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Are Brutalist Buildings Too Obdurate to Preserve?

Famous examples of aging architecture styles, such as brutalism, are in need of renovations, sometimes requiring the public to pay the bill. But brutalist buildings are often obdurate and hard to adapt and reuse.
September 9, 2014, 11am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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An article by James S. Russell asks the question: "how particularly should architects hew to an idea, a program, or a personal artistic agenda if, in the future, it might demand heroic efforts to maintain and adapt?" 

For example, "[highly] expressive modernist buildings have proven especially obdurate: Paul Rudolph's 1971 Orange County Government Center stands abandoned in Goshen, New York....Boston mayor Thomas Menino spent two decades railing against Kallmann & McKinnell's 1968 Boston City Hall. (He failed to get it replaced, but the current mayor, Martin J. Walsh, also favors demolition.) Commercial redevelopment has doomed two important buildings by John Johansen: the 1970 Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City (being dismantled at this moment) and the 1,700-seat Morris Mechanic theater (1967) in Baltimore."

To describe the problem of obduracy presented by brutalism, in particular, Russell writes the following: "Buildings of the Brutalist era have proven to be particularly obdurate. Their beefy structures cast programmatic conceptions of the 1960s literally into concrete boxes—limiting flexibility as program needs grow, shrink, and disappear."

The article concludes with a series of questions suggested by Russell as a means to evaluate whether obdurate buildings should be preserved.

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Published on Monday, September 8, 2014 in Architectural Record
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