Hall of Shame (CHOOSE 3)

Hall of Shame - CHOOSE 3! (see photos below):

  • 1. Mass Eye and Ear

    Votes: 10 15.4%
  • 2. Harbor Towers

    Votes: 13 20.0%
  • 3. 1-2-3 Center Plaza

    Votes: 12 18.5%
  • 4. Melnea Cass Blvd

    Votes: 14 21.5%
  • 5. Symphony Towers - WINNER

    Votes: 23 35.4%
  • 6. Quincy Market Garage

    Votes: 14 21.5%
  • 7. City Hall

    Votes: 10 15.4%
  • 8. State Services Center

    Votes: 11 16.9%
  • 9. B Line (Green Line)

    Votes: 9 13.8%
  • 10. Copley Place

    Votes: 5 7.7%
  • 11. Storrow Drive - WINNER

    Votes: 16 24.6%
  • 12. South Bay Center - WINNER

    Votes: 20 30.8%
  • 13. Rutherford Ave.

    Votes: 8 12.3%
  • 14. Lafayette Corporate Center

    Votes: 4 6.2%
  • 15. BUMC Ambulatory Center

    Votes: 3 4.6%
  • 16. One Exeter Plaza

    Votes: 5 7.7%
  • 17. The Prudential

    Votes: 0 0.0%
  • 18. Four Seasons Hotel

    Votes: 1 1.5%
  • 19. McGrath Highway

    Votes: 13 20.0%

  • Total voters
    65

Ron Newman

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I didn't even know that the 9/11 memorial existed, but if it's in the Public Garden, it should be understated and not distracting from the surrounding environment.
 

whighlander

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Down with City hall
Further down with State Mental Health Service Center
a bit less down for the Mass Eye and Ear

As for all the roads and tracks -- these are utilitarian -- they deliver what they are supposed to do as far as transportation -- whereas the buildings have nothing to say in their favor
 

BostonUrbEx

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As for all the roads and tracks -- these are utilitarian -- they deliver what they are supposed to do as far as transportation -- whereas the buildings have nothing to say in their favor
I don't think people were criticizing the appearance of the tracks for the B Line, but moreso the fact that it is so slow and functions so poorly.

As for roads, they could still have their utility and be appealing, just like buildings. City Hall has lots of utility, so why don't you give that the pass that you give roads a pass on? I think our problem with things such as the South Bay Interchange is not how it looks (Frankly, it's goddamn impressive looking!). But rather, it's criticized for the fact that it divides three portions of the city. The Storrow can be beautiful in the Spring and Autumn, but we hate it for the fact that it isolates the city from the Esplanade (and arguably is an induced demand arterial which could possibly be removed without any significant negative impact (not supporting nor denouncing anything, but that's the frame of mind)).
 

statler

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I going to repost this here just because it's awesome:

Some things are hard to like unless you make an effort. Examples are opera, caviar, Gertrude Stein, Zen Buddhism, James Joyce, cilantro, Garcia Lorca, twelve-tone music, Immanuel Kant, Jorge Luis Borges, twelve-tone music for the umpteenth time, Jackson Pollock, foie gras, frog's legs, tripe, brains, oysters, Steve Reich, Kasimir Malevich, Michelangelo Antonioni, Leonard Cohen and Brutalist architecture. All acquired tastes.


Explaining is hard for the same reason most folks don't bother with understanding: you have to rack your brains, and that's work. It's easier to just dismiss it. The list above contains difficult food ingredients and difficult human achievements. By definition, the difficult human achievements took intellectual rigor to create and they take the same faculty to grasp.

Most folks who throw in the towel a few pages into Finnegan's Wake don't really dare dismiss Joyce, coz they've heard he's deep. They read on the Net that literary critics think Ulysses the greatest novel of the English language, and they're not about to put in the effort to see if that's true. So they leave it at that.

More folks feel free to diss, say, Wagner without making any real effort to see where he's coming from; the fat sopranos provide them with a cheap shot --even as doubts may linger about whether they got it right.

But most of us have heard we're all experts in architecture; after all, we spend most of our time in it.

Don't you believe it !

Few of us go anywhere near any real architecture most days, just as most of what we read isn't literature. Architecture is not synonymous with buildings, and most buildings aren't architecture.

Architecture is rarefied artistic rigor applied to making a building. This means dreaming up a unified and meaningful whole. All works of art are that; they hang together.

I design forty or fifty buildings per annum, and most years not one of them qualifies as architecture. Most clients not only don?t want architecture, but if they catch an inkling of what it is they actively loathe it. And well they should, because it can't possibly serve their purposes unless they're already looking for it, for architecture is never just utilitarian; even the Bauhaus is anything but that.

Confronted with the prospect of architecture, most clients wisely recoil in horror, knowing it will alter their habits, demand maintenance and understanding, may expose them to their peers? ridicule or censure, will leak and make them hot or cold, and likely lighten their wallets. Architecture is much too risky; anyone who really wants it already has a somewhat masochistic devotion to art. These folks are rare and easily identified.

City Hall is a collection of fat sopranos.

Once you get into its conceptual reality, you won?t just like it; you'll love it. Did you ever meet a lukewarm opera buff?



I'll spare you that because you can see it for yourself,

But since I have to design buildings myself I can reveal a little about how hard it must have been to juggle all the components of City Hall so they hang together as an artistic whole.

The fancy term for this is tectonics, which the dictionary says is the science or art of assembling, shaping, or ornamenting materials in construction.

In keeping with their Modernist predilections and their minimalist leanings, Kallmann and McKinnell made their art out of the science. The question was: how much compositional interest would emerge from the rigorous and correct application of a very small number of rules and their intersection with the nature of the narrow spectrum of building materials chosen. Like Mies: they believed that less is more, but not so little it?s a bore.

Their building?s tectonic components are the structural and mechanical systems, and there?s precious little else to this building (except glass infill where the structure isn?t). The structural materials are brick and two kinds of concrete: poured-in-place and precast, which has a different nature.

And here's a surprise: in their reductionist zeal, they made the upper levels? structure double as the mechanical system. Concrete ducts !! You can see them clamber up the building's outside; that's what those massive cement fins are that function 'decoratively' at the upper levels, like colossal dentil molding. Simultaneously they serve as the building?s structure and enclosure. To synthesize, to hang together, to do more with less.

"I like an arch," replied the brick, when Louis Kahn famously inquired what it wanted. That wasn't the answer Kallmann and McKinnell wanted to hear; as card carrying Modernists, they knew arches were verboten. So they relegated brick to their building?s lower realms, where it wasn't required to make openings (something it does pure and correct without steel only as an arch). Earthbound, it became a metaphor for terra firma, a role confirmed by organic fusion with the vast brick plaza, and by the literal fact that brick is clay.

From mother earth spring foursquare geysers of once-fluid concrete: congealed, they?re cement sequoias, at once lofty, sturdy and as differentiated as individual trees in a forest. These are the mainframes both literally and figuratively of the entire civic structure. They hold up the building, they link earth to sky, at the entrance they greet you with soaring sylvan monumentality onto which you can project your civic pride in Boston?s virtuous government or feel oppressed by its corruption and bureaucracy: the same forms will serve for either, the choice is yours.

From here, space corkscrews heavenward past cantilevered council chambers, elevator shafts, monumental stairs and a now bunkerish mayor's office that you could freely visit in happier days. Like the brick below, all this poured beton brut reminds of Rome?s identical brick and concrete building technology: solid, compressive, imperial, built for the ages, and susceptible to barbarians.

Here also may lie the building's symbolic weakness, for on top of all this poured monumentality and upbeat symbolism lie draped like wet blankets: three layers of precast bureaucracy! O, parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

Oh, it gives those folks a view who are confined there all day. But mostly it gives you the completed composition that was this entire building?s formal impetus from the get-go: an inverted-pyramid composition motivated by a desire to depict. In Venturi's terms it?s a duck, for this building is actually a thinly disguised sculpture, a statue of another building! And that building is the Monastery of LaTourette.

So there you have it, another layer of symbolism: City Hall as monastery ;). Or perhaps you'd prefer: City Government as inverted pyramid :). Or would you care for Topheavy Government :D?

The fact that the top is precast is brilliant, because precast is the next logical progression in the structural evolution of masonry as you go up light to the sky and forward in history. Industrialized factory construction allows a uniform and standardized module, and steel reinforcement permits an almost gossamer lightness in the context of this building?s otherwise pachydermal ambiance. Mechanical systems are threaded through the gaps, and lighting courses through the lower chords in a marvel of integrated design.

What to a layman seem clunky beams with rectangular gaps register as elegant Vierendel trusses to an engineer, supported correctly at their fifth points, ends cantilevered. The panel points of these supports are conveyed downward as columns or transfer beams to the lower floors, which therefore acquire the exact and regular modular order of their upper brethren, like a drumbeat but with contrapuntal improvisations. A tour-de-force of spatial ordering that fully integrates the building, like writing a business letter in iambic pentameter.

Did someone say 'cantilever?' Why that's a thematic subtext throughout this building, where all outside corners are cantilevered and all three upper floors are corbelled (cantilevered) outward from the floor below. Structure in the service of massing. Like writing an iambic-pentameter business letter in which now all the sentences rhyme.

I don't know if the proportioning and dimensioning is done according to the Modulor (Golden Section) as in Corbu's original of which this is a formally structured set of improvised variations, but if it is that?s like adding yet another layer of integrating formal order, infinitely subtle, like making each sentence in the business letter start with a letter in an acronym.

Does all this matter? What is it really but a shameless display of virtuoso skill and intellectual rigor? Even fuller of artifice -- to those who can see them-- than Vermeer's little optical highlights or Mozart's abrupt forays into minor keys. Does it matter that Beethoven?s Fifth Symphony is all organized macro and micro-- out of a pattern of four notes? Does that make it better than if it were pleasant melodic noodling? Does it matter that the iconography of a Gothic portal may reveal prophetic secrets of the Book of Daniel? Does it matter that the juggler finally figured out how to add a seventh twirling plate? Would it matter if the complete discography of Max Roach vanished tomorrow? Does it matter? Of course not.

What use, after all, is art when we can replace it with profit? especially if we can simultaneously declare it ugly and have most folks murmur agreement. And what, oh what can be done with a building with dirty concrete, bad heat and a bad rap?

I can't tell you if Boston City Hall is ugly, because to me the question is meaningless. Maybe beauty is in the eye of the beholder. All I know is I don't have the brainpower or the creative inventiveness to pull off something simultaneously so tightly organized and formally varied in a million years of trying. So difficult?

Maybe we could respect that. Others have in the past.



One way to measure the importance of something is by how much else it has affected, and you can gauge something?s effects by the number of its imitators. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Boston City Hall has been much admired.

City Hall's imitators are everywhere. Charlotte has two. One is a college classroom building, another is the Charlotte Observer.

Dallas has at least one. And it's the City Hall !!

Boston doesn't have an imitation of Dallas' City Hall. Dallas has an imitation of Boston's City Hall.

An exterior whose exterior expression is composed entirely of its structure and its mechanical system: do you recognize the schema of the Pompidou Center?

An architect who tells you he's not influenced by other architects is a liar. For about fifteen years, Boston's City Hall influenced more building designs than any new building on the planet. And Boston has the original !!

Boston can be proud.
 

czsz

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^ tl; dr.

Just kidding. It's a great expression of the argument for brutalism. We could also be thinking of it this way: a lot of cities got the much shorter end of the 60s architecture stick.

Where is ablarc at these days, anyway?
 

statler

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Looks like he is still posting over at Wired New York.

Hasn't popped up in here in a while now. :/
 

blade_bltz

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Down with City hall
Further down with State Mental Health Service Center
a bit less down for the Mass Eye and Ear

As for all the roads and tracks -- these are utilitarian -- they deliver what they are supposed to do as far as transportation -- whereas the buildings have nothing to say in their favor
SMFH
 

datadyne007

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I didn't even know that the 9/11 memorial existed, but if it's in the Public Garden, it should be understated and not distracting from the surrounding environment.
It is at Logan Airport. It's nearly impossible to access. They just plopped it on some median amidst the mess of roads that serve Logan. No people traveling through Logan would ever have a reason to see it even if they had a 3 hour layover.

Edit: I guess there are 2 9/11 memorials... One in the Garden and one at Logan.

Also: I will relentlessly protest if City Hall gets elected into the Hall of Shame.
 
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Pierce

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Also: I will relentlessly protest if City Hall gets elected into the Hall of Shame.
Seconded. If City Hall "wins" I will nominate the 2011 Archboston Awards for the 2012 Hall of Shame.
 

BostonUrbEx

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Whether you like City Hall's looks or not, you cannot tell me it doesn't function like a PIECE OF CRAP, both inside and out. Street interaction: downright horrendous. Plaza interaction: pretty bad. Indoor navigation: big, giant W.T.F.! Indoor aesthetics: complete and utter shit, with wires swirling around in the ceiling 'vaults', pipes everywhich way, doors that lead to cement walls and closets full or more piping and wires, leaking, flooding, poor lighting.

It's a massive turd stinking up the city. Perhaps brutalism wouldn't be so bad if every single other thing about it sucked too.

Boston City Hall: The world's first and finest piece of value engineering to run exceedingly over actual valuation.
 

Ron Newman

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I voted for City Hall in this category. If a building doesn't function well for its intended purpose, it fails. Only a substantial redevelopment and repurposing would change my mind.
 

blade_bltz

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Even if it fails as a City Hall, it succeeds brilliantly as sculpture. That counts for something. Or at least it should, given that this is an architecture forum first and foremost.
 

Ron Newman

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We don't put up buildings just to look at, we also put them up to be useful. If they can't be used, or they make their users unhappy and enraged, they aren't good architecture.
 

statler

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They may not be good buildings but they are still very much good architecture.

Reread ablarc post. Architecture isn't just four walls and a roof. That's just buildings. Architecture is when you add art to the process. Sometimes that art will interfere with the basic mechanics of the building (large, high vaulted ceilings in old churches are unnecessary heat losses, etc).

This isn't a mechanical building forum. We should be celebrating the art in our buildings, not shaming it.
 

Ron Newman

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However, large, high-vaulted ceilings contribute to the overall atmosphere one might want in a church. In that way, they are functional.

It's pretty evident that City Hall's design detracts from, rather than enhances, its current and intended function.
 

statler

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Covered again in ablarc's epic post:

"I like an arch," replied the brick, when Louis Kahn famously inquired what it wanted. That wasn't the answer Kallmann and McKinnell wanted to hear; as card carrying Modernists, they knew arches were verboten. So they relegated brick to their building?s lower realms, where it wasn't required to make openings (something it does pure and correct without steel only as an arch). Earthbound, it became a metaphor for terra firma, a role confirmed by organic fusion with the vast brick plaza, and by the literal fact that brick is clay.

From mother earth spring foursquare geysers of once-fluid concrete: congealed, they?re cement sequoias, at once lofty, sturdy and as differentiated as individual trees in a forest. These are the mainframes both literally and figuratively of the entire civic structure. They hold up the building, they link earth to sky, at the entrance they greet you with soaring sylvan monumentality onto which you can project your civic pride in Boston?s virtuous government or feel oppressed by its corruption and bureaucracy: the same forms will serve for either, the choice is yours.

From here, space corkscrews heavenward past cantilevered council chambers, elevator shafts, monumental stairs and a now bunkerish mayor's office that you could freely visit in happier days. Like the brick below, all this poured beton brut reminds of Rome?s identical brick and concrete building technology: solid, compressive, imperial, built for the ages, and susceptible to barbarians.

Here also may lie the building's symbolic weakness, for on top of all this poured monumentality and upbeat symbolism lie draped like wet blankets: three layers of precast bureaucracy! O, parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

Oh, it gives those folks a view who are confined there all day. But mostly it gives you the completed composition that was this entire building's formal impetus from the get-go: an inverted-pyramid composition motivated by a desire to depict. In Venturi's terms it's a duck, for this building is actually a thinly disguised sculpture, a statue of another building! And that building is the Monastery of LaTourette.

So there you have it, another layer of symbolism: City Hall as monastery . Or perhaps you'd prefer: City Government as inverted pyramid . Or would you care for Topheavy Government ?
You may not care for the symbolism, but can't deny it is artfully done. Just as some may not care for grandeur and gilt of a holy place, it would be difficult to argue against the craftsmanship.
 

datadyne007

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The article touches on the crux of a lot of issues that City Hall faces when it jokes about the "happier days." The "happier days" are indeed the days when the building was actually used as it was designed to be -- No metal detectors, entrances from all angles, free-movement throughout the building, access to the incredible courtyard and even the chance to check out the Mayor's office. City Hall was designed as a place for the public and it really no longer is a place for the public. It fell victim to our modern hyper-secure world.

Conceptually, the building is genius. It takes the norm of having mundane offices on the lower floors and the shiny Mayor's office on the top and completely flips it upside down. The people of power get relegated to the middle, with huge windows to symbolize a transparent government and the mundane offices get stuck at the top. At the bottom is brick, flowing right into the building (also through the building to the courtyard) and providing true gathering spaces for the public. No longer can you meet a friend in the City Hall lobby without going through security, nor can you even have an outdoor meeting in the courtyard overlooking FHM.

All this said, the building is a masterpiece of architectural theory, but does it actually work? No. The spaces are miserable to inhabit and the plan is as confusing as a Gehry building. It satisfies 1 of the 2 principles of design: form. Function is the one that gets left behind. It's perhaps the greatest example of sculptural architecture in the world. If it had poor form, then it would be another story (0 out of 2).

Would we be nominating City Hall if it had been built as a neoclassical temple? Those don't interact with the street either, but often have stunning architectural features.
 

Semass

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It sucks. It is a giant pus-filled boil on the the ass of city hall plaza. The best use of that hateful thing is to be broken down and redeposited as an artificial reef somewhere. Preferably far, far away.
 

czsz

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Would we be nominating City Hall if it had been built as a neoclassical temple? Those don't interact with the street either, but often have stunning architectural features.
This. No one whines about how street-unfriendly the McKim BPL building or the State House are. The State House is raised on a platform above the street and set behind suburbany lawns, for chrissakes!
 

datadyne007

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This. No one whines about how street-unfriendly the McKim BPL building or the State House are. The State House is raised on a platform above the street and set behind suburbany lawns, for chrissakes!
The State House is exactly what I had in mind. Should we nominate that for the Hall of Shame too?
 

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