Boston, city of charming Colonial-era brick rowhouses lining narrow cobblestone streets. Not exactly the place you’d expect to incubate a modern design revolution. And yet, when Brutalism first came to the US, the hard-edge architectural movement took its firmest hold here.
The new book Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston by Mark Pasnik, Chris Grimley and Michael Kubo explores how Boston became an unlikely home for many of the world’s great concrete buildings.
As Boston attempted to modernize after World War II, the city stood at a crossroads: Many of its historic structures didn’t fit into the city’s ambitious urban renewal plans. The “New Boston,” as it was termed, was authored by a stellar roster of talent who remade many of the city’s most popular civic and public spaces. Architecture greats Marcel Breuer, Henry N. Cobb, I. M. Pei, Paul Rudolph, and even the progenitor of Brutalist style, Le Corbusier, came to build in Boston.
Although the controversial style has not won over all Boston residents—the polarizing design of Boston’s City Hall remains a contentious dinner party topic—there’s no question that Brutalism helped to revitalize the aging city and orient it firmly towards the future. Here are some greatest-hits from the book.
Boston University skyline
Photo: Phokion Karas
Church Park Apartments and circular garage
Designed by The Architects Collaborative. Photo: Wayne Soverns Jr.
Designed by Sert, Jackson & Associates, 1962–64. Photo: Phokion Karas
Madison Park High School
Designed by Marcel Breuer & Associates, 1967–77. Photo: Nick Wheeler, Courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, Harvard University Graduate School of Design
Designed by Sert, Jackson & Associates, 1958–67. Photo: Phokion Karas
Cecil and Ida Green Center for Earth Sciences
Designed by I. M. Pei & Associates, 1959–64. Photo: Mark Pasnik
State Street Bank
Designed by F. A. Stahl & Associates, Pearl Street Associates, 1960–66. Photo: Phokion Karas
Government Service Center
Designed by Paul Rudolph, 1962–71. Photo: Robert Perron
Photo: Mark Pasnik
Charlestown Branch Library
Designed by Eduardo Catalano, 1967–70. Photo: Mark Pasnik
Boston City Hall and Plaza
Designed by Kallman, McKinnell & Knowles, 1962–69. Photo: © Ezra Stoller/Esto
Photo: Mark Pasnik
Top image: Government Service Center designed by Paul Rudolph , 1962–71. Photo: Mark Pasnik