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Mike Merrill

I love this style so much!


And so it begins...
There are a whole generation of buildings like this. They do have a "simple grandness", but the desire to make this kind of architectural statement resulted in hard, cold, closed and austere buildings.
Any public building of this vintage (over 50 years old) will need be required to have a historic review. My fear is that preservationists will be too dogmatic with respect to these oppressive structures.
I feel and need to preserve some of the better examples of this style but leaving the potential for modifying the majority to make them more inviting and useable.
Other than architects and preservationists, there will be few champions for these brutal buildings as they stand.
The massive nature of these buildings will lends itself to natural ventilation because of their thermal mass. If we can open them up more then they could have a new, healthy life.
They are big and use a lot of material and it would be foolish to not use the existing structures.
So, to sum up...Save the "good" examples and reuse and open the rest.
Great photos from Mr. Ginn as usual. The photo documentation is a great asset for the design community.

Wes Shoger

The only people who defend Boston's City Hall and its empty plaza are whiny architects. Most people actually don't like it (despite your mixed bag claims) evidence by the fact that people willingly vote with their feet to NOT go there in the first place.

I'd surmise the defenders of this building and others like it will be in the same category.

Ironically, this architectural period destroyed so many historical buildings for its freeways, brutalist forms, and Corbusian mentality towards history and context. Why should we afford the same respect to these buildings and its architects? They certainly didn't to other buildings and architects.

Architecture has turned into this gigantic esoteric movement. I suppose "normal" people couldn't possibly understand the meaning of not having any windows and a doorway that is hidden in the cold, dark, shadows.

What's next? Architectural review for a snout-style tract home in suburbia?

Brian Libby


There's a lot of valid truth in what you're saying. These buildings and this broader era of Brutalism were unsuccessful in many ways.

But I take issue with your tone and disagree with the sweeping generalizations you're making.

There is no architectural era in world history that is without merit, or without the right to be preserved as an expression of its time. I'm not saying we should bow down before Boston City Hall as a great example, nor that this or other Brutalist buildings don't have a lot of problems. However, it is a recurring mistake - generation after generation - to think they have all the answers, or the right to judge architecture definitively without the hindsight of historical context. What's more, the best cities are a collection of buildings from every era. Maybe some of these buildings just need liberally-minded renovations, be it windows or other interventions to make them more humane. It is to our huge peril that we judge the past dismissively and think we know better. That is precisely what the Brutalists did, and why their buildings are brutal. All I'm saying is that we should be respectful of the past, not to leave these buildings untouched but to be wary of the wrecking ball.

I'll bet you and I generally agree on this type of issue more than we disagree, but I'd also advise against making this out as a black and white issue when there is plenty of gray area. Even as an architecture journalist for the past decade, I don't claim to have all the answers here. I'd respectfully but heartily recommend that approach.


As a Vancouver resident, I never found the City Hall all that interesting, but I do have to profess my love for the walk-up Burgerville just around the corner built only a few years earlier. As the second ever Burgerville turns 50 soon, it's already slated for demolition in the name of progress and redevelopment. It's a shame, really.

Kitty Corbusier

What do I think of Vanc. city hall? Absolutely horrid design. Never was good, never will be. Typical of the era. Total focus on exterior imagery. Only redeeming value is the cool 70s smell of the interior of these stale boxes. I seriously love it. The old Fort Vancouver Library is a much better example of civic 60s design. And much more endearing. Same awesome smell.

Wes Shoger

Sure, I made some very sweeping generalizations. I would personally like to err on the side of caution when dealing with preservation as history has proven we were very myopic in building preservation. Especially in Portland despite having some gems still in tact.

But I don't need to look at this building more than 10 seconds and note that it has little value in its current form. I might be brazen enough to say it has little rehab potential too (installing windows would ruin the original architect's intent, no?)

If I have to look at the entire field of historic building preservation and how I can advance it -- I'm not going to waste my time worrying about ranch homes and cold civic buildings and dead public spaces.

There's too much work to do as is for us to worry about this building.



Actually, we do need to worry about buildings like this. Like I said earlier, there is a whole generation of buildings that will need attention. If they are public buildings, the historic relevance will need to be addressed. If they are private buildings we will need to weight the value of keeping them as is, modifying or demolishing them.
It will be interesting...

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