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Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
The new CityHall, not surprisingly, appears to be winning in a landslide.
You can compare the New with the Old at Prof. Jeffery Howe's digital archive of American architecture. Two points for guessing which the Irish Elk prefers.
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Architect Roger Clark mulls whether the new City Hall served to promote architecture to the public – or to promote design to the architecture practitioner:
The public…seems to find it difficult to embrace the building's brutalist nature. The public response can be characterized by a legend that claims a Boston cabbie identified the precedent for the City Hall as the Lincoln Memorial shown on the U.S. penny, turned upside down.
Unfortunately the city has mostly neglected and at times insensitively changed the building to accommodate growth in city government. Over the last 15 years, there have been proposals made to change the plaza, to incorporate commercial space into the building, and even to sell the building. Indeed, the building and plaza are challenging, but their boldness and civic posture might be difficult to equal today. Still, the big plaza is empty of pedestrians nearly all the time, even though it is intended as a terrific place for large civic gatherings, like when the Red Sox win the World Series. Perhaps it is too big.
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The new City Hall won all sorts of awards when it was built following an international design competition in the '60s.
The New York Times' architecture critic, Ada Louise Huxtable, praised the building as a "structure of dignity, humanism and power" that "will outlast the last hurrah."
She notes in the opening lines of her Feb. 4, 1969, review:
"Whatever it is, it's not beautiful," said the Boston cab driver taking the visitor to the new City Hall. "What would you call it, Gothic? asked another. Which about sums up the architectural gap, or abyss, as it exists between those who design and those who use the 20th century's buildings.
She continues, a little further on:
Boston can celebrate with the knowledge that it has produced a superior public building in an age that values cheapness over quality as a form of public virtue. It also has one of the handsomest buildings around, and thus far, one of the least understood…
Not only cab drivers are puzzled by the unconventional structure. Cultural and community leaders who are also society's decision makers and a public with more and higher education than at any time in history also draw a blank. Too bad about that architecture gap. It has a lot to do with the meanness of our cities.
Today, more than 35 years later, the average Bostonian has yet to be educated as to the merits of City Hall and the surrounding plaza.
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While on the topic of architects and awards: Scroll all the way down to read a tribute to worship-space visionary Dick Vosko, one of 10 "very special people" honored by the American Institute of Architects.
On the other side of the church-architecture abyss, Gerald Augustinus remains unmoved by Dr. Vosko's "antiseptic, pseudo feng shui-meets-Pottery-Barn style." (Via Diogenes)