What is Brutalism?  Examples of Soviet Brutalist Architecture

What is Brutalism? Examples of Soviet Brutalist Architecture

Brutalism was one of the most influential architectural movements of the 20th century. Characterized by raw concrete, large-scale shapes and textured surfaces, brutalist architecture was embraced by architects in most parts of the world at that time. However, there was one region of special interest, which was the Soviet Union. Many former Soviet cities, from Riga in Latvia to Vladivostok in eastern Russia, still bear traces of this architectural trend today. Although these structures, also known as Khrushchevkas or Brezhnevkas, are seen by some as the unfortunate legacy of the Communist era, it is possible to see quite unique and even strange artifacts inside. Here are Soviet brutalist architecture and its most striking examples…

What is Brutalist architecture?

Before examining the brutalist structures built during the Soviet era, it would be useful to define what brutalist architecture is. Brutalist architecture is an architectural style that originally emerged during post-war reconstruction projects in the United Kingdom in the 1950s.

In Brutalist buildings, building materials are often used bare instead of decorative designs. Angular geometric shapes, exposed and generally unpainted concrete are the most characteristic features of this movement. At the same time, using a single color in the building is the common point of almost all brutalist style buildings.

Brutalism, which remained popular until the 1970s, was mostly preferred in the construction of universities, libraries, courts and town halls. The trend, which attracted attention in many parts of the world from England to France, from Eastern Europe to America, was mostly adopted by the Soviet Union.

By the 1970s, it lost its popularity due to being associated with totalitarianism and being considered soulless by people. Let’s take a look at those unique structures that were built during the Soviet Union period and bear the traces of brutalist architecture…

Bank of Georgia, Tbilisi/Georgia

Opened in 1975, this building is one of the most iconic Soviet structures in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia. Although it was opened to serve the Ministry of Highways, it has been the main center of Georgian Bank since 2007.

Kurpaty Health Resort, Yalta/Crimean Autonomous Republic

This structure, which resembles a UFO, is a sanatorium built in Yalta in 1985. Moscow of the time had hundreds of these sanatoriums built throughout the USSR so that the sick could rest and be healed. Many of the buildings that were built as a sanatorium at that time, including Kurpaty, are still in use today.

Russian State Robotics and Technical Cybernetics Science Center, Saint Petersburg/Russia

Robotics and Technical Cybernetics Institute is one of the largest and most important research centers in Russia. The building, which symbolizes many achievements during the space races, is also shown among the best examples of brutalist architecture.

Uzbekistan State History Museum, Tashkent/Uzbekistan

Soviet architecture sometimes also drew on local styles to create unique brutalist structures. This was particularly common in the Central Asian Republics, which regularly used intricate patterns and bright colors in their architecture. The State History Museum of Uzbekistan, built in 1970, is a good example of this.

State Circus, Chisinau/Moldova

Opened in 1982, the Chisinau Circus was Moldova’s largest entertainment venue. The collapse of the USSR and the economic crisis that followed made this building unusable between 2004 and 2014. Today, after a long restoration project, some parts of it were put into use.

Crematorium, Kyiv/Ukraine

brutalist architecture

One of the striking examples of brutalism, the Crematorium is located in Memory Park in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. Completed in 1982, the building is thought to have been used by the Nazis to cremate Jewish bodies.

Linnahall, Tallinn/Estonia

brutalist architecture

This monumental concrete structure was designed for the 1980 Olympic Games. This task fell to Tallinn, present-day Estonia, as Moscow did not have a suitable venue to hold the sailing event. The building, which was later used as a concert venue, still has a helipad and a small port.

Concert and Sports Palace, Vilnius/Lithuania

brutalist architecture

The Vilnius Concert and Sports Palace, built in 1971, is among the best-known examples of brutalist architecture. The palace hosted the public funeral of 13 Lithuanians killed by Soviet troops during the 1991 struggle for independence again. The future of the building, which has been abandoned since 2004, is still uncertain.

House of Soviets, Kaliningrad/Russia

brutalist architecture

The House of Soviets building is located in the very center of the city of Kaliningrad. The construction of this building, which is one of the important examples of brutalism, was started in 1970, but its construction was stopped in 1985 due to budget problems.

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Zvartnots Airport, Yerevan/Armenia

brutalist architecture

Zvartnots airport was opened by the communist authorities in 1961, but its iconic piece “Terminal One” was built in 1980. Home to top Kremlin officials over the years, the airport represented the pinnacle of luxury in the late Soviet era.

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