Banana Flats’ because of its iconic curve.
Johannes XXIII – Cologne
Our Spotter Julia loves the building: “Some think it’s ugly… for me, Johannes XXIII church is one of the most outstanding sacred buildings in my city! I live just around the corner and I regularly come here to admire the most beautiful specimen of the brutalist architecture era in Cologne. Built-in 1968 by architect Heinz Buchmann and sculptor Josef Rikus, the church appears as an unconventional sculpture of exposed concrete and nowadays forms a congenial ensemble with the recently built vocational college next door.”
Slovak Radio – Bratislava
When socialism arrived in Slovakia, Bratislava became provocative in terms of its architecture. The brutalist buildings found in Eastern Europe were their way of showing off, and Bratislava became the representation of this notion. The results? Some of the most outstanding and strange-looking buildings, such as this upside-down pyramid-shaped Radio Station, Slovak Radio. This building belongs to the skyline of Bratislava but is still very much overlooked by tourists. It was once listed as one of the ugliest buildings in the world but is defended by many acclaimed architects to this day.
National Library Kosovo – Prishtina
This is what our Spotter Art had to say about this brutalist building: “Considered by some, one of the ugliest buildings in the world, this piece of architecture was designed by the Croatian Andrija Mutnjaković. The library has got 99 domes, which gives excellent natural light to the inside of the building. The building is thought to represent the traditional Albanian hat called ‘plis’, but according to the National Library of Kosovo the library portraits a Byzantine architecture style. The astonishing exterior is of course complemented by an equally eerie interior. Surprisingly enough, the building has got a calm and relaxed atmosphere, which is quite comforting. Slightly chilly in the winter, but in the summer it’s the perfect place to get away from the heat.”
Kozia 9 – Warsaw
Designed by architects Jerzy Kuzmienko and Piotr Sembrad, Kozia 9 was purposely built to be hidden from pedestrians as it is located in a backyard surrounded by a little park. Dependent on where you stand, this building shows you a completely different appearance from every angle imaginable.
The Barbican Cinema – London
The Barbican Center is well known for its brutalist style. When it was built in 1960, it was supposed to function as a new housing area after the bombing of World War 2. Nowadays it’s considered one of the most important cultural centers in London. It offers everything from cinema, galleries, and theatre, to music.
Blok V – Podgorica
Blok V in Podgorica was a part of the town-planning policy in the late 1970s/the early 1980s and designed by architect Mileta Bojoviç. It consists of five residential skyscrapers that are 16-floors high. Here’s what our Spotter Vaslije said about this piece of architect: “An architectural marvel of its time, Blok V neighborhood is one of the most organized and lively parts of the city. This planned borough, designed and constructed during the 1980s, is a testament of how social housing, commerce, health care, education, and service could be arranged in a very logical manner, as Blok V could be regarded as a city within the city.”
Bank of Georgia – Tbilisi
This is the Bank of Georgia headquarters, designed by architects George Chakhava and Zurab Jalaghania, and was finished in 1975. It’s as tall as 18 stories high. There has been some controversy about the design of the building. Apparently, this building has a similar design as another building in Prague that was planned but has never actually been build. It seems as if some of the structural ideas coincide with one another.
Pyramid of Tirana – Tirana
Another pyramid building, this time it’s the other way around. It used to be a museum made in the remembrance of dictator Enver Hoxha, who passed away three years prior. It’s co-designed by none other than his own daughter Pravera Hoxha. Nowadays, it’s used as a conference center or entertainment venue. When it was just finished, it was said to be one of the most expensive pieces of architecture in the history of Albania.
Wotruba Church – Vienna
The Wotruba church was designed by architect Fritz Wotruba in 1976. He was inspired by the Chartress Cathedral, which according to Wotruba, symbolized the essence of Europe. He frequently used Chatress as an inspiration for his other works as well. Unfortunately, the building was never finished during his lifetime. For many church-goers, this is the place where they find solitude and spiritualism, but for many artists, this looks like a big abstract piece of art.
Memorial Park – Kyiv
The construction of Memorial park Kyiv was a huge project and construction lasted from 1968 to 1981. The building of the crematorium itself reminds of the body of a flame, made of concrete – a very complicated structure. The hills of the columbarium make beautiful landscape shapes. But the most important part of the project – The Wall of Memory – a huge bas-relief sculpture – was buried under a heavy layer of cement right before the opening. Somehow the government thought it was politically incorrect and destroyed the work of artist’s lives.
Our Kyiv Spotter Alex – who spotted this spot – is an architect very much interested in brutalism. Check out the book he wrote about Soviet modernism and brutalism in Ukraine he wrote!
More? We have local spots in 77 cities!