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.
This afternoon, WAMU dives into the questionable painting of the Union Station Metro station in Washington, D.C., which was recently coated in a layer of white paint. Local architecture reporter Amanda Kolson Hurley, the recipient of this year’s Sarah Booth Conroy Prize for Architectural Journalism, and Matt Johnson, editor of Greater Greater Washington, will discuss the issue on air today.
The wrecking ball nearly swung early for a lesser-known work by Marcel Breuer situated in Reston, Va. So far, the motion has been stayed, but Reston planning officials meet on July 26 to discuss the building’s future. An ongoing “Save the API Building” petition, which is still soliciting signatures, allows you to voice your support for the building.
Here at BrutalistDC, we’re suckers for some bona fide Brutalism, and Marcel Breuer provided many striking examples of the style during his long architectural career. In Washington, D.C., Breuer was responsible for two massive government offices: the Department of Health and Human Services Hubert H. Humphrey Building, and the Department of housing and Urban Design Robert C. Weaver Federal Building.
On a more diminutive scale, and a little bit of a trek outside of D.C. proper (but still within reach of the Metro system via the Wiehle-Reston East Station on the Silver Line), Breuer designed the American Press Institute in 1972, and it was completed in 1974. The two story, 25,000-square-foot API Building served as a headquarters for journalist training until the API merged with the Newspaper Association of America and vacated the Breuer building in 2012.
The API Building has been empty ever since, and had fallen off the radar until housing developer Sekas submitted an application for rezoning of the property on which the API Building sits, claiming that there were “no known heritage resources” on the property, according to a report by Karen Goff for Reston Now.