Brutalism is everywhere. The term mainly refers to modernist buildings made of unfinished concrete, a stripped-back architectural style born in the post-war United Kingdom. It was—and in some cases, still is—commonly used in the design of government buildings, state-school campuses, and public housing. Any civic-minded structure, basically. Within the last half-decade, somewhat surprisingly, the style has gone from shunned to slightly en vogue.
“Brutalism Is Back,” declared The New York Times Style Magazine in 2016—and off to the races it went. The British fashion label A Cold Wall repeatedly references the brutalist aesthetic in its collections, from grayscale luxury sandals to textured high-end headphones. Kanye West’s 14,390-square-foot studio in Calabasas, California is a menacing concrete beast. And most recently, a grip of brutalist-inflected coffee gear has hit the online fashion retailer Ssense.
The star here is a concrete espresso machine ($1,280) from Anza, founded by a design firm out of Norway and California. The device is made out of hand-cast concrete with porcelain touch-points, powder-coated steel, and brass highlights to finish off the design. The Taiwanese design company bi.du.haev offers a drip stand ($970) and a pour-over stand ($600)—each is made of concrete with accent details made of other materials. All of the objects offer the same appeal of a brutalist building: stark and audacious at once. Compare the design against the sea of monotone stainless steel that dominates the coffee sector, and the appeal for off-kilter options makes sense.
Concrete objects for one’s home are nothing new. We might be nearing a saturation point; CB2 is selling a set of cement cones as modernist Christmas trees as part of this year’s holiday collection. (The retailer’s concrete coffee table makes a little more sense to me.) But to see the raw finish applied to an espresso machine or pour-over stand is a bit of a shock and delight. It works because it shouldn’t.
Brutalist architecture has always danced between rawness and beauty. Plenty of the buildings across the globe has since been demolished and rebuilt to be warmer and more welcoming. If the past few years have shown one thing about the enduring style, it is that designers can find inspiration anywhere. The charm of brutalism is being rediscovered and its design principles applied in new ways. And a brutalist coffee machine is perhaps as charmingly unexpected as it gets.