As a follow up to Blake Gopnik’s New York Times piece, Growing Up in a Concrete Masterpiece, he wrote another for ArtNet that includes a photo from the BrutalistDC feed. The ArtNet article, Smash the FBI Building and Stonehenge Will Be Next, discusses the historicity of buildings and artworks. The J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building is particularly reviled amongst the majority of D.C. dwellers, and its uncertain future is faltering now that the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) has approved a plan amendment for the Pennsylvania Avenue squares currently occupied by the FBI Building.
Gopnik argues that the FBI Building represents an era and a way of thinking that have value beyond that of the building itself: “We need to save the buildings on our city streets that stand for who we were. Demolishing the FBI building would be like tearing up a childhood snapshot because we don’t like the clothes we were wearing in it.”
Brutalism has been catching flack for far too long, and it’s refreshing to see a take on Brutalism from someone (else) who appreciates the architectural style. Blake Gopnik wrote a lovely reflection called “Growing Up in a Concrete Masterpiece,” on Moshe Safdie’s Habitat ’67 in Montreal, which came out in the May 4, 2017 edition of The New York Times.
BrutalistDC founder Deane Madsen was lucky enough to be interviewed for the piece, and a short snippet of that conversation was included in Gopnik’s piece:
Last fall, a British publishing house called Blue Crow Media added a “Brutalist Washington” map to a series that includes maps of Brutalism in London, Paris and Sydney, Australia. The one on Washington, D.C., was the brainchild of a local writer named Deane Madsen, a fan of postwar concrete who was also aware of the abuse it still suffers. “I’d seen so many lists of the least popular and ugliest buildings in D.C., and almost all were Brutalist,” said Mr. Madsen in a recent phone call.
His map applauds concrete buildings like the cylindrical Hirshhorn Museum, once reviled but now widely admired, and the block-spanning F.B.I. headquarters, still so disliked that its demolition seems almost certain.
Read Blake Gopnik’s full “Growing Up in a Concrete Masterpiece” in The New York Times.