Jan 13, 2021 • 1HR 10M

Episode 18: Raw concrete (feat. Kate Wagner)

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Appears in this episode

Paul Bowers
On struggles, schooling, and raw concrete in the dirty dirty south. A companion podcast to the Brutal South newsletter.
Episode details

My guest is Kate Wagner (@mcmansionhell), architecture critic at The New Republic and proprietor of the McMansion Hell blog. Like me, Kate grew up in the South, and like me, she is a defender of brutalist architecture. Unlike me, Kate really knows what she's talking about.

Brutalism is a style that grew out of 20th-century modernism, and it usually features hulking geometric forms and a lot of exposed, unfinished concrete. The British architects Alison and Peter Smithson coined the term, not to evoke brutality, but as a play on the French béton brut, meaning raw concrete.

Anyway some people love brutalism, a lot of people hate it, and we're going to talk about it this week, of all weeks in world history. I hope you stick around even if that doesn't tickle your fancy. Kate is a brilliant thinker, and I've enjoyed her work for years.

As we’ll discuss some in the episode, I’m working on a book about the history of brutalist architecture in the American South. I recently received funding from the Lowcountry Quarterly Arts Grant Program to pursue the project. Stay tuned for updates!


Show notes are below.


This Brutal World: Public opinion has softened its views on Brutalism. That isn’t enough to stay the wrecking ball.” (The Architect’s Newspaper)

Duncing About Architecture: The ignorance and racism behind the right-wing push for ‘classical’ federal buildings” (The New Republic)

Underground, Part 1” (McMansion Hell)

Celebration, Florida (Wikipedia)

The Legacy of Sea Ranch, a Utopian Community in Northern California” (Dwell)

A Softer World

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

Gruen transfer (Wikipedia)

Orange County Government Center (Paul Rudolph, Goshen, N.Y., 1967) - photo by Kerry O’Connor via SOS Brutalism

Burroughs Wellcome Company Headquarters (Paul Rudolph, Durham, N.C., 1972)

Pinecrest High School (Southern Pines, N.C., 1969)

Moore County Superior Court (Carthage, N.C.)

Pruitt-Igoe (Minoru Yamasaki, St. Louis, Missouri, 1956)


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