Bostons Brutalist government center building scheduled for destruction–without a plan to save its treasured mural

Charles F. Hurley Building & Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center Image courtesy Gunnar Klack/Flickr

Another Brutalist building may soon bite the dust, and along with it a treasured postwar mural by the artist Constantino Nivola. Last week Massachusetts officials announced that the Charles F. Hurley Building inside Bostons Government Service Center would be redeveloped for private use. The decision comes as real estate prices in the city spike, meaning that the state could earn tens of millions of dollars from the potential deal.

“I am deeply concerned about the fate of Paul Rudolphs Brutalist masterpiece,” says Theodore Grunewald, a curator and architect involved in several preservation efforts around the US. “Im fearful that Massachusetts is about to commit a stupid and shortsighted act of cultural vandalism.”

Although Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker has assured preservationists that stakeholders will be consulted if and when the corrugated cement building is demolished, some historians arent taking their chances. Thats because many consider the Charles F. Hurley Building to be an important example of the Brutalist style. It was designed in the 1960s by Paul Rudolph, a student of the Bauhaus movement who became a champion of the Modernist aesthetic as chair of Yale Universitys School of Architecture. In 1963, he built the schools lauded Art and Architecture Building, another one of his Brutalist creations. Likewise, Nivola also made a name for himself in the postwar years. The Italian artist immigrated to the United States during World War II and became known for unique sand-casting and cement-sculpting techniques that adorned shops on Fifth Avenue and the gallery walls of the art dealer Leo Castelli in New York.

Over the last few decades, several of Nivolas murals have been destroyed and walled over. In the 1970s, his landmark carvings at the Olivetti showroom on New Yorks Fifth Avenue were disassembled, and some were turned into rubble. And in 2006, his wall relief for Harvard Law Schools International Legal Studies Center was hidden behind a plain wall adorned with other examples of Modern art. Consequently, Nivolas prominence in postwar art history has waned. For many art historians, that makes their mission to salvage his mural at the Government Service Center all the more important.

“If this mural is destroyed, we will all be losing a unique and priceless example of public mural art by an artist of unique wit and talent and international reputation,” says Michele Bogart, a professor at Stony Brook University who specialises in the history of public art. “The sense of context and historical place will be fundamentally lost if the palpable physical traces of that place go. Too much of this is happening now, and it needs to stop.”

Many Bostonians, however, would be happy to see Rudolphs cement giant disappear from the skyline. Since its creaRead More – Source