AT THE CENTER of the Venn Diagram of Brutalist architecture, spa culture and Communist kitsch lies the Soviet sanatorium. In its heyday, the USSR had a network of hundreds of such centers across dozens of territories, from Estonia to Kazakhstan to the Russian Far East. Though their roots lie in the Russian tradition of curative baths, the sanatoriums of the 20th century shoehorned nicely into Soviet ideals of health and responsible rejuvenation, with workers encouraged to check themselves in yearly for a tune-up of their corporal machinery.
THE ROOTS OF Russian Cosmism lie in the transcendental utopian writings of the 19th-century philosopher Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov, who advocated for, among other things, the exploration of space and a literal overcoming of death. Inextricably tied to the Russian Revolution and the rise of the USSR, Cosmism promoted broad ideals that mirrored the heart of Communism: that humanity should collectively strive to transcend the petty, temporary, and mundane.
THIS BRUTAL WORLD, a catalog of worldwide Brutalist architecture, presents its starkly beautiful black-and-white photos as both a treatise and a love letter. The book’s author, Peter Chadwick, falls resolutely and joyously on the side of Brutalism as an egalitarian, economically progressive, and fundamentally global movement.