The Case for Calling Brutalism ‘Heroic’ Instead

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The Case for Calling Brutalism 'Heroic' Instead
Paul Rudolph, Government Service Center, 1962–71

A conversation with the creators of Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston, which explores the city’s remarkable urban renewal legacy.

1950s Boston, with its stagnant economy, aging infrastructure, and impenetrable culture of corruption, was in need of a few heroes. Some say it got a bunch of concrete-loving villains instead. But a new book hopes to change the way Boston’s urban renewal history—and the entire architectural period that represents it—is viewed and described.

Initiated after then-Mayor Thomas Menino first proposed demolishing Boston City Hall, in late 2006, a trio of Boston architects and designers, Mark Pasnik, Michael Kubo and Chris Grimley, have compiled years of research, interviews, and a popular exhibit on the topic into the Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston.

A thorough look back at the forces behind Boston’s revival between 1957 (the creation of the Boston Redevelopment Authority) to 1976 (the revitalization of Quincy Market), Heroic is an important addition to the growing conversation about Brutalism—or, as the authors prefer, “Heroic” architecture. In fact, the book reads like a template for how to properly tell the story of any American city’s concrete architecture. […]