seminar title What’s (not) so brutal about brutalism?
It has been said that brutalist architecture is “unloved but not unlovely”. Beyond the monolithic, opaque, concrete façades are buildings filled with drama, mystery, and strong civic focus. In the postwar building boom and leading up to the Centennial, grand and heroic ideals of civic welfare and cultural identity were translated into a new vision for Ottawa. The abstract, technically efficient, and impersonal nature of modernism was too closely tied to war. The strong character of brutalist architecture embodied renewed hope, stability, and humanity. Ironically, today we tend to misread these buildings as imposing and inhuman “eyesores”. Understanding the values and ideals behind these plans and buildings helps us to question what went wrong when they became built realities instead of utopian ideals. Is brutalism more than an architectural style? How does architectural style intersect with architectural intentions? Does architecture have to be beautiful? How do architectural trends rise and fall? The tour will explore these questions and debates through a variety of examples of brutalist projects throughout the downtown core—major and minor, town and crown, public and private, built and unbuilt. The tour includes institutional civic projects, the growing federal civil service, commercial and corporate development, and major urban plans for renewal, infrastructure and beautification. About your tour guide: Sarah Gelbard is a city girl. Trained as an architect and currently pursuing a PhD in urban planning, she is interested in both how we shape our cities and how our cities shape us. Her research focuses on alternative communities and the re-appropriation of space. Sarah is co-director of yowLAB, an Ottawa-based architecture and design ideas lab and community network. She is one of two writers behind UrbSanity, a monthly column published in the Centretown Buzz and Spacing Ottawa. To shake off some of the academic weight, Sarah is a partner and designer with the urban art practice Impromptu Playground. Further details: Meeting place: National Arts Centre (53 Elgin St), by the Oscar Peterson statue Post-walk venue: The Backdrop Duration: 90 min + 60 minutes conversation over refreshments Total distance covered: approx 2.5 km Ease of terrain: flat terrain, some stairs Accessibility: alternative route available to accommodate wheelchair accessibility, please ask Note that Sarah is also able to offer this tour on demand to larger groups (10-20 people). Please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about this option.
- walking seminar guide - What’s (not) so brutal about brutalism?
- availability - irregular; see booking app for specific dates
- meeting place - National Arts Centre (53 Elgin St), by the Oscar Peterson statue