Harvard GSD — "Students of Jeanne Gang’s architecture studio seek redemption for the concrete behemoths of Brutalism"

"At a time when it is more essential than ever to conserve resources and prevent carbon pollution, we find that buildings are frequently discarded rather than being reinvented to serve contemporary life."

Boston City Hall. Courtesy of the Library of Congress

'Recognizing that people are beginning to understand that simply destroying and replacing Brutalist buildings is wasteful and environmentally harmful, they wanted, Gang says, “to wake our collective brain to the situation,” and “to become creative with something that is already there.” So, they had their twelve students begin by carefully studying examples of Brutalist architecture—some from the Boston area, others from South America, Asia, and Europe. The students’ task was to “zoom into qualities: light and shadow… how scale operates in these buildings,” to study how the buildings reveal program and structural behavior. Making analytical models of these buildings focused their attention even more closely. The studio group also toured Boston City Hall, with the guidance of Professor Mark Pasnik, co-author of the 2015 book Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston. Then, they visited the site for the studio: Swope Center, the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole... Gang and Cahan are challenging the students to “strip back to essentials, then invade with a new idea,” to “make a building about today.” Cahan emphasizes that “Woods Hole is helping us see climate change,” and because “Brutalist architecture can be very expressive of environmental systems,” the Swope Center building provides a strong platform from which to explore the goals of the studio. So, rising to the “challenge of recasting this specific architecture toward a viable, extended future” the students in “Recasting the Outcasts” are taking on a concrete behemoth and urging it to better ends.'

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