HEROIC: Boston Concrete Architecture 1957-1976
“Heroic” surveys Boston's concrete architecture from 1957 to 1976, a remarkable period of design that transformed the city into the "New Boston."
“Heroic” presents the concrete structures that highlighted the era from the founding of the Boston Redevelopment Authority in 1957 to the re-opening of Quincy Market in 1976. These events bracket a remarkable period in which concrete was used as a building material in the transformation of Boston—creating what was eventually referred to as the “New Boston.” Concrete provided an important set of architectural opportunities and challenges for the design community, which fully explored the material’s structural and sculptural qualities. At this time, Boston was shaped by some of the world’s most influential architects: Le Corbusier, I. M. Pei, Walter Gropius, Paul Rudolph, Josep Lluis Sert, Tad Stahl, Hugh Stubbins, Minoru Yamasaki, Marcel Breuer, Eduardo Catalano, Araldo Cossutta, and Gerhard Kallmann and Michael McKinnell, among many other luminaries.
Boston was at the forefront of architectural thinking, embracing this new material in a mission to expand and transform the city. There was a great deal of enthusiasm for this work within the architecture community. Whole new districts and vast infrastructural improvements appeared, serving the needs of government, hospitals, universities, housing, and, to a lesser extent, the financial sector. Some of these developments were important to modernizing the city. Others fractured communities in the name of misguided urban renewal.
Today we see a widespread disdain for concrete buildings. Many are in danger of being demolished or irrevocably and unwisely altered. Some already have been. Others are constantly being bandied about for demolition or equally destructive fates (notably Kallmann, McKinnell, and Knowles’ Boston City Hall and Paul Rudolph’s Health and Human Services Building, both part of the vast Government Center urban renewal project that reshaped the downtown center of the city).
What were once heralded as heroic visions in remaking a city have now become perceived as hubristic and brutal. But Boston has never been just a city of brick. With the vast amount and high quality of concrete architecture produced during the Heroic era of modernism, Boston was, and is, significantly a concrete city.
The team has mounted an initial exhibition of our research, created an online archive, and developed a significant outline for further research which will culminate in an international publication. The book will be co-edited by the Heroic team, with invited essays and interviews from a number of sources. Contributors include designers from the Heroic era, architectural historians and critics, architectural materials specialists, structural engineers, and young and emerging architects working in Boston today.
Funding will be used to developing our ongoing research, including video interviews with surviving architects from the Heroic era, high-resolution scanning of original drawings and archival material, and the design of an expanded web archive. Funding will also be used to support production of content for the book, including graphic design, mockups, and fees for authors to write original texts. The team has already received significant interest from architectural publishers who will support the printing and international distribution of the final book.
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