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Too Ugly to Preserve?

As D.C.'s J. Edgar Hoover Building reaches the end of its 40 years of service as the headquarters of the FBI, one of the city's last examples of Brutalist architecture is getting little love from preservationists as discussion begin over its fate.
October 29, 2012, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Several prominent preservation efforts of late (see the Orange County Government Center and Prentice Women's Hospital) have centered on the fate of Brutalist masterpieces of the 1960s and 70s. As preservationists, architecture critics, public officials, and the public debate the merits of saving these notoriously hard to love buildings, Jonathan O'Connell reports that preservationists in Washington D.C. are unlikely to put up much of a fight to save one of the iconic buildings of the Brutalist era. 

The Hoover building was recently named the ugliest building on Earth by a travel Web site, and you won't find much argument from D.C. preservationists, many of whom are "still smarting from a very public and contentious debate to protect another [Brutalist] D.C. building, the Third Church of Christ, Scientist, which they ultimately lost."

"There's not a lot of love for [the Hoover] building," said Rebecca Miller, executive director of the D.C. Preservation League. "And it's such a primary piece of real estate that saving the building would be a very difficult endeavor."

"Indeed, the [Preservation League's] chairman, John D. Bellingham, president of Falls Church-based Monarc Construction, said there was unlikely to be a similarly fierce battle for the Hoover building as there was for the church," notes O'Connell.

"Is it a building that a lot of people like? Probably not. Is it a building that people will try to preserve? My instinct tells me probably not," he said.


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Published on Sunday, October 28, 2012 in The Washington Post
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