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An architect has died.

I have just learned that one of the architects of what is perhaps America's most controversial, most loved, and most hated buildings ever has died- Gerhard M. Kallmann.  He was 97.

With his design partner Michael McKinnell, in 1962 they won the famous design competition for Boston's new City Hall.

    Boston City Hall, shortly after its completion in 1969

Since I find architecture can be an oppressively esoteric subject for the lay person I will be as brief as possible here- however I do intend this diary to have some appeal beyond an audience of architects and/or architectural enthusiasts.

The Partnership is born

In 1960, when Gerhard Kallmann, a professor at Columbia University, and Noel Michael McKinnell, a recently arrived graduate student from Manchester, England decided to establish an architectural practice together, they resolved that they would enter and win an architectural design competition.  Not long afterwards, in early 1961, that opportunity arrived when Boston announced its international competition to design a new City Hall.  Since official entrants were required to be licensed architects, lacking that credential, the two enlisted friend and colleague Edward F. Knowles as a third partner, having an already established practice in New York.  In truth the design was entirely theirs.

The commission is won

In January 1962, the pair learned they were among the eight finalists chosen by the jury, from among more than 250 submissions. They had three months to provide a set of detailed new drawings as well as a model. They worked until the last possible minute; in the end, they put the model on a plane to Boston with one of their assistants, who finished it during the flight.

The jury deliberated for several days, holing up at the Museum of Fine Arts while a police officer stood guard outside the door. Finally, rumor had it, the choice came down to two designs: one by the firm Mitchell/Giurgola, and the other by Kallmann, McKinnell, and Knowles...

When the... (winner was revealed) there were gasps in the room. One person reportedly exclaimed, “What the hell is that?” Dazed and elated, the winning architects went to shake hands with a no less befuddled Collins.

a Mind Gap
Reaction from the architectural community was rapturous. That this complex work of modernism designed by a pair of unknown iconoclasts would be built in Boston was hard to believe. Suddenly, said Yale School of Architecture dean Robert Stern, Boston was “seen as the great new urban experimental center, where new work could go side by side with Faneuil Hall.”

Outside the architectural field, however, the jury’s selection was more controversial. One memorable Boston Herald piece from the time quoted a woman saying she wished the building were “more simple and more dignified”; an architecture student retorted, “Life is not simple and the winning model reflects that fact.” The story contained the kernel of what would become conventional wisdom: that, as Stern put it, City Hall “is a building that architects love and the public doesn’t love.” Indeed, there may be no better illustration of what the critic Ada Louise Huxtable called “the architectural gap, or abyss, as it exists between those who design and those who use the 20th century’s buildings.”

The building has drawn professional praise as well as condemnation. In 1976 a poll of architects named it one of the 10 most important buildings in America, while the Project for Public Spaces, a nonprofit organization of urban planners, voted the building and plaza into its “hall of shame.”
Adding to the Boston public's general revulsion was the large area of dense old Boston cleared to make way for the new "Government Center".   (But at least the giant tea kettle was saved)

Recognizing this gap in opinion, the following is my 'architect's intellectual defense' of Boston City Hall:

Precedents and Inspiration

Kallmann and McKinnell used two basic concepts in their design.  The first was the "city on a hill" idea.  In this case, the image of the Hellenic temple sitting atop a mountain was manifested in the brick base of the building giving way to the starkly contrasting concrete above.  If not as obvious in the more viewed facade facing west onto the plaza, the east elevation illustrates the basic concept more readily.

    Acropolis, Athens                                           Boston City Hall

The much reviled plaza, so disdained for its dauntingly enormous space and monotonous expanses of brick pavers, is in fact a modern interpretation of the Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy.   The parallel is quite literally realized- even as far as the radiating pattern of light bands of stone set into the pavers and focused on the entrance to the city hall.

    Piazza del Campo, Siena                                 City Hall PLaza, Boston

And in all fairness, the dimensions of Boston's plaza are not significantly larger than the Piazza.  However, I believe the negative aspect of Boston's space which so discomforts its occupants, is the large breaks in what architects call the surrounding "street wall". The sense of enclosure (and even intimacy) afforded in Siena, are greatly lacking in Boston.  Furthermore, where Siena's enclosing surfaces are all concave curves (even the piazza itself is "cupped" as if you are standing in the palm of a giant hand), Boston's are convex- the space seeming less like "enclosure" and more like indifferent happenstance. And the plaza's level here actually falls away from the building and towards the waterfront- as if to suggest you should walk right by and continue onward to the Harbor.  Admittedly, while this is not the building's most successful feature, when the populace gathers for celebration and observance, it happily provides ample space to do so:

The Architecture

What does command the respect and admiration of architects at BCH, is the brilliant synthesis of the forms which culminate in its famously dentilled upper three floors.   The symbolism here is clear- government establishes order from chaos.  The seemingly random array of forms swirling up from the plaza and dutifully arranging themselves about the lower stories, finally arrive at a recognizable order in the top three floors. And note that the third highest floor hasn't quite "gotten it together", its "dentils" being incomplete towards the south.

    East elevation, competition drawing

Again, if the brick base is seen as an earthen hill, then the message is that 'man creates order from nature'.

And again, there was precedent for even this:

      Le Corbusier's Monastery of La Tourette, 1957

Fighting for its life

As the controversy has flared over the years, with City Hall's razing approaching serious consideration, (The plaza has already lost its fountain) Boston preservationists have lined up to protect City Hall.  I am guardedly optimistic that its future has been secured, and the threats of its demise have all but ceased.

I will close with this short anecdote which reflected the complex reactions to the building, and cited by Kallmann himself during the 50th anniversary observance of the City Hall competition earlier this year:

EVEN AT 96, Kallmann vividly recalls the response to his and McKinnell’s first project. Sitting at his dining table, he mentioned a news segment he saw after City Hall opened in 1969. In it, an elderly clerk who had just emerged from the new building was interviewed by a reporter. “The interviewer said, ‘What do you think of all this concrete?’ Already a leading question,” Kallmann said. “And this old man looked at him and said, ‘Goethe, the German poet, said that architecture is frozen music. And I think this building is frozen music.’ That was the hum-drum clerk who was supposed to say, ‘I hate this concrete.’ The only thing wrong was that it wasn’t Goethe who said this — it was Novalis, the Romantic poet.” (The statement has also been attributed to Friedrich von Schelling.)
and leave you with images of another building by Kallmann, McKinnell, and Wood, which is more universally loved- the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge:

Originally posted to NYFM on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 04:21 AM PDT.


Boston City Hall

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| 52 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  An option for "hate concrete?" (10+ / 0-)

    The design is really cool, and the human failure in the face of natural sites and time is a pleasant bit of chaos we should embrace, but I went to college on a campus that was dotted with Portman and brutalist buildings.

    While the Bauhaus celebrated the worker through the medium, it also laid bare its medium in the most efficient and utilitarian fashion. That somehow got twisted. The brutalist era had bare concrete poured without clear purpose, and the medium was shoved in the worker's face and against his hands. Where a Bauhauser would have called the textile shop to show the quality of cloth to cover, these people denied workers work to celebrate the bubbled gray.

    Anyway, ever since college and the experience of working in buildings made by concrete fanatics, I've been unable to forgive the use of exposed concrete even in a facade. I should probably get therapy.

    Every reductio ad absurdum will seem like a good idea to some fool or another.

    by The Geogre on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 04:43:47 AM PDT

    •  one particular niche of (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      commonmass, NYFM, The Geogre, SadieSue

      modernism and brutalism that I've grown increasingly interested in is church architecture.  there must've been a spate of church building that coincided with those movements, cuz there are gazillions of really interesting modernist and brutalist churches sitting the landscape.  I've got mixed feelings about modernism for government and office buildings, but its always seemed to work pretty well for regular churches.

      •  The reason is obvious... (0+ / 0-)

        most of us can't wait to get the hell out of church anyways!  >-)

        But really, and more seriously, the raw concrete is quite appropriate to the aescetic aspirations of a religious expereince.  A place of worship doesn't have to be comfortable, in fact it probably works better if it's not.  Regardless, we practice faith as a way to get in touch with our souls, and find ultimate truths.  This is precisely the same goal that good architecture should aspire to. Brutalism is a perfect fit then for a church.

  •  I must have a bit of architect hidden away (6+ / 0-)

    n me, because I like it.  One of the things I find most irritating about US urban spaces is the lack of imagination, with block after block of concrete and steel and glass boxes, that vary largely only in dimensions.  The rest of the world is out there taking bold architectural strides, with giant steel and glass beehives and faberge eggs of buldings, all sorts of innovative design, and the US seems to have but a meagre handful of very large buildings that weren't mainly designed simply to be monotonously cost effective and utilitarian.

  •  I really appreciate this diary. (9+ / 0-)

    I first saw Boston City Hall early on a cold Sunday morning in January 1980 (high school college tour). It was empty. In some ways, in its purest form, like the architectural models and drawings that would have preceded its actual construction. It had no soul, particularly juxtaposed with Faneuil Hall, just down the road. It had no people, but in a way, that seemed to be its essence; it is outscaled for people. It also had NO landscaping. That is the brutalist part.

    As a space of light and shadow, form and void, and sheer scale, it is interesting. Intellectually, I like the building, and the classical architecture you present in the diary contextualizes it in ways I have never considered it.

    I then lived in Boston during the mid 1980s, in my 20s, and learned more about it. I found that it was pretty much universally reviled, particularly because so much of old Boston was razed to construct it; the urban renewal of the earlier decades had been denounced for what it did to people: their history, their homes, and their patterns of movement through urban space. And I had to walk through it myself. It was clearly a space that was an IDEA, and even remained so as a building.  I never saw it as a place to be, just a place to move through as quickly as possible.

    I leave you with the music of someone who understands Boston:

  •  I've long despised the building, like (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, lineatus, NYFM, SadieSue

    James Howard Kuntsler before me.  The context of this diary is interesting.  I don't disagree with Kallmann's interests--but strongly disagree with the way he executed the pursuit of his goals.

    I.M. Pei did even worse to the east coast.  God can only hope that we're not too far from when Pei's sacred monstrosities can either be re-edifaced or torn apart.

    Thank you to jayden, Dr Erich Bloodaxe RN, Aji and everyone in the Daily Kos community involved in gifting my subscription and gifting others!

    by Nulwee on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:17:34 AM PDT

  •  Wonderful diary. (6+ / 0-)

    Everyone who reads this should click on the link provided to see the criminal destruction of the old city, including the West End. Destroyed for "urban renewal", some of those buildings were important, including at least one church by Bullfinch.

    Boston serves as a cautionary tale warning against the wholesale destruction of historical buildings and neighborhoods. I hope we have learned our lesson.

    See Boston's old city hall here. It's located on School Street between King's Chapel and Pi Alley.

    Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Mrs. Romney: Fraud on Horse.

    by commonmass on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:17:58 AM PDT

  •  Well, that explains it. (4+ / 0-)

    The purpose of government is NOT to bring order out of chaos.  Nature is order, par excellence.  
    The Boston City Hall is an imposition, a bureaucratic assemblage which gives the appearance of being disfunctional.  I haven't read any reviews of how the building works for the people using it.  But, from a pedestrian's perspective, a parking garage, whose form follows function is more inviting.  Indeed, the Milk Street garage, which is underground, with a real park above it, is an absolute delight in comparison.

    Willard's forte = "catch 'n' cage"

    People to Wall Street, "let our money go."

    by hannah on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:22:40 AM PDT

    •  Windows, windows, look (6+ / 0-)

      I know someone who worked in there and they loved how so many offices had windows!

      I hate  the wind tunnell effect in winter, but love the clear view of modern and old with fanuiel hall visible, the plaza keeps the view to the sea...

      •  I've never been inside it, and to be honest, (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        commonmass, hannah, NYFM

        when I lived there had NO desire to go in. Interesting about the windows and view.

        •  Inside it gives me the same feeling (6+ / 0-)

          it gives me outside: Ceacescu would have loved it.

          Santorum: Man on Dog; Romney: Dog on Car. Mrs. Romney: Fraud on Horse.

          by commonmass on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:48:01 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  LOLOL - good one!! (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hannah, Dave in Northridge

            I favor architects like HHRichardson, FLWright's early and mid career, Green and Green, and Jefferson.  I'm not a huge fan of Johnson, van der Rohe, or Le Corbusier.  Maybe it has something to do with how I was introduced to architecture..... ;-) We lived in southeastern Italy for 3.5 years, coming back to the US just after my 10th birthday.  We traveled throughout Europe those 3.5 years.  So, my introduction was Oria Castle, Rome, Venice, Paris, Munich, etc and that stuck with me.

            •  Architecture is really interesting. (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              NYFM, nchristine, SadieSue

              It is monumental art that is put to use.

              Knowing the history and the "rules of the game" can be really helpful in informing a response to buildings and the space they occupy. For myself, knowing about something can help me appreciate it even if my gut reaction is "hate this!" In fact, the more strongly I dislike a work of art/architecture/music, the more I want to know about it. It is like complex flavors that might be unappealing first off, but the more you taste, the more you appreciate and enjoy.

              For me, it is easy to like Classical architecture. It is a lot less easy to like Philip Johnson or Corbu. But architectural history puts those things in a context that opens them up to me.

              An architect student friend of mine took me on a tour of Manhattan in 1983 - he showed me all the famous buildings and talked about them - historically and personally - and opened my eyes to appreciation of the glass sky scraper, as well as gave me the tools to evaluate the good ones from the bad ones from a design perspective.

              There isn't much romance in a Modernist structure. There isn't meant to be. However, I look back at Modernist architecture and feel a lot of nostalgia and romance about that time in design thinking. Some of those structures are absolutely beautiful, but the beauty is intellectual and detached.

              And I LOVE Ronchamp (Notre Dame du Haut). Have you been there? It is really special.

              •  No, never been there. The parents thought (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                badscience, NYFM

                Notre Dame and the Lourve in Paris were more important.

                I understand the history of 'modern' architecture and the reasonings behind the buildings.  My bachelor's degree is in Architecture, 1988.  I can appreciate many of the modern buildings in a design and historical context, but my heart doesn't connect there.

                •  You should go. (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  nchristine, NYFM

                  It is unusually wonderful. :-)

                  I am a "connecter with the mind" rather than with the heart, so for me a connection with the Parthenon, a Baroque cathedral and a modernist office building is in the same brain-space. That is probably weird for most people to consider, since they are so different and affect people's emotions quite differently.

                  •  No, it's not weird. It's a different way of (3+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Prof Haley, badscience, NYFM

                    looking at things.  I almost see 'modern' vs 'old' as a metaphore of machine (modern - mass produced) and man (old - done by hand) and I know a lot of it is because of how I was introduced to art and architecture.  Metaphore may not be the right word though....

                    •  I kinda live in my head (1+ / 0-)
                      Recommended by:

                      which perplexes a lot of people. As an artist, it has certainly shaped the kind of art I do! Which is generally formal and heady. :-D

                      I am really interested in places where machine and hand come together (printmaking, photography, art and technology). Certainly architecture is the place where the hand and the machine came together early and profoundly! Couldn't have made any monumental architecture without machines, elemental as they were. Also, too, many many workers (serfs, slaves, etc).

          •  I know what you mean. (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            hannah, NYFM, nchristine, SadieSue

            There are such buildings littering most cities in the US.

            These kinds of civic structures seem to be insensitive to their human occupants, but you can only really discern that as a user of the inside and outside of the structure; never having used it other than a thoroughfare, I can't comment on its usability, only its impact on me from without.

            Interestingly, Frank Lloyd Wright, generally beloved (although by all accounts a real jerk to work with), had great disdain for his human users and his designs are not know for their usability; quite the opposite. However, he generally understood human scale (on the shorter end since he used himself as the ideal human and he was not tall) and also emotion, so even his more modernist creations were never soulless.

            When I compare this structure to a lot of contemporary architecture it is clear that there is a very organized understanding of its purpose within the history of civic places (although it fails to achieve its goal), as well as formal considerations, where it succeeds as a piece of structural abstraction. The photographs, none of which are about people or use, but rather the presentation of a formal structure, make clear that successes.

            My father, a landscape architect with great sensitivity to architecture, really enjoyed the space on that Sunday as we walked around a largely empty Boston in search of a bakery. Which we eventually found, because that man also has an uncanny skill at finding baked goodies anywhere he might be placed. :-) But he enjoyed it as an abstraction and talked about it in formal, not "living," terms.

      •  Everyone that I have known (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        to have worked there hated it. Too hot, too cold, poor air handling, impossible to reconfigure or modify interior spaces.

        The building is an brutal edifice that discounts the very city and people it is supposed to serve. That it destroyed the West End makes it all the worse.

        The fact that once every couple of years a sports team gets to have a rally there is a small consolation.

    •  You're mixing the two arguments. (3+ / 0-)

      Government indeed brings order to society- I think we can all agree on that.  It's why the neanderthals in the tea party want to dismantle it.

      The argument you object to (and I don't disagree) is the Hellenic/Classical notion of man conquering nature- the white temple on the hill top.  In architecture this is the western philosophy.  In the East, most notably Japan, man is seen living in harmony with nature.  This is the concept Frank Lloyd Wright built his life and career on.

  •  I like Brutalism in certain contexts. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    badscience, NYFM, SadieSue

    But I know it's mostly reviled.

    "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

    by Bush Bites on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 05:59:03 AM PDT

    •  I hear you. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYFM, Dave in Northridge, SadieSue

      As an abstraction or a study in form it is really interesting. As part of a cityscape it is not so much. Although there is a lot of PoMo crap from the 80s that I hate even more because of its false jocularity and awkward whimsy. Modernism can be pretentious but generally it has very strong form and internal proportion, even if outscaled for users or context.

      •  Post-modern looks too chock-a-block to me. (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        badscience, nchristine, SadieSue

        Stone panels hanging on a steel frame made to look more substantial than it actually is.

        Not sure what you call the post-post-modern steel and glass stuff coming up now, but some of it is interesting, some of it is bland, to me.

        I'm getting really tired of steel and glass everywhere, though.

        I've seen some buildings combining concrete and steel-and-glass in interesting ways, lately. Hope that keeps up.

        "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

        by Bush Bites on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:21:18 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Got any pictures? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Would like to see!

          Milwaukee Art Museum (Calatrava) is really lovely, and the tiny underground parking garage is a jewel (used in a Porsche ad). I never tire of looking at it. MAM itself is comprised of three sort of "signature" buildings: one is Modernist, one Brutalist, and then the Calatrava.

    •  Is "brutalism" really a word (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      used by people who don't hate brutalism? To me that's like proudly claiming to be a schoolyard bully or an iron-fisted dictator.

      I've never been to Boston, never seen this city hall before, but I find it to be one wilful eyesore of a building. This is a prime argument against architects deciding which design gets built.

      into the blue again, after the money's gone

      by Prof Haley on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:39:01 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, one could also argue (0+ / 0-)

        that they understand the current state of the field the best! ;-)

        "Curation" is always an interesting study. Who decides what is built? What is exhibited? What is purchased? What receives a grant? What is collected? What is shown on TV? What is run in the theatre?

        Not as a critique, but as a question: who would you invoke to make the decisions about large public architectural projects? What would be the criteria for serving on such a committee?

        Interesting article about the Sydney Opera House competition.

        •  I don't have a ready answer. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          badscience, NYFM, SadieSue

          Who decides is a very interesting question. Museums and theatres rotate and change their offerings, so they can't inflict the damage that architectue does. Large public architecture and monumental art are going to be with us for a while, so I'm inclined against  those who "understand the current state of the field the best" as having their noses too close to the latest trend, unless they also convincingly show a love for history and context. I'd also insist that people who have to live with the thing have a say. Whoever greenlighted Tilted Arc - whoever encourages Serra, period - should spend the rest of his life as a Pentagon file clerk with no contact with any living human.

          into the blue again, after the money's gone

          by Prof Haley on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 08:41:02 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Heh. Yeah, Tilted Arc is an irritant. (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            NYFM, Prof Haley

            Mostly because of what it does, not what it looks like.

            I went to the Guggenheim in late May; the spiral was closed and being repainted for a new exhibition. I felt like I was seeing the structure for the first time as the architect had intended. Although it is an art museum, I would imagine Wright felt that the artwork detracted from his masterpiece. And it is a masterpiece. Looks much better without art in the spiral.

            Even the bathrooms are wonderful, if tiny. Wouldn't pass code today!

            I actually don't much like the 'arts in architecture' program. Here is why. You get plop art, or you get not very well-designed art that is an add-on to some public structure (police station, overpass bridge, airport parking lot). Rarely does this art elevate its surroundings or transcend the building that paid for its existence. I would prefer that money go into a building that is well-designed and perhaps rises to art itself - get a good architect! Or into sustainable and attractive landscaping, integrated into the site. Or a public park on the site.

            Seattle has some very nice art/architecture partnerships and perhaps is the one instance where some really good stuff has come from it.

            •  Well, I'd say (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              badscience, NYFM

              that Tilted Arc is plentifully ugly, though the trashing of the functionality of its former space was the worse offense.

              And as much as I'd like to agree with this:

              I would prefer that money go into a building that is well-designed and perhaps rises to art itself - get a good architect!
              we need a strong mechanism for excluding things like Kallmann's Boston City Hall. This is one ugly building.

              into the blue again, after the money's gone

              by Prof Haley on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 11:28:02 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  "Ugly" is subjective (3+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                NYFM, Prof Haley, nchristine

                but the crime of its transgression on space is pretty objective. In the right context, "Tilted Arc" could be not-plentifully-ugly.

                Which isn't to pooh-pooh your feelings that it was ugly: plenty of people agree! I felt it was ugly in that space, but objectively it killed that space.

                I don't really like Boston City Hall, but I don't think it is ugly. It is the beneficiary of a lot of justifiable anger against urban renewal of the sort that sweeps aside intact neighborhoods (particularly those with "problem" citizens, however they might be defined), and a lot of judgment that compares what it is to what was there, or its style vs. "old stuff" which is easier on the eyes and on the intellect.

                I think its crimes are more akin to those of Tilted Arc: it is insensitive to its space and its users. Formally I think it is pretty interesting.

  •  Big row going on now in Chicago... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NYFM, JeffW, SadieSue save this building.

    Was designed by Bertrand Goldberg, who also did Marina Towers and a couple other, similarly themed, buildings in Chicago.

    "The disturbing footage depicts piglets being drop kicked and swung by their hind legs. Sows are seen being kicked and shoved as they resist leaving their piglets."

    by Bush Bites on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:12:59 AM PDT

  •  I lived in the area when it was being put up (5+ / 0-)

    I'm neutral, because I've been inside the building and the interior works well, but as lots of people have said, this was the product of urban renewal and the building was almost secondary to getting the riffraff out of Scollay Square (they've even tried to get rid of the name: the T station there is called "Government Center").

    The best thing anyone said about it was to call a very boxy government building put up across Cambridge St. from City Hall "the box that City Hall came in."

    -7.75, -8.10; All it takes is security in your own civil rights to make you complacent.

    by Dave in Northridge on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 06:51:15 AM PDT

  •  I like Neutra (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nchristine, NYFM

    but I am more a fan of organic modernism, this is a little too cinder blocky for me, of course it may be a chicken and egg thing where popularity led to overuse of the style.

    Bigotry is the disease of ignorance...Education & free discussion are the antidotes of both. Thomas Jefferson

    by RiverCityMadman on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 07:09:21 AM PDT

  •  Having spent many happy hours (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    back in the 70's occupying the outer offices of Mayor Kevin White and various other dignitaries, I found that the concrete reality of the building directly contradicted its espoused meaning. Back then its apologists defended it on suitably democratic grounds - the open space underneath was supposed to integrate the life of the streets with the halls of power, and the inverted pyramid somehow symbolized an anti-ziggurat of people power.
    In reality, the workings of government seemed to be more removed from the populace, looming over the desolate plaza like a threatening anvil cloud. I'm sure that the autocratic regime of Mayor White helped to create that impression; had there been a Mel King administration I might have found more to like in the architecture.
    BTW, I do like some other futurist piles that many can't stand, like this one

    Plangentarchy: dictatorship of the whiners

    by Perry the Imp on Mon Jul 02, 2012 at 12:52:34 PM PDT

    •  Holy crap. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NYFM, Perry the Imp

      Looks an awful lot like UWM's Curtin Hall (reputedly shrunk by 10% because of budget issues, and very believable if you actually use the building: everything is too small).

      Google map. Do street view for a gander at the formed concrete monstrosity!

    •  Glad you posted that, because.... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Perry the Imp

      appropriately, this is where, at the tender age of 17, I saw my very first screening of "A Clockwork Orange".  It was a Friday night in October, and my older brother and I just stood in line like the rest of the UMass students. You enter the auditorium from the lower level portal seen in this picture.

      It's appropriate of course because of ACW's architectural settings...

      and to add to the atmosphere, because the showing was sold out, a small riot of unhappy (and likely imbibed) UMass students were pounding at the fire doors just to my right to be let in.  That whole evening was surreal, and all the more so because of Kubrick's masterpiece.

      •  Building 20 (0+ / 0-)

        On the subject of funky but beloved university buildings, I had the the distinct pleasure and honor of working in MIT's Building 20 back in the 80's and 90's, shortly before it was finally demolished after hosting the development lab for radar during WWII, the office of Noam Chomsky and the rest of the Linguistics Dept, the Solaria solar car workshop, the innovative multimedia developers in the Laboratory for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, and pretty much anything else interesting at MIT in the 2nd half of the 20th Century. It was lauded by Stewart Brand in How Buildings Learn and Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker.
        How exactly this building came to be such a legendary incubator of creativity is not known, but it is pretty clear that one important factor was that the building itself was not a work of art or an institutional status symbol. If you needed to bust a hole in the roof or run an unofficial cable between offices you could pretty much do it. For some reason, institutions continue to ignore this lesson and erect inflexible structures that begin to obsolesce before the ground is broken.

        Plangentarchy: dictatorship of the whiners

        by Perry the Imp on Wed Jul 04, 2012 at 07:00:23 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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