Paul Rudolph's Government Services Center

Beton Brut

Senior Member
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
4,281
Reaction score
6
The east end of Cambridge around the MIT area has some newer buildings that are more what I had in mind when i said, "clean, lean and classy; kind of an updated mid-century vibe".
Indeed. Charles Correa's Brain & Cognitive Sciences Building is a real masterpiece. The massing and geometries reflect to the architect's keen awareness of Louis Kahn and Corbu, but the materials are lighter, in keeping with contemporary aesthetics. Across the street, Gehry's Seussian trainwreck slumps like a sad collection discarded refrigerator boxes and styrofoam packing material, left out in a driving rain.

My aged Croatian professor in college used to say that the presence of a unified bent in society, usually represented at the top by some authority-regime, actually sharpened the arts, because the artist was confronted with a very real choice of either bowing down and selling out, or fighting for what he or she believed in...
Shostakovich knew this, and learned it time and again throughout his storied career. In a similar vein, consider these astonishing churches constructed in post-war Poland, where the communist leadership felt rightfully threatened by the faith community.
 

FitchburgLine

Active Member
Joined
Nov 5, 2013
Messages
531
Reaction score
19
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

Second the state services center. It is enormous and keeps the West End, Bulfinch Triangle, Beacon Hill and Government Center disconnected from each other.
 

Lrfox

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2006
Messages
2,497
Reaction score
10
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

I’m sure it has its architectural merits, but that’s not enough to justify keeping it. Its ugly; its far, far too large; it cuts off neighborhoods from one another; and the area it around always seems desolate, i.e., it doesn’t lend itself to urbanity. It feel like something you’d expect to see on the moon.
You could potentially have your cake and eat it too. It's actually two separate buildings - the Lindemann Mental Health (the piece at the corner of Merrimac and Staniford with the stairs) and the Hurley. You could keep the Lindemann, which I think does have its merits, and remove the Hurley. You could improve neighborhood connections by adding a few new streets:

  1. A direct street from William Cardinal O'Connell Way to the edge of Bowdoin Park would create a straightforward connection between Bowdoin/Gov't Center and MGH/West End.
  2. A direct extension of Bullfinch Place across the State Services plot (along the Southern edge of the Lindemann) to Staniford halfway between O'Connell Way and Merrimac.
  3. Enhance the pedestrian corridor between the courthouse and Lindemann with better lighting, signage, and surface materials. New development with retail in the plaza space would go a long way toward improving this corridor as well.

Then free up the newly created blocks from the Hurley building site as well as the existing, basically unused plaza, for development. Convert the 25 Staniford parking lot at Merrimac/Staniford to park/plaza as was originally intended, and rework the Staniford St. Sidewalk area in front of the Lindemann to be more attractive/inviting and everyone could win.
 

ngb_anim8

Active Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2007
Messages
242
Reaction score
0
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

I’m sure it has its architectural merits, but that’s not enough to justify keeping it. Its ugly; its far, far too large; it cuts off neighborhoods from one another; and the area it around always seems desolate, i.e., it doesn’t lend itself to urbanity. It feel like something you’d expect to see on the moon.
I agree... it needs to be broken up. I would love to see them keep the Northern most part of the structure, as that is the most interesting visually, and then remove the rest in favor of several high-rises. This could become a complex similar to what we got with GC Garage! Something where it has a large tower as the focus and then several other towers that step down towards the neighbors.

 

stick n move

Senior Member
Joined
Oct 14, 2009
Messages
6,083
Reaction score
74
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

I agree... it needs to be broken up. I would love to see them keep the Northern most part of the structure, as that is the most interesting visually, and then remove the rest in favor of several high-rises. This could become a complex similar to what we got with GC Garage! Something where it has a large tower as the focus and then several other towers that step down towards the neighbors.

Also I have my fingers crossed that when the congress st office tower goes up here in blue, the triangle parcel right across the street on the edge of bulfinch will go tall. With the Hub close and govt ctr development next door I could see it being rezoned. Thats a perfect spot.

 

HenryAlan

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 15, 2009
Messages
2,053
Reaction score
12
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

I actually really like that complex! If there were some way to keep part of it - say one of the corners and series of stairwells and then redevelop the rest with a high-rise, that would be ideal in my opinion. It's a great example of that style and era, and while it is a little overbearing and far too large, I would hate to lose the entire thing.

I actually think it would work as it is currently constructed IF it were to be spruced up, re-purposed and activated and if upkeep were to actually take place to the courtyard. Adding more glass could be a nice contrast to the brutalist concrete.
It is a pedestrian nightmare, both in terms of public access and simply moving from somewhere on one side of it to something else on the other side. I agree it could be improved, but it is fundamentally an inward focused super block in a location that is not remotely suited for such a thing.
 

fatnoah

New member
Joined
Aug 28, 2012
Messages
55
Reaction score
6
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

I’m sure it has its architectural merits, but that’s not enough to justify keeping it. Its ugly; its far, far too large; it cuts off neighborhoods from one another; and the area it around always seems desolate, i.e., it doesn’t lend itself to urbanity. It feel like something you’d expect to see on the moon.
I lived across the street (4 Longfellow) and fully agree. Architectural merits aside, it is a major impediment to getting anywhere, and the complete lack of maintenance means much of it is surrounded by "temporary" fencing. The whole thing helps make its side of Staniford, New Chardon, and Merrimac streets pedestrian dead zones.

Pretty much the only good thing about it is the occasional laugh I used to get from Google constantly asking me to review the state department of Mental Health since I was always nearby.
 

odurandina

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2015
Messages
4,782
Reaction score
12
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

It is a pedestrian nightmare, both in terms of public access and simply moving from somewhere on one side of it to something else on the other side. I agree it could be improved, but it is fundamentally an inward focused super block in a location that is not remotely suited for such a thing.
i've tried to put down into words the incredible damage the razing of the West End did to Boston. But fail at how well you express it so simply, here.

i agree the West End had to be reworked in an industrial way. The condition of the buildings... and neighborhood that probably couldn't even be well served by firefighting. Downtown needed space to grow and this was where to do it.

Yet to completely obliterate the street grid for walled off super-blocks instead of slender, attractive buildings served by pedestrian walkways was manifestly absurd. The State Service Ctr and JFK low-rise are scars and walls as types far more than anything to be deemed 'historic.' The mere suggestion is insulting. In the case of Rudolph and his kin, i can't help but think they admired how blatantly these buildings sneered at and mocked those who lived there.

It's like a mini Pentagon for Christ's sake.

/
 
Last edited:

ngb_anim8

Active Member
Joined
Jun 21, 2007
Messages
242
Reaction score
0
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

I need some enlightening. Is there now, or has there ever been talk of redeveloping the Service Building super-block? Legitimate talk - not opining by the peanut gallery? I mean - even to a lay-person like me it seems like a no-brainer. How has a developer not shown interest in this? Could this be something that is actually accomplished in the next cycle? Or has it never even been approached?
 

atlantaden

Senior Member
Joined
May 31, 2006
Messages
2,023
Reaction score
1
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

The Winthrop Park is simple and does the job.

Bulldoze the damn State Service Center!!! All of it!
 

odurandina

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2015
Messages
4,782
Reaction score
12
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

i think it boils down to setting up a peremptory version of tenant musical chairs with multiple shareholders and .gov agencies in the greater West End. Or is it the far simpler matter of getting the ball rolling with a single redo that allows a 2 for 1 tenant move–as the catalyst.

Would it follow to impose that scale of redo over multiple agencies requires the setting down of law, short of a decree on the level of the Big Dig?

The State Service Ctr building appears to be the most logical place to begin. It possesses the land to free up the JFK low-rise. Perhaps a large scale project can even pull the O'Neill Fed that would free up the low-rise section. What incentive would the Feds have to participate?

All of the above was far afield of the Menino Admn. Seems a bureaucratic nightmare the moment you begin a study. What agency begins the process? How many administrations come and go before they're digging?
 
Last edited:

Beton Brut

Senior Member
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
4,281
Reaction score
6
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

I just love how responses to the call for the demolition and replacement of four profitable buildings in the Back Bay has metastasized into an angry mob directing their bloodlust at one of the most significant examples of Organic Expressionism in the region.

I need some enlightening. Is there now, or has there ever been talk of redeveloping the Service Building super-block? Legitimate talk - not opining by the peanut gallery? I mean - even to a lay-person like me it seems like a no-brainer. How has a developer not shown interest in this? Could this be something that is actually accomplished in the next cycle? Or has it never even been approached?
I'm a card-carrying member of the peanut gallery, and I've long imagined a thorough repurposing of Rudolph's maligned masterpiece as live-work-trade space for artists, with a few added floors of high-end residential added above. While we're at it, maybe drop a tower into the elliptical park. Herzog & De Meuron or StudioGang could make this building sing. Knocking it down would be a failure of imagination. I'm sure many with their torches and pitchforks are weary with my defense of this particular building.

In other news, the Winthrop Square Park design sucks. It looks cheap and lazy because it is cheap and lazy.
 

odurandina

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 1, 2015
Messages
4,782
Reaction score
12
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

^^Winthrop Sq deserves a mix of nice (not baby) trees, incl evergreens w/ Oaks, maybe Buttonball, like something that branches out.

Scollay; 80% of SS Ctr site into Scollay Square Park w/ hanging gardens, flowing river w/ bubbling mini falls, w/ underground circulating pipe.... A 696' tower w/ space to replace the State Services & JFK low-rise s... JFK site also becomes an open pedestrian walkway thick w/ more trees, and a pair skyscrapers to measure the turds ~740' and ~710'.



*turds Center Plaza, McCormack Cube, City Hall.
 

nm88

Active Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2007
Messages
446
Reaction score
0
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

I just love how responses to the call for the demolition and replacement of four profitable buildings in the Back Bay has metastasized into an angry mob directing their bloodlust at one of the most significant examples of Organic Expressionism in the region.



I'm a card-carrying member of the peanut gallery, and I've long imagined a thorough repurposing of Rudolph's maligned masterpiece as live-work-trade space for artists, with a few added floors of high-end residential added above. While we're at it, maybe drop a tower into the elliptical park. Herzog & De Meuron or StudioGang could make this building sing. Knocking it down would be a failure of imagination. I'm sure many with their torches and pitchforks are weary with my defense of this particular building.

In other news, the Winthrop Square Park design sucks. It looks cheap and lazy because it is cheap and lazy.
A reasonable response such as this is now so rare on this forum, that I can't resist a heart-felt thank you, BB.

And I couldn't agree more. Originally, Rudolph intended a tower for the elliptical park. The cost, I believe, was its undoing.

The Winthrop Park as planned, to my mind, destroys an arguably charming, if underwhelming, slice of historical Boston, and replaces it with a lazy and unremarkable pit stop. And those pavers? Please!

Wouldn't it be more respectful, and neighborly, to make modest adjustments to what exists, especially as the block is being completely remade? MP has paid mightily already. This might be a cost-saving.
 
Last edited:

atlantaden

Senior Member
Joined
May 31, 2006
Messages
2,023
Reaction score
1
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

A reasonable response such as this is now so rare on this forum, that I can't resist a heart-felt thank you, BB.
Yes, Beton comparing those of us who see the State Service Center, a concrete monstrosity surrounded by chain-link fencing and randomly parked cars, as an angry mob, is such a reasonable response! ;)
 

nm88

Active Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2007
Messages
446
Reaction score
0
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

In need of care, no doubt. A challenge to fix, for sure. An unloved urban obstacle as is, unfortunately, true. Nonetheless, I believe it's worth the effort for all the reasons BB stated.

His reasonable tone made his observations all the more palatable, though I may be in the minority in that regard on this board.
 

Suffolk 83

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 14, 2007
Messages
2,153
Reaction score
6
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

If you all do a group meetup, should a topic of challenging Millennium to change the design of the park be on the agenda?

Or maybe contact Friends of the Public Garden, Boston Preservation Alliance,

or collect signatures for a letter.
I dont understand, you, you dont just care about the shiny building?
 

Rover

Active Member
Joined
Nov 10, 2016
Messages
716
Reaction score
8
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

Yes, Beton comparing those of us who see the State Service Center, a concrete monstrosity surrounded by chain-link fencing and randomly parked cars, as an angry mob, is such a reasonable response! ;)
I know of few NIMBY's who don't think of themselves as contrarians and martyrs. They'll oppose everything for stupid reasons but latch on to the ugliest buildings as a sign that they're just more "deep" than the rest of us! :D Then when they only find one or two converts its because they're the only ones brave enough to stand up to the evil govt-developer complex. ;)
 

Justin7

Senior Member
Joined
Dec 12, 2008
Messages
1,587
Reaction score
16
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

A reasonable response such as this is now so rare on this forum, that I can't resist a heart-felt thank you, BB.

And I couldn't agree more. Originally, Rudolph intended a tower for the elliptical park. The cost, I believe, was its undoing.
Speaking of intention:

Even Philip Johnson had to admit it: The lobby of his Boston Public Library building didn’t turn out quite right.

The renowned architect, who designed the 1972 addition to the library’s Central Branch in Copley Square, confessed his regrets in a 1994 book, writing that last-minute changes by others had undermined his original vision of the library as a grand civic space.

“We never did get the entrance straight. The requirements for security changed exactly at that moment, and I had none of those details as part of my design,” Johnson wrote. “Another company did it. I kept fighting, but I kept losing.”
I don't know what Rudolph intended here, but wonder if he fell victim to the same concerns. Either way, this building would be greatly improved by receiving a treatment similar to that of the library. Debunkerization?
 

Lrfox

Senior Member
Joined
Nov 16, 2006
Messages
2,497
Reaction score
10
Re: Winthrop Center | 115 Winthrop Square | Financial District

Speaking of intention:
I don't know what Rudolph intended here, but wonder if he fell victim to the same concerns. Either way, this building would be greatly improved by receiving a treatment similar to that of the library. Debunkerization?
Security is currently a piece of why it probably won't be "debunkerized" - The intended main entrance to the Lindemann is now a conference room, and the current main entrance is tucked away in the garage. The larger issue is that Rudolph's design centered on the big plaza (above street level) on the New Chardon St. Side. There's a big Hurley Building entrance up there, and what was supposed to be the Lindemann entrance is up there as well (but blocked off). It's a mental health facility and also houses homeless shelters and state offices, so it's unlikely that they'll attempt to do something as warm/inviting as the BPL.

If the building were to be used for different purposes, there's potential on the Staniford St. Side. The ground level along the parking lot that was intended to be a plaza (corner of Merrimac and Staniford) is a cafeteria (there's also an ambulance entrance on the Merrimac St. side) with floor to ceiling windows looking out. It's big enough to house food stalls and if you convert the parking lot back to a plaza/park, it would make for awesome outdoor seating. The stairs could be opened and let people pass through to the plaza level and the development on the other side, further reducing the super block effect. Even this Staniford St. facade could be tastefully retrofitted with complimentary addition to house retail. There's plenty of room.
 

Top