Atlanta landscape design today is seeing a revival in Brutalism. Originally intended to express clarity and purpose in the chaos of prewar Europe, quite appropriately, today it is evident in bold, simple modernism with an edge. Brutalism is the collective name for architecture stripped to its bare bones of form and function. And it is often best exemplified by Le Corbusier who used the style for everything from housing to monasteries.
Many examples of Brutalism can be found overseas, particularly in Britain’s famed Churchill gardens estate. In the US, perhaps the best example is the new home of the Metropolitan Museum of Art Contemporary and Modern Collection, now located at the Marcel Breuer designed building that was previously known as The Whitney. Another, lesser known and earlier, fine example of Brutalism is evident at Black Mountain College just outside of Asheville, North Carolina, both in the building and landscape architecture
I’m a great fan of the Abstract Expressionist art movement and an owner of a Brutalist Modernist house. Thus, I felt compelled to visit the college when the Atlanta Center for Contemporary Art put the trip together in early April.
Originally, the school’s rural setting was seen as a chance for communal learning. The students, among who were Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg, were taught how to farm, cut timber, and garden as well as color and music theory. There is a modesty about the place, yet strength of design and form from humble building materials.
I’m seeing lots of modern Atlanta landscape design today. Most of it would benefit from less of the gimmicks and more of a strong design with a very simple plant pallet. Less stuff, more design integrity, modest materials used in special ways all define the Brutalist landscape design. Most of all, I’d recommend a trip to the Black Mountain College landscape.