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Brawn over beauty: This concrete house typifies the Brutalist movement

You probably wouldn’t expect beauty from a structure that came out of something called the Brutalist movement. So named because of its functional, rugged, concrete-heavy designs, the architectural style fell out of favor in the 1970s, but recently the Dhondt-Dhaenens museum in Belgium renovated a bunker-esque house designed by Belgian architect Juliaan Lampens.

“This stark, concrete-centric offshoot of earlier forms of modernism became popular in England and the rest of Europe after World War II in part because it provided a sense of security in areas that had been devastated during bombings,” according to an Architectural Digest article about Brutalism. The Van Wassenhove House is made of concrete but also has large walls made of glass. The floor plan is an open design, and the bedroom enclosed by a ceiling-free wooden circle. Lampens built the house for a local teacher and architecture enthusiast named Albert Van Wassenhov, so it’s a smaller-scale version of the typical structures — like municipal buildings, campuses, and housing projects — that were built in the style.


“It was more a matter of freshening it up,” Tanguy Eeckhout, curator of the museum, tells Wallpaper. “There was almost no decay of the concrete, unlike with other Lampens buildings.”

Starting in April and running through October of this year, those who want to sleep surrounded by concrete can do so for a price of about $560, for a two-night stay.

While Brutalism might not be back in style at the moment, one of its iconic examples, the Barbican Estate in London, definitely has some traits that are coming back in fashion. In the 1950s, it was designed to offer a car-free experience, a sort of pedestrian Utopia. Though they often eschew concrete, walkable communities where bikes and feet are the preferred modes of transportation are starting to pop up all over the U.S.

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