Ed Driscoll

They Don't Call It "The New Brutalism" For Nothing

The Boston Herald notes, “Boston City Hall named world’s ugliest building“–and note the usual “start from zero” aspects of the 1969 building:

“That’s gotta go,” said Ivette Arenas of San Francisco, when it was pointed out to her on her way to the Common. “You have some of the best (buildings), and right here you have the worst.”

“It is a pretty ugly building,” agreed Carol Sue Graves of Orange, Va., as she walked to Faneuil Hall.

An example of the “New Brutalism” school of design, City Hall was seen as a clean break from Boston’s past, said Jeff Stein, dean of the Boston Architectural College.

“They were looking for something new and startling,” Stein said. “And boy did it succeed.”

In From Bauhaus To Our House, Tom Wolfe wrote about the similarly Corbusier-inspired Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis, built in 1955 and mercifully demolished less than two decades later:

Millions of dollars and scores of commission meetings and task-force projects were expended in a last-ditch attempt to make Pruitt-Igoe habitable. In 1971, the final task force called a general meeting of everyone still living in the project. They asked the residents for their suggestions. It was a historic moment for two reasons. One, for the first time in the fifty-year history of worker housing, someone had finally asked the client for his two cents’ worth. Two, the chant. The chant began immediately: “Blow it….up! Blow it….up! Blow it….up! Blow it….up! Blow it….up!” The next day, the task force thought it over. The poor buggers were right. It was the only solution. In July of 1972, the city blew up the three central blocks of of Pruitt-Igoe with dynamite.

A similar sort of aesthetic euthanasia seems long overdue in Boston.