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.
The City of Boston contracted with luminARTZ and artist Anthony Bastic (who produced the Vivid Sydney Light Walk and Lights of Christmas projections in Australia) to project a 3-D light show onto the Boston Public Library in Copley Square, with music. Despite the rain, I watched while the Twelve Days of Christmas and the Nutcracker Suite filled Copley Square with music while visions of light danced on the library facade on Saturday, the first of four performance nights. I only had my iPhone but took a few decent shots, including the ones posted here.
Boston’s light show comes amid a United Nations proclamation declaring 2015 the International Year of Light. The UN is emphasizing the critical role light plays in people’s daily lives and the impact it has on the cutting edge of modern day science.
I recently came across this old (2012) photo of a very foggy Boston night which I never got around to posting. Using a tripod, I shot this from the Massachusetts Ave Bridge looking across the Charles River to Beacon Hill. I decided this dark and foggy shot could see the light of day, as it were. Although the photo is not all that striking, the light illuminating the heavy, misty air, the partially shrouded buildings, and the nearly glowing Statehouse Dome provide interest and make this shot a keeper.
A while back, the web-portfolio developer Pixpa approached me to do an interview for their blog (I used Pixpa to develop my photography website). I agreed and the interview was published in late June. They only publish these photographer or artist “in the spotlight” interviews once a month. Nice to get noticed, and it was fun to be interviewed. Pixpa is one of the leading photography and fine art website developers worldwide. You can read the interview here.
A couple of images of the old, art deco John Hancock Building (the Berkeley Building) adorned with gay pride flags on a glorious June day–just a couple of weeks before the Supreme Court’s expected landmark ruling on gay marriage, which all started with Massachusetts: the successful lawsuit brought by the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office declaring the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional.
Plus a couple other Copley Square scenes on a beautiful June day. A piano player in Copley Square surrounded by an appreciative audience and long shadows, and an iconic Boston image: the old, art deco Hancock Tower reflected in the new I.M. Pei Hancock Tower, with the Trinity Church in the foreground.
After a gorgeous spring day, I took a slight detour and walked home through Bay Village yesterday evening. Bay Village is a tiny, historic Boston neighborhood squeezed between the Back Bay, South End, Park Square, Chinatown, and the Theatre District. Dominated by lots of small townhouses in the Federal style and larger ones of Greek Revival style, it still comes off as fairly eclectic overall with a few mid-(20th)century institutional and commercial buildings and even a very cool art deco structure. See full set on Flickr. #iPhoneography
More snow for Boston! The second significant snowfall in this young month of March (on top of 100+ inches of snow for Boston thus far this winter). A quick shot of the Massachusetts State House, aka the “new State House” (built 1795-1798, with many subsequent additions), while walking home in surprisingly heavy snow last night (after being stuck late at work). This turned out pretty well for a nighttime iPhone shot. #iPhoneography #neverendingwinter
This Fire House was the home station for two Boston Firefighters who gave their lives fighting today’s devastating fire on Beacon Street in the Back Bay. The Engine 33 | Ladder 15 Fire House–the oldest operating fire station in Boston (and one of the oldest in the nation)–is just a few blocks from my house. I stopped by to pay my respects (with my iPhone camera, as it were) on my way home tonight. Notice the flag at half mast. More on the terrible fire with photos from the Boston Globe, here.
UPDATE: I stopped by the morning after the fire and found that a makeshift memorial had sprung up between the doors of the Engine 33 | Ladder 15 Fire House to honor the two fallen firefighters. The memorial grew considerably during the day, as seen here in this “Fallen Firefighters Remembered” video from the Boston Globe.
UPDATE 2: By Sauturday morning, the memorial had really blossomed,
see this photo by Rachel Lebeaux: