Over the weekend, The New York Times posted a story titled "Architecture’s Ugly Ducklings May Not Get Time to Be Swans," about the plight of the Brutalist-style Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York. The pixelated concrete building -- designed by modernist architect Paul Rudolph and completed in 1967 -- was closed last September following damage from Tropical Storm Irene, and is currently in danger of being demolished.
The Orange County Government Center, currently in danger of demolition. (Photo: Ani Od Chai)
The Times opened the topic up to debate in their opinion section, asking the question "Are Some Buildings Too Ugly to Survive?" To open discussion, they asked for statements on the building, its style, and its worth from five people, all coming from different perspectives.
Atrocities Should Be Eliminated - Anthony M. Daniels, New Criterion
"Buildings should be preserved for one of two reasons: they were the site of events of great historic importance, or they are of aesthetic merit. Buildings in the Brutalist style -- which uses raw concrete or other materials to make art galleries look like fallout shelters -- are certainly aesthetically outstanding: unfortunately, in an entirely negative sense. A single such building can ruin an entire townscape, and it is often difficult to believe that such ruination was not the intention of the architect."
The Value of Finding Value in What’s Unusual - Allison Arieff, The New York Times
"This country’s tolerance for all but the most familiar architecture is frustratingly low. For that reason Modernist buildings, like those of an architect as bold and unique as Paul Rudolph, have been particularly hard hit. Though the World Monuments Fund has described his Orange County government building as a testament to a time “when civic architecture was forging new avenues in design and construction,” that doesn’t keep folks from hating it."
Weighing Costs of Demolition or Preservation - Raksha Vasudevan, National League of Cities
"If not beauty, what criterion should we use to determine the ultimate fate of a building? In a society dominated by overconsumption and wastefulness, we automatically look for a quick fix in matters of architectural preservation — demolish or preserve exactly as is. What is needed is an acknowledgement of the multiple and hidden costs of our choices."
Art Deco Once Faced the Wrecker’s Ball - David J. Brown, National Trust for Historic Preservation
"Tastes change, styles come and go, and assessments of particular buildings and architectural styles fluctuate. For example, many Americans in the early decades of the last century loathed Victorian architecture. Our nation’s history is a continuum, and that history, and our understanding of it, is constantly evolving."
Cost Matters, but So Does History - Aaron M. Renn, Urbanophile
"[Historic] preservation is only one value out of many that we must balance as a society. Balancing our checkbook is another, as are sustainability and accessibility to all. The most important criterion is how well the building fits its purpose and function. Many public housing projects in the Brutualist style have proven nearly impossible to save as they were conceptually flawed from the beginning. Assuming that basic threshold of functionality is met, where the architectural quality and ability to adapt to contemporary standards at a realistic price is high, we should err on the side of preservation."
What do you think? Is this building, and/or Brutalism in general, worthy of preservation? Read the following opinions, and sound off in the comments or on our Facebook page.
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