Adaptive Quality

At a time when it is more essential than ever to conserve resources and prevent carbon pollution—which critically includes limiting the demolition of existing buildings and new construction—we find that concrete architecture from the 1960s and ’70s is nevertheless frequently discarded. A host of justifications is given for its destruction: it cannot be easily adapted for today’s needs; its land value exceeds its architectural value; its cost of re-use is too high.  These existing concrete buildings – often referred to as Brutalist – aspired in their time to reflect certain societal values via program and image, yet over the years their strong forms, expressive structures and raw use of material have often been publicly derided as cold and inhospitable.  This studio posits that, while opinions and definitions of Brutalism may fluctuate over time and with context, our current environmental crisis establishes an ethical urgency to extending the life of these structures.  

Students will work with Paul Rudolph’s Hurley Building (1972), part of the Boston Government Services Center complex in downtown Boston.  The complex was planned by Rudolph in 1963 as three interconnected buildings enclosing a central plaza, but construction was halted without the pinwheel-shaped tower intended to anchor the site.  It currently houses government offices but is being slated for redevelopment thanks to the value of the land on which it sits, its outdated systems, and its incompatibility with contemporary office needs.

This studio reconsiders the fate of the Hurley Building, exploring how it might be adapted to improve its functionality and environmental performance, and reconsidering its form and image.  Students will research the original building and the context of its design and construction, develop an understanding of embodied carbon and the environmental repercussions of varying degrees of intervention, and explore design solutions for its adaptation and new role in contemporary urban life.  The brief will call for the insertion of a cultural and educational institution to infuse the site with new energy and activity.  Bringing contemporary technologies, materials, forms, and programs to bear on this challenge, we will work to recast this specific architecture toward a viable, extended future.  


This course will meet weekly on Wednesdays and Thursdays.
Jeanne Gang will be in residence on the following days: January 26 and 27, February 2, 3, 16 and 17, March 2, 3, 30 and 31, April 21 and 22, and for final reviews.
Anika Schwartzwald will be in residence on the following days: January 26 and 27, February 2, 3, 9, 10, 16 and 17, March 2, 3, 23, 24, 30 and 31, April 13, 14, 20 and 21 and for final reviews.
Class will be held via Zoom on all other Wednesdays and Thursdays.