Germany's Brutalist architecture tours Taipei

Exhibition includes six unique Brutalist projects built in Taiwan after World War II

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The exhibition, “SOS Brutalism: Save the Concrete Monster”, opens in Taipei on July 4. (Jut Art Museum photo)

The exhibition, “SOS Brutalism: Save the Concrete Monster”, opens in Taipei on July 4. (Jut Art Museum photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Developed after World War II, the Brutalist architectural movement sprawled across the world, with Taiwan being no exception.

In addition to exhibiting materials related to more than 100 Brutalist buildings around the world, the latest exhibition in Taipei also presents six unique projects in Taiwan that show the influence of the movement while reflecting local culture.

The exhibition “SOS Brutalism: Save the Concrete Monster,” which is organized by the Jut Art Museum in partnership with the Frankfurt-based German Architecture Museum, opened in Taipei on July 4. It showcases more than 100 examples of Brutalist architecture in 13 regions around the world, with pictures, documents, and architectural models made in cardboard as well as in concrete.

Through a pre-recorded video, the curator of the exhibition, Oliver Elser, who is also the curator of the German museum, said the exhibition aims to highlight the importance of Brutalism in architectural history and connect with those who regard Brutalist buildings as ugly, unpleasant, and unfriendly. He stated that simply tearing those buildings down is not sustainable and called for preservation efforts that would bring "new life into old concrete.”

Elser and his team initiated the “SOS Brutalism” movement in 2015 in hopes of retaining Brutalist architecture around the world, and the Taipei exhibition is part of an exhibition tour that has visited several European countries over the past few years.

“We see ourselves as activists, fighting for the preservation of those concrete buildings that we used to call ‘the monsters’,” said Elser, who expressed concern that many Brutalist buildings are facing demolition.

Oliver Elser (Jut Art Museum photo)

The Taipei exhibition includes six works of Brutalism in Taiwan that reflect the island nation’s post-war architectural style. They also show that while being part of a global architectural trend, the Brutalist buildings in Taiwan have their unique features.

The “Wave Tower” at San Sin High School of Commerce and Home Economics in Kaohsiung City, which was designed by Taiwanese architect Chen Jen-ho (陳仁和) in the 1960s, is an example of Taiwanese Brutalism. With the use of cast-in-place concrete, the “Wave Tower” is characterized by waved corridors and stepped classroom floors as well as a tower roof with Asian-style eaves.

Model of “Wave Tower” at San Sin High School of Commerce and Home Economics in Kaohsiung City. (Jut Art Museum photo)

Another highlight of the exhibition is the former Center for American Studies of Academia Sinica in Taipei, which has now been transformed into the Institute of European and American Studies. Designed by the celebrated Taiwanese female architect, Wang Chiu-hwa (王秋華), the library inherited the architectural style pioneered by Le Corbusier but was built largely with terrazzo, a building material that mixes marble chips with concrete, which was prevalent in Taiwan in the post-war era.

Models of former Center for American Studies of Academia Sinica in Taipei (Jut Art Museum photo)

Co-curator Wang Chun-hsiung (王俊雄) from the Department of Architecture at Shih Chien University said the exhibition explores the connections between architecture and culture and presents the global influence of Brutalism. People can find Brutalist projects in central London and in remote New Guinea in the Pacific, said Wang, stressing that Brutalist architecture could be found all over the world.

“We are actually handling the past. We want to let the next generation get to know what (Brutalist architecture) is," said Wang. The idea has motivated him to collaborate with nearly 70 architecture professors and students from six universities in Taiwan, to study the six works of Brutalism in Taiwan presented in this exhibition.

Wang Chun-hsiung. (Jut Art Museum photo)