It’s like saying, ‘I don’t like Pollock because he splattered paint,’” said Nina Rappaport, chairwoman of Docomomo-New York/Tri-State, an organization that promotes the preservation of Modernist architecture. “Does that mean we shouldn’t put it in a museum? No, it means we teach people about these things.”

Actually, disliking a local Brutalist building and wanting it demolished – see this New York Times article about townspeople in upstate New York interested in getting rid of a Paul Rudolph thing – is nothing like that. When you’re in the mood, you visit a Pollack painting in a museum. You don’t live or work in a Pollack painting. You don’t look at it every day whether you want to or not.

You don’t get to say I’m thrilled to have a job working for the city of Boston, but I’m going to work in a building I prefer.

It’s been a lifelong dream of mine to work for the FBI, but I’ll be moving into a space in the Old Post Office, thanks.

No, people feel strongly about architecture because it’s ubiquitous, inescapable, having profound quotidian impact.

Nina Rappaport can teach ’til she’s blue in the facade, but it turns out that no one likes to be brutalized.

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8 Responses to “No exit”

  1. dave.s. Says:

    Prince Charles! He’s my guy! I worked across the plaza from the brutalist Boston City Hall. Butt ugly, energy inefficient, nasty spaces. If people want to photograph these buildings for posterity, okay, but the wrecking ball can’t come too soon.

    And I’m betting that, once enshrined on the intertubes for a grateful posterity, photo sites for most of these buildings will get maybe three visits a day.

  2. MattF Says:

    As I recall, the Art & Architecture students at Yale tried to burn down their Rudoph-designed building. Which turned into an inside joke in the architecture world, since you’d think that architecture students would know that concrete doesn’t burn.

  3. Mr Punch Says:

    The reason the brutalist buildings are in trouble is not that they’re ugly (although they are, especially in grey damp climates – it’s no accident Rudolph’s best stuff is in Florida). The problem is that they’re unadaptable, to the point that it’s impossible to change the wiring, even to move a light switch. It was Corbu himself who called a house a machine for living; this is the test this style has failed.

  4. theprofessor Says:

    We have our own Brutalist building. Fortunately, it is slowly subsiding on one end, and it appears that nothing (affordable, anyway) can save it. The thought is that in 10-15 years, it will become structurally unsound and have to be demolished.

  5. DM Says:

    A new building was erected in the 2000s at the École normale supérieure, to replace some smaller (and not too well-built) structure. The architect wanted bare concrete for artistic reasons, even though the building includes dormitories, and a library (unpainted concrete releases a powder that’s detrimental to books). I’ve had meetings in the lower floors, walking inside corridors gives a clear impression of playing a real-life DOOM game (you know, darkish corridors, neons, and expecting to have monsters behind the corner).

    Later, I found a reduced scale replica of this building in an architecture museum: apparently, it was praised by other architects.

    That’s one example of what I perceive as a disconnection between what many architects think of they should do, and what the rest of society would like them to. They think they should create original works of art; the rest of us, who have to live and/or work in their buildings, would like something convenient and pleasant.

  6. Margaret Soltan Says:

    DM: Nice example of the problem. France has more than its share of depressing new – or newish – buildings.

  7. DM Says:

    @Margaret Soltan: I think it’s related to 1) architecture being taught as an art, as opposed to a craft or an engineering discipline 2) arrogant dismissal of criticism as philistinism 3) designs for public buildings being chosen without input from the real stakeholders (that is, not the big brass who will go to the inauguration, but people who will work in them).

  8. University Diaries » Tricks of the Writing Trade: How a Strong Writer Defends the Indefensible. Says:

    […] “It’s like saying, ‘I don’t like Pollock because he splattered paint,’” said Nina Rappaport, chairwoman of Docomomo-New York/Tri-State, an organization that promotes the preservation of Modernist architecture. “Does that mean we shouldn’t put it in a museum? No, it means we teach people about these things.” […]

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