Tuesday, November 18, 2008

I've been saying it for years...

But now Jules Crittenden, the Boston Herald (that's the relatively good Boston paper, vs the other one which is wholly owned and operated by the New York Times)and the members of VirtualTourist.com have all affirmed my opinion that:

Boston City Hall is the UGLIEST BUILDING IN THE WORLD (or at least the ugliest public building anyway. There are some industrial sites uglier).

I came to this opinion the very first time I saw the monstrosity; but that opinion was solidified in the early 90's, when I actually worked at Government Center (what they call the "square" surrounding the damn thing).

I worked at a book shop in the little concrete trough at the southwest corner (basically just to the bottom right corner of the second photograph); and had to look at the hideous concrete wedding cake every day.

Worse of course is that it is situated in the heart of Bostons most beautiful buildings (especially the work of Charles Bullfinch). This is the view from the southeast facing windows, out into Fanueil Hall, and Quincy Market:

And here's Fanueil hall itself:

And here is the old state house, which is not quite directly across the street (it's across the street, but there are a couple of smaller buildings in the way):

Of course it's only made worse by comparing it to other public buildings around Boston, like the NEW state house (new being a relative term; it having been built around 1798, vs. 1713), which is a few hundred yards to the west (on the edge of Boston Common):

Or say, the Boston Custom house tower, a few hundred yards to the east (you can see the old north church steeple in that picture to the right):

And it's not just Bostons Colonial, Georgian, and Federal architecture that works. We generally get it right when it comes to new construction as well.

This is Rowes Wharf, and the new Boston Harbor Hotel; a development from the 80s, about 1000 yards from government center:

I don't know... perhaps how much of a blot Government Center, and City Hall, are on Boston can best be appreciated from above.

In Boston, the architecture follows the city; unlike in most other cities where the city follows the architecture. Boston isn't a grid; the streets were laid out as natural pathways in the late 1600s; and then again in the early 1800s, as land was reclaimed from the harbor. There are no straight lines in Boston.

Boston is full of organic shapes, and the buildings were made to fit into those shapes naturally. Boston is green, and red, and brown. A city for walking. A city of small public squares, none of which are square; and many parks, and public spaces, and little almost villages.

Boston may be a metro area of 5 million people; but the core of the city is only about 600,000; and it is scaled to fit.

Look at Government center in these photographs:

It's just one gigantic concrete and brick paved geometric space, right in the heart of Boston. Not only is it ugly, it is completely at odds with the entire city. It is surrounded by green, and round, and natural; and there it is, gray and concrete and the worst parts of artificial.

It is, simply, the worst public building in the world.

Don't just take my word for it though, here's the Herald:
"It’s official now. Boston City Hall is the ugliest building . . . in the world!

Bostonians didn’t need VirtualTourist.com and City Hall’s top billing on the World’s Top 10 Ugliest Buildings and Monuments list to figure that out. Residents have known it pretty much since the hard-on-the-eyes pile of concrete and bricks went up.

And like a good hard-nosed pol, Mayor Thomas M. Menino isn’t sulking. He plans to use the slur as ammo in his long-running battle to abandon the architectural eyesore for a City Hall on South Boston’s waterfront.

“Coming out and saying it solidifies it in my opinion,” Menino said. “People all around the world agree with me.”

City Hall was singled out for its dreary facade, cold interior, its big, empty, windswept plaza, as well as the way its monstrous, angular frame dominates its surroundings, said VirtualTourist.com general manager Giampiero Ambrosi.

The Web site, which claims 1 million members, placed the Hub horror ahead of such architectural atrocities as the Port Authority bus station in New York City, Montparnasse Tower in Paris and the LuckyShoe monument in Tuuri, Finland, a golden horseshoe overshadowing the Baltic country’s second-largest shopping mall.

Menino noted a bright side. The world’s ugliest building could be a tourism boon. “We really do have it all, the most historic places in the world and the ugliest building in the word,” he joked.

But whether a tourism campaign can be built around that blockhouse remains to be seen. Yesterday, out-of-towners passed it by without giving it a second thought.

“That’s gotta go,” said Ivette Arenas of San Francisco, when it was pointed out to her on her way to the Common. “You have some of the best (buildings), and right here you have the worst.”

“It is a pretty ugly building,” agreed Carol Sue Graves of Orange, Va., as she walked to Faneuil Hall.

An example of the “New Brutalism” school of design, City Hall was seen as a clean break from Boston’s past, said Jeff Stein, dean of the Boston Architectural College.

“They were looking for something new and startling,” Stein said. “And boy did it succeed.”

But Councilor Michael Flaherty, a skeptic of moving City Hall, said that even with the world’s ugliest edifice, it’s what on the inside that counts.

“You can have the best-looking building in the world, but what matters most is accessibility, transparency and accountability,” Flaherty said."
Oh and here's the rest of the list of the 10 worst:
"2. The Montparnasse Tower in Paris, France. Ugh la la!

3. The LuckyShoe Monument in Tuuri, Finland. Step away!

4. The Metropolitan Cathedral in Liverpool, England. Spaced out.

5. The NYC Port Authority Bus Terminal. Get outta town!

6. Torres de Colon, Madrid. They call it “The Plug.” Pull it!

7. The Liechtenstein Museum of Fine Arts. No masterpiece.

8. The Scottish Parliament Building in Edinburgh. Nae, laddie!

9. The Birmingham Central Library in Birmingham, U.K. Shhhh!

10. The Peter the Great Statue in Moscow. Like Ivan, it’s terrible!"
HT to Coyote Blog