A reminder. Taken on Thanksgiving morning eight years ago. Gave this guy a couple bucks on my way to Starbucks as my holiday day was getting underway. Took this photo from across the street on the way back.
Have a happy, safe holiday. Be thankful for all you have.
And here are a few shots of the area around the Government Service Center, including the adjacent Edward Brooke Courthouse, designed in the late 1990s by the same firm that designed Boston City Hall more than thirty years earlier (now Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood).
I spent a sunny Sunday photographing the Government Service Center and a couple of surrounding buildings in Boston’s Government Center area. This post focuses on the Government Service Center. In part II, I’ll post some shots of the surrounding area.
Architect Paul Rudolph’s Government Service Center consists of two separate, but connected buildings: the Hurley Building and the Lindemann Mental Health Center. It’s the most misunderstood building in Boston. Many consider it (wrongly, IMHO) to be the ugliest building in Boston.
One of Rudolph’s masterpieces, Boston’s Government Services Center, with its distinctive “corduroy concrete,” ranks high among the best examples of Brutalist architecture in the United States (even eclipsing Boston City Hall). Designed and constructed a couple years after Rudolph’s Yale Art and Architecture Buildingtour de force, the Hurley/Lindemann building was never completed according to Rudolph’s original design and vision. Construction of this high rise portion was never realized.
Unfortunately, the Government Service Center has suffered from years of neglect. The northern corner of the building has long been fronted by a hideous chain-link fence enclosing a make shift parking lot in place of the landscaped park in the original design. Within the past five years, many external stairways and other means of access to terraces and other intriguing spaces have been blocked, closed off by (more, ugly) chain-link fences. This wikipedia photo gives you a glimpse of one such unique area, as does this Droid Hot Spot commercial from 6 years ago, posted below. I’ve kicked myself for years not photographing Rudolph’s Government Service Center when access to all the external spaces and stairways was still open (and when deterioration of the buildings was a bit less pronounced).
I’ve been defending Brutalist architecture for years, and attempting to convince fellow Bostonians of the importance and charms of Rudolph’s Government Services Center (typically to no avail). But, Brutalism is back, baby! Well, sorta. See this recent New York Times “Brutalism is Back” article, including:
Brutalism is undergoing something of a revival. Despite two generations of abuse (and perhaps a little because of it), an enthusiasm for Brutalist buildings beyond the febrile, narrow precincts of architecture criticism has begun to take hold. Preservationists clamor for their survival, historians laud their ethical origins and an independent public has found beauty in their rawness.
In recent years, appreciation for Rudolph’s work has rebounded, especially among young architects. His Yale building, after a fumbled reconstruction and decades of neglect, was magnificently restored in 2009. But his Government Service Center is now only a shadow of what he envisioned. The complex was conceived as a moving, celebratory place, but mistreatment has made it resemble a prison. Yards of wire fencing overzealously fence off walkway walls now deemed too low to protect pedestrians. Parked vehicles have eroded the surface of the beautiful plaza at Staniford and Merrimac.