The Bruts of Boston

If one can tear themselves away from the cobblestoned beauty of Quincy market, from the culinary delights of Faneuil Hall, and from the narrow streets of the Italian North End that is practically bursting at its seams with history, and head towards Government center and City Hall in what was known as Scollay Square, one will come face to face with these gargantuan, yet lyrical, concrete giants of brutalism.

The post-World War II era put Boston on a path to reinvigorate itself and tear off the shackles of narrow cobblestones streets and old brownstone buildings. Brutalism architecture with its honest, concrete, progressive look seemed to fit the bill.

Brutalism is a sub-genre of modernist architecture that lasted from 1950s to mid-70s. It is so called not because of the “brutish” appearance of the building but is taken from the French term for raw concrete, “beton brut.” It was mostly used for government buildings, schools, and public housing built after World War II.  Brutalism is characterized by the blocky appearance of buildings that most often have a recurring geometric design and are built with massive amounts of poured concrete.

Boston City Hall and the Government Center buildings stand a stone’s throw from the Quincy market – but centuries separate these two sites architecturally. Other buildings followed -including the State Street Bank, Boston Five Cents Savings Bank, the Harbor Towers and the MIT Hermann Building. Today Boston boasts the largest concentration of brutalist architecture in the US.

Government Center Building

(All imges courtesy of Boston Magazine and Architectural Digest websites).