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If You Love (or Loathe) DC’s Brutalist Architecture, Don’t Miss This Amazing Book

The Atlas of Brutalist Architecture features Washington buildings—and striking structures from around the globe.

Photograph of Weaver Building courtesy of Society of Architectural Historians

A new edition of the out-of-print Atlas of Brutalist Architecture comes out this month, documenting more than 850 of the often misunderstood buildings around the globe. Here’s a look at some of the local structures that are included.

Robert C. Weaver Federal Building, 1968

The X-shaped HUD headquarters was the first federal building in the US built of precast concrete. It’s even more impressive in person, so take a look next time you’re walking from the L’Enfant Plaza Metro to the Wharf.

Photograph of Lauinger Library courtesy of Georgetown University

Georgetown University’s Joseph Mark Lauinger Memorial Library, 1970

“Lau” is not much loved by students. (The campus paper once described it as “physically ugly, outdated and decrepit.”) The Atlas suggests that it succeeds in bringing a “modern spirit into the classical environment of the Neo-Gothic campus.”

Photograph of American Press Institute courtesy of Marcel Breuer & Associates

American Press Institute, 1974

Located in Reston, API’s onetime headquarters was the only building in Virginia designed by renowned architect Marcel Breuer. The Atlas admires it for the “power, simplicity and clarity” of its design, “at one with its green and natural surroundings.” Despite preservationists’ attempts to save it, the structure was bulldozed in 2016.

Photograph of Hoover Building by Thomas J O’Halloran for U.S. News & World Report magazine photograph collection (Library of Congress)

J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building, 1974

It’s one of DC’s least-admired institutional edifices, and the ungainly building probably doesn’t have much of a future. A plan was in the works to move the FBI to the burbs; now the Trump administration is pushing for a new HQ to be built on the current site. Either way, the crumbling behemoth is likely to be torn down.

Photograph of Humphrey Building by Phaidon

Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 1976

Originally called the South Portal Building, it now houses the Department of Health and Hu-man Services. The concrete box—one of the last projects Breuer worked on before his retirement—sits on top of the 3rd Street Tunnel.

This initially appeared in the November, 2020 issue of Washingtonian.

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Politics and Culture Editor

A DC native, Rob Brunner moved back to the city in 2017 to join Washingtonian. Previously, he was an editor and writer at Fast Company and other publications. He has also written for the New York Times Magazine, New York, and Rolling Stone, among others. He lives with his family in Chevy Chase DC.