Constructing Abstraction

Constructing Abstraction

The HOUSE toy uses Brutalist architecture as an exploration of Mondrian’s pure abstraction.

BeaMalevich’s HOUSE offers a sleek set of metal walls and wooden bases to the user as their building materials. Wood and metal are some of the favorite materials of Brutalist architecture, and with this toy you can engage with these materials in a playful way to experiment with your own buildings. Brutalist architects wanted to create architecture that was functional and sleek, without the frills and distractions of earlier architecture. Brutalist architects often took inspiration from works of rigid abstraction such as Mondrian’s to create a playful yet stable building aesthetic.

Piet Mondrian, a founder of the Neoplasticism artistic movement, also known as the De Stijl movement (Dutch for “the style”), is best known for his later compositions which contain sharp black and white grids in which the squares are strategically splashed with color. Neoplasticism, which refers to the new plastic arts (such as painting or sculpture), was developed through Mondrian’s progression from studies of nature into pure abstraction made up of geometric shapes and primary colors. Mondrian believed that abstraction was the purest way to represent the natural world because it embodied something more than just the visual characteristics of his subject.

On the left, an earlier painting of Mondrian’s in which he began to develop his practice of abstraction through a depiction of a tree. On the right is a later composition which features the classic grid and primary color scheme we associate with Mondrian typically.

The themes of purity and simplicity are foundational to Brutalist architecture as well. In a departure from previous architectural styles, Brutalist buildings are made distinct by baren exteriors, their construction materials on full display. Their aesthetic appeal is derived from their practicality and simplicity. Their shape is similarly utilitarian, often rectangular and grounded. 

One extremely famous example of a Brutalist building is the Trellick Tower in London, designed by Erno Goldfinger in 1972.

Some brutalist buildings already bear strong resemblance to the work of Mondrian. Les Corbusier’s Unité D'habitation and the Eames House (pictured below) were both influenced by the De Stijl movement, which is made evident through their use of primary color and grid structure. These buildings are the primary inspiration for the BeaMalevich HOUSE toy. They begin to fill the Brutalistic canvas of minimalism and structure with the Neoplastic ideas of color and balance. 


Unité D'habitation (left) and the Eames House (right)

Neoplasticism and Brutalism are not only compatible in their shared goals, but also in their deficiencies. Brutalist architecture is sometimes criticized as being bland and harsh. Neoplasticism has been accused of lacking depth and context. The marriage of the two through buildings such as Unite D'habitation and the Eames house livens the typical brutalist style with exciting pops of color and gives dimension and purpose to the grids of Mondrian. These buildings use both styles to elevate ingenuity, and now with HOUSE, you can too. 


The similarities between the design of Eames House and Mondrian’s
Composition with Red, Blue and Yellow are evident in this comparison with a magnet from BeaMalevich based on the Eames House design.


The simplicity of HOUSE  lets your creativity come forward as you adorn your creation with a variety of colorful magnets available from BeaMalevich's website. HOUSE maintains the material importance of Brutalism while carving out a space for decorative flare, which is a break from the Brutalist tradition, allowing you to create something completely new. There are several collections of magnets available for purchase which can be used to decorate the HOUSE toy. Some draw inspiration from classic Brutalist buildings, such as the Magnet above, some feature colorful yet simple optical illusions inspired by the Op Art movement, and some are a more classic “metropolis” theme, based on a Soviet children's city construction toy. Let these simple materials and dynamic designs inspire you, and the possibilities are endless.

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