If Boston City Hall were a celebrity, it might be a fixture on tabloid “Worst Dressed” lists. The Brutalist building elicits strong sentiments from architectural observers and everyday citizens alike, but most agree the City Hall Plaza could use some sprucing up. In his inaugural State of the City address Mayor Marty Walsh called on residents to help him reimagine the barren, 11-acre brick expanse.
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Terra cotta rain screen transforms brutalist eyesore into energy-efficient community space.
Considered an aesthetic and functional failure almost since its construction in 1974, the old public library in Lawrence, Kansas, was overdue for a renovation four decades later. Gould Evans‘ challenge was to transform the low-slung brutalist behemoth, a poor environmental performer lacking both adequate daylighting and a sense of connection to the community, into an asset. “The desire was to try to come up with a building that basically reinvented the library for the community,” said vice president Sean Zaudke. Rather than tacking an addition on to one end of the existing structure, the architects elected to wrap a 20,000-square-foot reading room and open stacks area around the old facade. In so doing, they altered the exterior for the better, swapping bare concrete for an earth-hued terra cotta rain screen punctuated by plentiful glazing. They also significantly enhanced the library’s environmental performance, with early estimates suggesting that the new Lawrence Public Library will see a 50 percent reduction in energy usage despite a 50 percent increase in square footage.
This month, a newly opened public campus center brought the brutalist Erasmus University Rotterdam Woudestein Campus back to life. In a collaborative effort by several Dutch architectural firms, three projects have been realized at Woudestein to create a contemporary on-campus heart for student gathering. Integrating existing grounds of several elevations, the sustainably built center provides multi-level student resources and is the first phase of a university-wide redevelopment master plan, which will extend into 2015.
Concrete architecture from the 1970s hasn’t been faring well of late, but while Bertrand Goldberg’s expressionist Prentice Hospital seems destined for the wrecking ball, Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York has been spared. In a 15-6 vote, the members of the Orange County Legislature backed a resolution to renovate the building, defeating efforts by County Executive Edward Diana who has pushed for demolition of Rudolph’s dynamic and puzzling structure. The arguments hinged on cost more than on architectural merit, but even so, architecture fans will be relieved that this unique building will be spared.
John Johansen’s iconic Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City may be demolished in the next year. Built with a $1.7 million grant from the Ford Foundation, the so called “Brutalist” building was closed in 2010 due to flooding and a local Oklahoma City group has been trying to purchase it for a downtown children’s museum.
Talk of William Pereira’s Geisel Library, the well-known symbol of UC San Diego, has been abuzz online because of its Snow Fortress doppelganger in Inception, which has so far totaled close to half a billion dollars in ticket sales. Built in the late 1960s, this textbook example of Brutalism perfectly encapsulates the hostile, uncommunicative theme of Inception. Critics of the style say Brutalist architecture disregards the history and harmony of its environment. Thus, the Snow Fortress, featured at the film’s climax, is a symbol of disregard for preordained fate. Read More
Quick! Name that Building!
That’s right, it’s time for another round of our favorite game. You can probably name the architect, thanks to the ribbons of his signature corduroy concrete, to say nothing of the cantilevered passageways and swooping staircases. So it’s Paul Rudolph. But which of his masterworks? It’s not a famous one, so you’ll probably never guess. Okay, you got it. It’s the Hurley Building of his Government Service Center in Boston. It’s an impressive star turn for an architect whose buildings haven’t faired so well of late. And yet it’s good to know that when those Madison Avenue Fatcats still need a structure to shoot on that screams hip futurism, Rudolph’s the go-to guy. Dude’s still got it. Read More