The Decline of Brutalist Architecture
For n+1 Thomas de Monchaux writes about the now-unpopular modernist architectural movement known as Brutalism.
Gerhard Kallmann’s competition-winning design for Boston City Hall, developed in collaboration with Michael McKinnell, embodied a similar idea of heaviness poised above lightness. The building is a brooding, fortress-like mass of concrete resting on fins and columns rendered in concrete and brick. The brick was also used for a stepped podium and vast plaza that physically isolated the monumental building from its surroundings but materially connected it to the federal and colonial architecture nearby. From some angles, the building looks like a cement spaceship perched on more firmly terrestrial landing pads. From others, it looks like a ruin almost Roman in its complexity, with a thousand cutouts and panels and skylights and landings and lines that speak both to its designers’ anxious virtuosity and their desire to produce something timeless. There is something deeply moving about seeing the words “Boston City Hall” incised over the uncompromisingly modern entry in lettering that would not be out of place on Trajan’s Column.