City Hall is Boston's famous monument to the underloved architectural style known as brutalism, but it's not the only brutalist work that some people want to do away with. London, for example, is weighing what to do about the Robin Hood Gardens, a housing complex that once seemed to point the way to the future of affordable city living but now comes across as oppressive and dreary.
Still, some architects remain wed to some of brutalism's principles -- even taking them to greater extremes. Ensamble Studio, for example, didn't just use concrete forms to create its so-called Hemeroscopium House, a private residence in Madrid (concrete being a signature ingredient of brutalism). It used the most massive structural beams available, beams and reinforced slabs that more typically would end up as part of a giant parking garage or highway bridge. Topping off the house is a rough-hewn stone with a paleolithic look, just in case you missed the point that this house is supposed to convey solidity.
From some angles, a glass facade softens the look. From others, the house is simply brutal -- but in a good way, yes? It took a year to design and engineer, but, because of the simple structure, only a week to build. A "hemeroscopium," in Greek, incidentally, is apparently a place where the sun sets.
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Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.