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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

GREG GALER
Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

City Hall – Another Round?

May 30th, 2013  |  Posted by: Greg Galer

Two recent articles once again raise the cause of Boston City Hall, a long-debated aspect of the city’s built environment.  It’s a polarizing building – most people either love it or hate it.

Just last week a piece by Jim Borgesani on WBUR’s “Cogniscenti” web site challenges the new Mayor to take action and remove and replace City Hall (“How to Win the Mayor’s Race and Do Us a Favor in the Process” (http://tinyurl.com/p43fjge)

Yet is that all that City Hall deserves?  Is it really so simple that we just throw the baby out with the bath water (at huge expense, I must add), and say “Wipe it off the face of the earth and move on?”  This week another opinion emerged, as it always seems to do when this topic comes up.  The Boston Globe’s May 29 “Boston Calling festival  reinvigorates City Hall Plaza” points to a more positive perspective gained on City Hall during a recent festival.  (http://tinyurl.com/nhe59ws)  A musician is quoted as saying “That building over there gets a bad rap… But from here, it looks beautiful.”  See, it isn’t always so bad.  I suggest there is another way to look at the situation.

Perhaps the problem is that we’ve been beating up on City Hall and its Plaza for way too long. Rather than sprucing it up, making changes and alterations to address its admitted flaws, we’ve exacerbated the problem with mistreatment.  Vehicles randomly park all over the poorly-kempt plaza, a variety of barriers and make-shift security additions litter the grounds and the building’s first floor, stairways are closed, etc.  The general lack of repair, lack of upkeep, and absence of normal rounds of organized upgrades piled upon this building would make the best of buildings look bad.  It’s as if we purchased a suit that needed alterations and instead of heading to a skilled tailor dragged out the sewing box and tacked on pieces willy-nilly.  Lived in the suit for years, never brought it to the cleaners, made more bad alterations, then complained it was a bad suit.  Of course it looks bad and functions poorly given how it’s been treated!  Let’s take a serious stab at rejuvenating City Hall and the plaza and you may be surprised by the results.

Admittedly, Mid-Century modern buildings are a challenge. Even those who focus on their significance within the long timeline of architectural history would admit that. Many were built as experiments that were recognized as far from home-run successes soon after they opened.  But does that mean we should add insult to injury by piling on?  Let’s takes what’s good and works and make changes to address the problems.

The next time you walk by City Hall think of how much a little TLC and some creative thinking could do.  Yes, the time has come, but not to demolish but to give this building the attention it deserves. Let’s make it right rather than make it go away.

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