First of all, I don’t believe the Lane Mosaic Collection represents Brutalist style. Let me explain why. Actually, it’ll take 2 posts to go through my reasoning.

I’ve tried — diligently — to bring you primary sources on the Lane Mosaic collection. Even the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., for example, couldn’t help me find original catalogs and advertisements. My next option, after all that, involves heading to our main library and slogging through microfiche.

Lane Mosaic Collection

Therefore, let’s just plunge in and examine our pieces of the Lane Mosaic collection on display at Avonlea Antiques & Interiors:

Lane brutalist

Lovely. I see warm blocks of wood arranged like tiles across wooden surfaces. The collection’s name fits perfectly: Mosaic. The warmth of the wood, lively grain, and geometric design contribute to the hipness and edginess of the 1970s, but without being too weird for the family home.

Lane Furniture Mosaic Collection

Lane mass produced its furniture for middle-class families. The company, above all, never intended to alienate its core market by producing anything too avant-garde.

Lane Mosaic Dresser

Lane manufactured three collections in the 1970s that I group together: their Lane Mosaic Collection, Staccato, and Pueblo. Staccato’s design looks similar to Mosaic. As Lane’s advertisement proclaimed, Staccato represented “a very today design.”

Lane Staccato Furniture 1974 Ad
Lane Staccato Furniture 1974 Ad. Source

The Pueblo collection, on the other hand, reminds me of Mexico’s pre-Columbian roots. Take a look at this Aztec calendar stone. The bas-relief carving contains a variety of geometric shapes:

Aztec calendar stone
Aztec Calendar Stone. Source.

Now the ad for the Pueblo collection:

Lane Pueblo Furniture Ad
Lane Pueblo Furniture Ad. Source.

Finally, a closeup view showing the details. Is it modern art, as the advertisement suggests? Or does the design suggest pre-Columbian indigenous art?

Lane Pueblo Dresser
Lane Pueblo Dresser. Source.

Brutalist Architecture

Frequently this furniture style is called Brutalist, but I disagree. Especially when applied to a pleasing-the-masses company like Lane Furniture.

I understand how Brutalism applies to architecture. Le Corbousier, of course, gets credit for coining the term bréton brut or raw concrete for the style that flourished — architecturally — from the early 1950s to mid-70s.

Concrete served as the primary material for these buildings, usually educational and governmental, because of its comparative cheapness.

Adjectives describing concrete brutalist architecture include blocky, cold, monolithic, monumental, raw, unadorned, and utilitarian.

The style, however, was intended to foster egalitarianism and utilitarianism. Architects pursued a democratic aesthetic. 

Examples of Brutalism

The Geisel Library at the University of California San Diego, for example, looks like an alien spacecraft. Made of concrete and glass, it appears massive. It seems capable, however, of levitation. Its piers soar upward, like the dreams of those using this library.

Brutalist architecture
Geisel Library, University of California San Diego. It is named in honor of Audrey and Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. Source.

The Barbican Estate rose from the ashes when Luftwaffe bombs demolished 35 acres of London in 1940. Today, with its blocks, towers, terraces and columns, the Barbican combines theaters, performing arts venues, and 3 of the city’s tallest residential towers. This phoenix was designed to realize the utopian dream of high-density urban living amid restaurants, shops, schools and entertainment.

Brutalist architecture
Barbican Centre, London. Source.

Architects Kallmann, McKinnell, and Knowles, winners of Boston’s City Hall design competition, envisioned a democratic structure.

The whole thing was conceived with that sense of openness and aspiration to be very public, to be grand, to represent the civic realm. 

Mark Pasnik, architecture professor at Wentworth Institute of Technology and co-author of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (2015)
Brutalist architecture
Boston City Hall. Source.

Brutalist detractors, to be sure, argued the style is too austere, too imposing, too soulless. At the far end of the spectrum, depressing Soviet concrete apartments also represent Brutalism. No star architect designed this block, although the building serves its purpose: humble, simple, functional abodes for the masses.

soviet concrete apartments
Soviet Concrete Apartment, Halichnaya Street, St. Petersburg. Source.

Be Selective When You Judge

I concur with Michael Kubo, architect, architectural historian, and co-author of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (2015), who asserted:

There’s a tendency to condemn the entire period based on its worst examples . . . People point to all of the second- or third-rate, relatively cheaply built buildings in concrete . . . as a way of condemning the best buildings. Source.

Some Brutalist buildings, now 50 years old, show cracks and deterioration. They need rethinking. Uninspired buildings, for instance, can be torn down and replaced with more contemporary styles. But other more appealing Brutalist works can be repaired and enlivened. Some Brutalist buildings are transitioning into friendlier facades.

Boston’s City Hall added lights!

Boston City Hall Illuminated

Part 2 Preview

Designer Paul Evans sometimes receives credit for creating Lane’s Mosaic, Staccato and/or Pueblo collections. I can’t, however, find anything to verify that. . . 

Further, is it possible to come with a name for furniture that doesn’t involve the term Brutalist?

Until next time,

Ann Marie and David