Brutalism at IKEA

I’m a preservationist, but I live in a small condo, in a new building in Vermont. This sounds opposite of a what a preservationist would choose, right? Well, sort of. While the building was constructed in 2014, it was constructed on a parking lot in downtown Burlington. I can walk everywhere and choose to use the car as minimally as possible, embracing an urban lifestyle and shopping local when feasible. Because my condo is small, I have come to embrace IKEA design. It’s minimal, modern, streamlined, and perfect for small space living. I can spot an IKEA piece from across a room or from a glimpse at a photograph and know what is worth buying and what isn’t. Anyone with me?

Recently, I visited IKEA New Haven (CT). I’ve blogged about this IKEA before. It’s the one that sits next to the (now IKEA owned) former Pirelli Tire Building, a 1968 building designed by Marcel Breuer in the Brutalist style. IKEA demolished the two-story wing, but the main block remains. Not the best preservation story.

During my recent visit, I peaked in the windows of the building. It’s still empty. However, news reports say that IKEA is considering rehabilitating the building into a hotel. It’s just a rumor, it seems, but it sounds promising, and maybe would serve as (belated) mitigation for the adverse effects to the building. It would make IKEA a destination, for sure. Ha.


View from the IKEA cafeteria. 


Reflected in IKEA. 


Exterior details. 


Looking up.


Peeking inside the bottom floor of the Pirelli Tire building.


Sitting in the IKEA cafeteria, you can gaze upon the Brutalist architecture. 

What do you think? Do you appreciate Brutalism more as time goes on? Do you love IKEA or steer clear? And where do you live? Urban? Suburban? Rural? New? Historic?


5 thoughts on “Brutalism at IKEA

  1. Centralia Heart says:

    I live in the Catskills. I have never been to an IKEA or seen a furniture piece other than in a TV advert. The nearest IKEA to me is in New Jersey. My house is a post and beam and is furnished with Hitchcock furniture.

  2. Suzassippi says:

    I fell in love with Brutalism when I learned about it on Preservation in Mississippi. I found myself giving a mini-lesson not long ago as we walked past the only Brutalist building within a 100 miles smack dab in the middle of Ole Miss. Fortunately, they have not yet attempted to add faux columns or other Greek-like facades. Two perfectly lovely modernist buildings were “faux-Greeked” and now just look ridiculous, while others were demolished. I visited my first IKEA store in Memphis when it opened a fear years ago and loved the displays for kitchens–I would probably never be that organized.

  3. JR says:

    Here in Finland IKEA is the go-to place for everything. To the point where a friend once told me, “I’m Danish. If it’s from IKEA I can put anything together. Nordic ingenuity.”

  4. Marc Leslie Kagan says:

    I have always liked Brutalism perhaps its because I grew up in New York City and I was surrounded by some many wonderful and amazing buildings. Architecture and Preservation have become a part of my life and my library has grown. When I lived in San Francisco I lead walking tours for the Art Deco Society and whenever I would mention Brutalism everybody would tell me that all Brutalistic buildings were ugly. Brutalistic buildings must be maintained otherwise problems can develop. I now live about 20 miles south of Downtown Houston not too far from NASA, and there is an IKEA store here but I rarely shop there since I found out that IKEA are not good custodians of the Pirelli Building a few years ago. I hope that the hotel idea happens since I worry that buildings that sit empty for years can be demolished so easily.

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