Posts tagged with "Brutalism":

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In tribute to Michael McKinnell, the Heroic architect behind Boston City Hall

On Friday, March 27, British-American architect Noel Michael McKinnell died of pneumonia after testing positive for COVID-19. He was 84. McKinnell, who was born in Manchester, England, received his initial architecture training at the city university, first traveled to the United States on a Fulbright Scholarship. He studied for his master’s in architecture at Columbia University, which he completed in 1960. At Columbia, he encountered the German architect Gerhard Kallmann, who would soon become a mentor figure. After hearing about a public competition to design a new city hall for Boston, the pair developed a design that drew on elements of the contemporaneous Brutalist movement. They were announced the winners and opened a Boston office in 1962. Their joint practice continues to this day, with a rich portfolio of largely institutional buildings. Yet the firm—and McKinnell—remains associated with Boston City Hall, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary last year. The following tribute reflects on McKinnell’s complex relationship to the building.  We first met Michael McKinnell and Gerhard Kallmann in 2007 at the outset of the Heroic project, our effort to document Boston’s late twentieth-century concrete buildings, which had become largely unloved. At the time, Boston City Hall was broadly vilified, dismissed as obsolete, and in danger of being demolished. Even in such a moment of threat, Michael was surprisingly open to the idea of his building changing. Far from upholding the original design as a masterwork fixed in time, he explained to us that he felt it needed “younger ideas” and that whatever modifications were in store for its future, they should be “bold and self-confident.” Younger ideas were part of his thinking from the very start. When he and Gerhard won the competition among 256 entries, Michael was only 26 years old—landing perhaps the most important public commission of the era. Later, as the world was exploding in the protests and civic unrest of the 1960s, this fearless young man explained the design for its enormous lobby to a reluctant City Council as an ideal setting for the democratic staging of dissent. Naive or not in his political idealism, to him it was always the “people’s building.” To us, Boston City Hall reflected the era’s aspirations to invest in the civic realm and the desire to represent a new political order for a New Boston. Michael and Gerhard sought to ingrain these ideals into the building’s DNA, embedding their faith in public life into the matter of its concrete. It would be a framework open to change, as they later wrote, a “robust armature” meant to “engage successive generations of the citizenry in [its] embellishment, decoration, and adornment.” Our relationship with Michael, which began with distant admiration, grew over a dozen years into friendship. We interviewed him multiple times, gaining a deeper understanding of his work and personality. Starting as an exhibition and later forming a book, we had originally conceived of the Heroic project as a way to recast the public conversation surrounding concrete architecture. In large part because of Michael, the center of these efforts soon shifted from documenting buildings to preserving the voices of those who designed them and the civic aspirations that shaped them—a legacy of ideals rather than a mere history of matter. Those same dozen years also allowed us to witness a transfiguration in Michael. While we came to know him late in his life, we most often talked about the beginning of his career, before he and Gerhard had fully formalized their shared practice which produced distinguished buildings across decades. He easily re-inhabited that youthful vision—in our eyes, he only got younger as we spoke candidly about his early principles and failures. Boston City Hall itself underwent a similar transformation. Endangered by one mayor in the early 2000s, we watched with admiration as the building was being feted by another on its fiftieth anniversary in 2019. The event echoed with Michael’s rousing words, delivered in that same enormous lobby, about his undiminished hopes for City Hall’s future. But it was Michael’s own humor that reminded us of the fragility of modernist voices like his, and of their need to be heard again. When the Getty Foundation selected Boston City Hall for a prestigious grant to prepare a conservation management plan (or CMP), Michael was quick to congratulate the team, and then quipped: “I am now in search of a CMP for myself.” Michael always seemed keenly aware of how the legacies of people, ideas, and buildings were interwoven in time. His final comment in the Heroic interview was on the aspirations of the era to make “something that would endure,” and of the hubris of imagining Boston City Hall as worthy of becoming a ruin in five hundred years. “The making of architecture is imbued with hubris,” he said, “because we challenge our own mortality.” In City Hall, we recognized, he had challenged his. If the building lasted—if the hopes cast into its concrete could be fully realized—so would he. Warm and gregarious, fascinating and funny, incisive and generous, Michael’s reminiscences were always imbued with meaning. One joyful highlight was a lunch he and his wife Stephanie Mallis invited us to in their Rockport home in 2018, accompanied by the architecture critic Robert Campbell. Sitting with a distant view of the ocean, we shared stories and toasted to lost colleagues over the course of four hours on a beautiful summer Tuesday. The camaraderie, too, seemed like it could go on forever. Noel Michael McKinnell was born on Christmas Day in 1935 and passed away last Friday afternoon at the age of 84. Through our friendship with him, what began as a fascination with a past era became a commitment to transmit a living set of ideas. We labeled them “heroic” for their civic aspiration, and as a way of acknowledging the hubris that characterized so many of those ambitions and the figures who advocated for them. But Michael’s lofty ideals were always tempered by his youthful energy and his mischievous sense of humor. If we ever got too serious, he liked to rib us a little. With a glint in his eye, he would delight in proclaiming: “They used to call me Brutalist. Now I say ‘I’m Heroic!’” Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo, and Mark Pasnik are authors of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston, published by The Monacelli Press in 2015. Grimley and Pasnik are principals at the architecture and design firm OverUnder. Kubo is an assistant professor at the University of Houston.
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Brutalist Long Beach City Hall to be torn down, replaced with apartments

The original city hall building in Long Beach, California, is a hulking, 14-story brutalist structure that has been generally disliked by residents and occupants alike. Like the other buildings that constitute the Long Beach Civic Center, which opened to the public in 1976, City Hall is facing a wrecking ball as plans to transform the site into an apartment complex begin to take shape. Designed by Allied Architects, a consortium of local modernist firms headed by Hugh and Donald Giggs (Gibbs & Gibbs, Architects), the building functioned as Long Beach’s city hall until July of last year, when its occupants moved into a shiny new SOM-designed Civic Center building completed nearby to replace several of the original Civic Center buildings. “We believe that architecture is at its best when it is both of its place and of its time,” Paul Danna, design lead for the new Civic Center project, told The Press-Telegram. “In terms of what [the project] represents, there’s a strong interest in the recognition of the importance of energy efficiency and sustainability and resiliency, as well as a real focus on the importance of the workplace for those who work in the building and those who visit.” Though the original courthouse and public library on the site have been demolished (in 2016 and 2020, respectively), the original city hall building has since stood vacant with few locals advocating for an adaptive reuse. Aside from local opinion, a recent set of seismic studies determined that the structure would most likely not survive a major earthquake and would require costly seismic upgrades. The Texas-based developed JPI revealed a proposal to the Long Beach Planning Commission for two eight-story apartment buildings that would stand in its place. The Los Angeles-based firm TCA Architects designed the two structures, which combined will provide 580 residential units above ground-floor retail spaces, and MJS Landscape Architecture provided designs for the surrounding open spaces. The shift in program signals a call to significantly densify downtown Long Beach, given that, aside from City Hall, the original master plan was low to the ground. “It was so lacking in density that developers could find a way to offer a new city hall and other things to trade for some of the land,” Don Gibbs told The Press-Telegram regarding the original design, “which was originally part of that institutional notion of less density and more contrast.”
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Massachusetts considers partial- to-full removal of Paul Rudolph’s Hurley Building

The future of the Paul Rudolph-designed Boston Government Service Center (BGSC) rests in the hands of the Massachusetts Historical Commission. Last October, the state announced the redevelopment of the Charles F. Hurley Building and this week, a new report was sent to the commission detailing four options for the Brutalist structure in downtown Boston that include partial or full demolition. Produced under the auspices of the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, the document is the result of deep dive by engineers and architects into the Hurley Building and its notoriously challenging interior layout. The first option explores removing a small part of the 237,000-square-foot structure to make way for a new, high-rise construction. A pedestrian-level walkway would splice throughout the site in an effort to open up the complex to the street. Each of the other options considers demolishing half, two-thirds, and eventually the entire building for the contemporary tower, respectively, with added urban design elements thrown into the mix.  In the coming months, the Massachusetts Historical Commission will either green light or scrap these options. If one or several are seriously considered, it could help bidding developers make more informed decisions about their individual plans for the 3.25-acre site. AN previously reported that solicitations for a development partner are expected to be issued by mid-2020 and that construction slated to begin within three years. The state is also making moves to relocate the various agencies and 675 government employees within the Hurley Building ahead of future work. Part of the allure for preservationists lies in the fact that it’s a Paul Rudolph design. Located just yards away from the 50-year-old Boston City Hall designed by Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles—which is currently undergoing a five-year-renovation, the Hurley Building and the rest of the complex further connect locals to Rudolph’s legacy of Brutalism in the city. One group, the Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation, believes the report didn’t fully acknowledge the fact that Rudolph designed the building from 1962 to 1966, which could hurt its case in the eyes of the historical commission. “They fully note the importance of his design guidelines for the project, and his direct work on the other [Lindemann] building—but are weaker on acknowledging the intensity of his influence on the design of the Hurley Building,” the foundation stated in a press release on its website.  This debate has been going on for quite some time and it’s unclear just how serious the state will take preservation. What is clear is that Massachusetts’ Governor Charlie Baker prefers to completely redevelop the site with little focus on adaptive reuse. 
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Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments are finally coming down in Buffalo

Paul Rudolph’s Brutalist Shoreline Apartments are finally under demolition in downtown Buffalo, New York after a three-year delay. A 2018 lawsuit filed in part by a resident had previously halted developer-owner Norstar Development from moving forward with razing the 9.5-acre site to make way for new affordable housing.  Built in 1974, the 142-unit complex rose at a time when Rudolph was experimenting with various Brutalist-style designs for the Western New York city, including the still-standing Niagara Falls Public Library. For Shoreline, the New York State Urban Development Corporation (UDC) brought him in to create a large-scale urban renewal project with a school, community center, and ample green space scattered throughout the site. Rudolph’s ambitious plan—which was never fully realized because the UDC ran out of money—was on view in a 1970 exhibition called Works in Progress at the Museum of Modern Art.  After just a few decades of use, the low-rise, ribbed concrete buildings, with their shed-style roofs and projecting balconies (reminiscent of Moshe Safdie’s Habitat 67), fell into disrepair as vacancies rose. The surrounding landscape, including the individual enclosed garden courts, were forgotten as people flocked further into Buffalo’s suburbs and away from high-density neighborhoods like Shoreline. Locals have been calling for the buildings’ demolition since the early 2000s, and the city worked up a deal with Norstar to configure an 18-building scheme in its place.  One round of demolitions occurred in 2015 after preservation groups failed to get the complex landmarked. A CityLab article from that same year profiled the remaining Shoreline resident, John Schmidt, who filed the lawsuit to stop Norstar’s plan. He noted that he loved living there, but he recognized how badly the building needed attention. Due to eventual poor management, he said, and a general distaste for Brutalist architecture at the start of the millennia, the legacy of Shoreline waned like many similar low-income housing projects from that era.  Schmidt was evicted in January of 2018. Norstar has already completed construction on 48 new units on-site—replacing the first section of buildings that were demolished—but says it will take up to two years to build the entire complex.
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Marcel Breuer's iconic Atlanta Central Library denied historic designation

Any hope left to landmark the Marcel Breuer-designed Atlanta Central Library may have been diminished this fall when the National Parks Service declared the Brutalist building ineligible thanks to the ongoing $50 million renovation.  The library has been a source of strain in the preservation world for years. At one point in 2016, its future hung in the balance as the city of Atlanta sought to potentially demolish the building. Since then, advocates have tried, and failed, to get the city to pass legislation that would save the building’s iconic exterior. Instead, construction crews began drilling into the concrete facade this summer, creating holes for what would be a set of windows across the minimal facade. Atlanta-based design firm Cooper Carry is leading the revamp. Below, the yellow construction paper is where the new window glass will be:  The renovations were mandated by Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System, which has been sprinting to update its structures and build new libraries throughout the city. For too long, the Central Library itself hasn’t been full of activity; the building isn't considered user-friendly largely because its interior lacks enough access to natural light. The library was opened in 1980 at the height of Brutalism's popularity, which has sharply fallen in recent years as more and more such structures across the U.S. face similar tough fates Curbed Atlanta reported that an attempt by Docomomo Georgia to designate the library on the National Register of Historic Places was declined this fall “since the property is currently undergoing rehabilitation and alterations.” As Curbed noted, Docomomo can resubmit the bid once the project is complete, but even if it had secured a historic designation prior to the window work, it’s likely the changes would have still been made due to public demand. 
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Massachusetts puts the Paul Rudolph-designed Hurley Building on the market

A piece of Boston’s brutalist Government Center has reached the end of the road. The Charles F. Hurley Building, designed between 1962 and 1966 by Paul Rudolph, has been placed on the market by the State of Massachusetts. Citing the building’s challenging layout—the top floor lacks windows on three sides, for starters, according to the Boston Globe’s report—as well as an outdated surrounding urban landscape, Governor Charlie Baker’s office plans to offer up the site for total redevelopment rather than adaptive reuse. The Hurley Building occupies a 3.25-acre site in downtown Boston, near North Station and the MBTA transit lines, and the move to open the site for development is expected to rake in tens of millions of dollars for the state. In pursuing a public-private partnership, the Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance plans to solicit an official redevelopment partner by mid-2020. The complex will accommodate new uses while retaining office space for some of the several state agencies currently housed in the building. Approximately 675 government employees work in the Hurley Building at the time of writing. News of the redevelopment quickly sparked a movement to save the building, which some consider among Boston’s brutalist treasures. The nearby Boston City Hall, built in 1968, has long been an icon of brutalism, even if it achieved that status through sheer controversy. Many architecture aficionados and critics have praised the Hurley Building's unabashed modernism, while a number of locals consider it nothing more than an eyesore. The Paul Rudolph Heritage Foundation published a blog post titled “S.O.S: - Save Rudolph’s Boston Government Center,” describing the Hurley Building as “one of Rudolph’s most interesting commissions, and a serious work of urban design.” In a call to action, the blog post encourages readers to leave comments on the Boston Globe article voicing their concerns with the project. Construction on the site is expected to begin within the next few years once the property finds a buyer. For now, the state is formulating plans to relocate its agencies to alternative sites.
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Chess set pays tribute to brutalist London

Board games like chess and Monopoly have some of the most creative game piece design on the market—but rather than another punny Monopoly for millennials, Skyline Chess, a London-based design brand founded by architects Chris Prosser and Ian Flood, creates bespoke chess sets with pieces inspired by iconic architecture around the world. Their latest edition? Brutalist London. The hand-cast resin set has a line up of built concrete celebrities, from the Barbican’s Cromwell Tower reigning as king to the stepped terracing of the Alexandra Road Estate forming a formidable wall of pawns. The board itself follows the concrete aesthetic, drawing inspiration from the fenestration of both Centre Point and One Kemble Street, designed by George Marsh. But this set is made for much more than casual gameplay—the set celebrates the extraordinarily rich, and controversial, tradition of brutalism in the city. Such late-20th-century architecture is threatened all over the world. Many of the great '60s concrete buildings in London have been deemed varying degrees of “ugly” in public polls, and some have been destroyed by the wrecking ball. Owen Luder has had three of his major works demolished in the 21st century already, notably the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth in 2004. But he is far from alone. Even the iconic buildings of London’s Southbank Centre have faced threats—the Hayward Gallery faced demolition before a multi-million-pound renovation was approved.   While the icons represented by the London Brutalist Skyline Chess set are constantly critiqued—and often rightfully so—they occupy a significant place in architecture history that is worth remembering. The sculptural forms of these brutalist buildings become approachable at a miniaturized scale. Seeing the entire form shiny from above, rather than looming at street level on a gray London day, makes them accessible pieces of art. Maybe this set is a case for saving brutalist London and keeping the next cheque-mated car park from the wrecking ball.
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Harvard updates skin of brutalist campus center for the 21st century

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The Greater Boston area is home to a large collection of brutalist structures. Now, with these historic buildings passing their semicentennials, municipalities and institutions are reappraising their original designs and coming up with solutions to adapt them to contemporary needs. Harvard's Smith Campus Center, a colossal academic building located on Massachusetts Avenue across from Harvard Yard, is an exemplar of this trend, with a significant overhaul led by design architect Hopkins Architects and executive architect Bruner/Cott Architects consisting of facade restoration and the insertion of glazed pavilions. Formerly known as the Holyoke Center, the Smith Campus Center, completed in 1966, was designed by Josep Lluis Sert, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1953 to 1969. In total, the center's original design encompassed over 360,000 square feet and reached a height of 10 stories. The massing was generally an extruded H-shaped plan, with a three-story pavilion found on the north elevation. For the design team, the goal of the project was the retention and strengthening of the original concrete-and-glass facade through sealant removal, concrete cutting and chipping, and glass replacement, and the opening of the ground level with a new glass curtainwall.
  • Facade Manufacturer Roschmann Steel & Glass Constructions, Inc Saint-Gobain
  • Architect Hopkins Architects (Design Architect) Bruner/Cott Architects (Executive Architect)
  • Facade Installer Roschmann Steel & Glass Constructions, Inc
  • Construction Manager Consigli Construction Company
  • Facade Consultant Simpson Gumpertz Heger Arup (structural engineer)
  • Location Cambridge, MA
  • Date of Completion 2018
  • System Custom Roschmann Steel & Glass system
  • Products Saint Gobain Glass COOL-LITE SKN 076 II
The design team conducted extensive studies prior to the intensive intervention. "Restoration originated in 2008 with a study by Simpson Gumpertz & Heger and Bruner/Cott Architects," said Bruner/Cott principal Henry Moss. "Two vertical drops down the 100-foot height of Sert's concrete facade identified areas of incipient spalls from cast-in-place concrete. In 2013, the same team did a binocular survey from street level to locate fractures and estimate the frequency of different types of repair for the building as a whole." Similar to many mid-century structures, the Smith Campus Center was beleaguered by environmental performance issues—low-E coatings did not exist in this area, and the bulk of the building's windows were single glazed. To bring the Center up to contemporary environmental and performance standards, Bruner/Cott designed a new system of insulated glazing systems. Additionally, Sert's original design featured non-tempered glass—the present building code requires safety film for any fenestration located 25 feet above pedestrian areas. "On all but the north elevation, new clear films provided enhanced solar control with a slight shift towards a bluer hue," continued Moss. "Thirty-five-year-old reflective solar films were removed from all elevations to restore the figure-ground relationship between translucent and clear panes in the composition of facades by restoring transparency to Sert's "vision panels." While a significant portion of the project was dedicated to the renovation of Sert's brutalist complex, the footprint's forecourt provided an opportunity to embed a contemporary welcome pavilion. The pavilion's new glass panels, typically measuring 7'-8" wide by 11'-2" tall and 1 ¾" thick, were double-laminated with polyvinyl butyral and a 16mm argon-filled void. The glass curtainwall is held in place by toggles fastened back to the custom-fabricated interior columns. Panels located atop the pavilion are 7'-8" feet wide and 18'-3" tall. Henry Moss, Bruner/Cott principal, will be presenting a deeper dive into this project at the upcoming Facades+ conference in Boston on June 25. For more details, along with registration info, visit Facades+ Boston.
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Neighbors and preservationists sue N.Y.C. Parks Department to save a rare brutalist landscape

After a year and a half of radio silence, a contentious plan to transform the northwest entrance of Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park is back in the spotlight. Friends of Fort Greene Park, a collection of neighborhood residents and preservationists, and the Sierra Club have brought a lawsuit against the N.Y.C. Parks Department in the New York State Supreme Court over plans to modernize the park and remove a rare landscape intervention from Arthur Edwin (A.E.) Bye, Jr. Jump back to 2017, when the proposal to build a new grand entrance at the northwestern corner of the park first came before the Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The 30-acre Fort Greene Park was Brooklyn’s first and originally grew out of the military fort from which the neighborhood took its name. The city brought Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux on in 1868 to turn the green space into an official park, and the duo cut tight, winding pathways that offered wide views of the planted landscape, similar to their work in Prospect Park and Central Park decades later. The park has been updated three times since then, but the basic layouts and deference to the Olmsted and Vaux plan have remained consistent throughout. In the early 1900s, McKim, Mead & White cut across the meadow in the park’s northwest corner to improve access to the Prison Ship Martyrs’ Monument, a 150-foot-tall column dedicated to the over-11,500 American prisoners who died on British ships during the Revolutionary War. The monument is reached by climbing a 100-foot-wide granite staircase cut into the side of a hill. In 1971, landscape architect A.E. Bye was commissioned to accentuate the path from the park’s entrance to the sweeping monument steps using cobblestones and native plants. Bye, who rarely took on public projects, proposed a series of subtle, multipurpose brutalist mounds reminiscent of graves—a reference to the prisoners interred in the crypts below the monument. Bye worked largely through sculpture and drawings to realize his designs, and a pre-Diller Scofidio + Renfro-era Ricardo Scofidio was enlisted to help create a drawing set that the city could build from. A $10.5 million renovation and a “grand new entrance” to the park would scrap that. The improvements are part of the Parks Department’s Parks Without Borders initiative, which seeks to break down barriers between city parks and the street to create a more inviting landscape. The new scheme would move the park’s entrance to the corner and create a direct route to the monument through the existing circular garden…and Bye’s mounds. Those would be leveled to create a tree-lined “boulevard,” while 58 trees would be removed. The Parks Department claims that the mounds impede ADA accessibility, although the new flattened concrete plaza would terminate at the steps of the monument. Those changes were unanimously approved by the LPC in November of 2017. Then, on April 1 of this year, Friends of Fort Greene Park, the Sierra Club, and Michael Gruen, president of The City Club of New York and the attorney for Friends, filed a petition (here) with the State Supreme Court over the decision. The Parks Department claims that of the 52 mature trees it would be removing, 38 are for design purposes and 14 are in failing health. Twenty-eight of those trees are Norway maple, a species that the department classifies as an invasive species with a typical lifespan of 60 years in City parks, and many are at least 50 years old at the time of writing. Additionally, another 31 trees would be removed for a drainage project near the park—13 for design reasons and 18 for their condition. The department states that in keeping with their tree restitution plan, 80 trees would be planted in and around Fort Greene Park. Additionally, the department states that these improvements, as well as adding a basketball court and expanding the barbecue area, were all researched with input from elected officials, the community board, and the surrounding neighborhood. Friends of Fort Greene Park disagrees with that assessment, claiming that the department was able to avoid conducting a full environmental review. When the group had previously filed a Freedom of Information Act request over the environmental impact statement, it received a heavily redacted version. Over one-quarter of the 150-page report was blacked out. “Despite community outcry, the Parks Department is proceeding with plans to cut 58 park trees, and to bulldoze popular landscape features in the historic park,” reads a statement from Friends of Fort Greene Park. “Neighbors had no alternative but to sue the Parks Department, to compel the city to do the required environmental review assessing the impact of the proposed project. Neighbors had earlier brought a successful court action against Parks to release secret documents about the decision to remove mature park trees. “Despite a court order, Parks has refused to fully comply with the release of documents. Neighbors believe that documents will reveal that Parks had misled city officials about the health of the park trees, creating a false impression that the trees were in poor health when the opposite is true. Fort Greene neighbors commissioned an independent arborist's report that proved the trees were in excellent health. “In addition to removing scores of trees, the Parks Department plan would also demolish a picnic area and rolling landscape mounds that are popular with neighborhood families. In what neighbors see as a scandalous act of social engineering, the Parks plan would relocate the leafy picnic grounds to a new, and more exposed site across the street from an existing NYCHA building, and away from the planned luxury high-rise.” While the lawsuit is still pending (the first filed at the state level to protect a brutalist structure), Friends has pledged that it will continue to raise awareness of the issue. When reached for a statement, the Parks Department wrote that it doesn't comment on pending litigation. AN will follow this story closely as it develops.
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Tunisia's high-flying Brutalist hotel is safe after demolition scare

The perennially endangered Hôtel du Lac in Tunis, the Tunisian capital, is safe after rumors of its impending demolition swirled online. Often compared to an inverted pyramid or a sandcrawler from Star Wars (it’s rumored that the hotel was the inspiration for the giant desert trawler—Episode IV was filmed in Tunisia), the brutalist hotel’s “wings” have made it a stalwart part of Tunis’s skyline. Completed in 1973 by Italian architect Raffaele Contigiani, the top-heavy concrete hotel is one of the city’s oldest. The 10-story, 416-room tower sprouts dramatic cantilevers on both sides as it rises, ending in a top floor twice as wide as the base. The growing effect is magnified by hanging staircases reminiscent of exhaust pipes at either side of the hotel, which serve as the building’s main circulation paths. Brutalism left a lasting legacy in the Middle East and North Africa throughout the second half of the twentieth century, and the hotel’s unconventional form and use of exposed concrete and steel set it apart from anything else in Tunis. Hôtel du Lac has, however, sat empty since 2000. After the building was purchased by the Libyan Arab Foreign Investment Company (LAFICO) in 2013, the company has expressed its desire to tear down Hôtel du Lac and replace it with a modern luxury hotel tower. Fears of the building’s destruction roiled over last month when architect and preservationist Sami Aloulou stated that the building was slated for demolition. The news quickly spread across Brutalism sub-Reddits and Instagram accounts, leading to a petition asking that the Mayor of Tunis reject the demolition permit. Several alternative uses for the building, including turning it into an innovation center, have been floated. Ultimately, the city issued a statement on February 19 denying the rumors, stating that they had not received a request to tear the hotel down. While the historic building is safe for now, LAFICO has not publicly changed its plans to replace the hotel with a modern equivalent.
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Coworking concept Fosbury & Sons sets up shop in a Brutalist Brussels gem

For Belgian coworking start-up Fosbury & Sons, repurposing underused office blocks has become a calling card. Rapidly expanding with new outposts throughout Belgium and the rest of Europe, the young company has strategically chosen historic buildings, designed by relatively unknown modernist architects, to fit out its unique brand of shared workspaces. Fosbury & Sons aims to do away with the old office model and instead offer a much-needed alternative for today’s mobile professional. “We spend half of our lives working in uniform environments that haven’t fundamentally changed in fifty years,” explains Fosbury & Sons cofounder Stijn Geeraets. “Most offices are undervalued when it comes to design and the consideration of experience. But workers are starting to reject this uninspiring sea of sameness.” The challenge of creating new models of working environments within old office towers is not lost on Geeraets and his partners. “We like the idea of using old buildings that have almost completely lost their soul. We’re infusing them with new life and activity that is more sustainable in the long run,” he explains. While Fosbury & Sons’ first office—in Antwerp, Belgium—occupies Léon Stynen’s 1958 WATT-tower, its second location, in Brussels, takes over a whopping 23,000 square feet of a former concrete company headquarters: a distinctly Brutalist tower designed by Constantin Brodzki in 1970. Set along the city’s green periphery, the monolithic building strikes a memorable pose with its peculiar facade, composed of 756 prefabricated oval concrete modules. The convex windows they contain create a three-dimensional texture. Fosbury & Sons tapped local studio Going East to design the layout and interior of both the Antwerp and Brussels complexes. Inside the latter building, the studio worked with the preexisting structure, sculptural shell, and notable architectural details to reorganize the massive space. Its choice of earth tones extends the building’s late modernist aesthetic. Hay, Vitra, Norr11, and classic Danish Modern furniture were also used to drive the overall concept home. Spread across seven floors, a series of “Suite” and “Atelier” private offices, breakout lounges, and meeting spaces can accommodate 600 members. An integrated daycare center makes it possible for them to interact with their children throughout the day. While the Coffeelabs restaurant and lobby bar on the lower floors are best suited for impromptu meetings, Bar Giorgio on the top floor offers sweeping views of the nearby Sonian Forest and provides a space to unwind at the end of the day. Fifteen meeting rooms and a large auditorium are also available for temporary use. Combining amenities from home and hotel, the holistic vision for this project culminates with a rotating art collection. Top Belgian gallerists like Rodolphe Janssen and Veerle Verbakel have been charged with selecting art and limited-edition design pieces that are exhibited throughout the building.
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Bertrand Goldberg's brutalist River City building gets controversial paint job

Preservationists are up in arms over a paint job made by the new owners of Bertrand Goldberg’s brutalist River City condominium in Chicago. Crews are currently brightening the exposed concrete walls that line the building’s soaring atrium to a stark shade of white. According to Crain’s Chicago Business, some consider it an act of vandalism. Built in 1986, the iconic mixed-use building features a serpentine design and a lightly undulating facade full of arcing windows. Its 10-story atrium is lit by thinly ribbed glass openings on the roof. The structure is situated in the city’s South Loop neighborhood and hovers over the Chicago River on a series of plinths, making it accessible by boat. Though it's not a landmarked building, it's a staple of Goldberg’s Chicago architecture and impressive to many. Its textured grey tones are enhanced by daylight, but its new owners want to create an even more modern feel to attract residents, hence the new white color. Last month, the property was co-purchased by its new ownership, a group of real estate investors, for $90.5 million. The sale marked the largest condominium deconversion in Chicago history, According to The Real Deal, it took two years of negotiations to sort out the deal so that the owners could transform the 449-unit complex into a fully renovated rental apartment building. Painting the atrium is step one towards that goal.   Well-known local critic Lee Bey told Crain’s the decision is “a shame,” and that the building’s expression is best understood within its curved walls. “It really is a significant change to a space that Goldberg thought out very carefully,” he said. “He brings this curvilinear ‘street’ inside the building, with the sun coming in from above. He thought of it as a street in Paris.” Under its new ownership, River City is set to receive an updated lobby, a new fitness center, co-working spaces, and communal areas. The existing 250,000 square feet of office and retail space will also be upgraded.