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Begrisch Hall

New York, United States of America
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Beginning in the 1940's, New York University embarked on a campaign to further develop their campus - then located in University Heights in the Bronx. Marcel Breuer, already a famed architect by that time, was commissioned to design several buildings. He was asked in 1956 to develop a comprehensive design for the replanning and new construction of the campus. Five buildings were constructed from Breuer's plan, with Begrisch Lecture Hall being the most radical.

Begrisch Hall, composed of reinforced exposed concrete, is a building that mirrors the form and function of its interior. Used as a lecture hall, Breuer has revealed the steep theater and the aisle steps of the interior in the design of the structure as a whole. The building features two sidewall trusses that appear to sit just barely on the ground, even as they support two cantilevered upward slopes that form the theater section of the lecture hall. The sidewall trusses are the only element of the building that actually touch the ground, so the hall has the feeling of hovering over the land. The building is entered through a small exterior staircase or an enclosed walkway coming from an adjacent building.

The main facades of the building, east and west, are decorated with separated panels of concrete in trapezoidal shapes. Each panel is textured so that the grooves of the exposed concrete run in different directions. The north and south facades are simply faced in a simpler exposed concrete. Because of the unusual shape of the sloping cantilevered wall, there is an underside of the building that is quite exposed on the exterior. This facade has a highly textured pattern of grooves following the facade down to the ground. This area also exposes the form of the interior lecture hall stairs that it is supporting.

Begrisch Hall is a brutalist style of building - the term brutalist coming from the French "beton brut" refering to exposed, unfinished concrete.