Government Service Center (Boston)

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Staniford Street facade
As seen at night

The Government Service Center is an unfinished, brutalist structure by architect Paul Rudolph. It is one of the major buildings in the Government Center complex in downtown Boston, Massachusetts, at Cambridge, Staniford, and New Chardon Streets.

The building is not consistently known by a single name. Older sources variously call it the Government Service Center (though this name is easily confused with Government Center as a whole), the State Services Center, or the State Health, Welfare and Education Service Center. Many sources, especially contemporary sources, incorrectly use the Hurley or Lindemann names to refer to the whole.

In 1962, when the building was still being designed, an act was passed designating the Health, Welfare and Education Service Center as the "Joseph A. Langone, Jr., Memorial Center" and calling for the commission to "erect at a suitable location in said center, a marker, tablet, or other inscription bearing said designation." Joseph A. Langone, Jr., was a Massachusetts state senator in the 1930s.[1]

Structure[edit]

The building comprises two connected parts, the Charles F. Hurley Building and the Erich Lindemann Mental Health Center. The Hurley section houses the Division of Unemployment Assistance and other offices of state government.

The structure includes a two-level parking garage which is largely hidden from view beneath the courtyard.

The building occupies most of a large superblock created when Boston's old West End was destroyed in the name of urban renewal. The area was formerly crisscrossed by narrow streets.

Design[edit]

Rudolph was the coordinating architect on the project and was assisted by M.A. Dyer, Desmond & Lord, and Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott. The structure was designed in contrast to the City Hall a few blocks away and inspired by the idea of an amphitheatre that would allow citizens to experience civic dramas unfold. [2] Rudolph viewed the grandiose and monumental quality of the structure as appropriate to the aims of the Great Society.[2]

The building's exterior and interior surfaces make extensive use of Rudolph's signature ribbed, bush-hammered concrete (aka “corduroy concrete”), first employed in his earlier Yale Art and Architecture Building. This building's forms mingle the rectilinearity of the Yale design with extravagant curved forms like those in Rudolph's contemporary Endo Laboratories building on Long Island. Most of the curves are in the baroque, extravagant Lindemann section.[citation needed]

History[edit]

The design process began in 1962. Construction began in 1966 and lasted into 1971. Rudolph was initially hired to build only one of the three structures on the complex, but developed a design linking them together. [2]

Though the building is very large, it is unfinished. The original design centered on a 23-story tower which was never built. Swirling terraces in the courtyard, shown in Rudolph's site plan, were not built either.

Fenced-off section of the courtyard

In 1999 the remaining space was filled with the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse, by Kallmann McKinnell & Wood,[3] which is in a completely different architectural style. At around the same time the courtyard area was landscaped and features such as stairways, an elevator, and a wheelchair access ramp were added. While the additions match the style of the original building, they can be distinguished from up close by the different style of ribbed concrete used, which lacks rough exposed aggregate.

Other than the landscaping in the courtyard, the building has never undergone significant restoration or renovation and appears rather weathered and neglected today. The edges of the sweeping, curved exterior stairways are crumbling, exposing the rebar inside. The exterior plaza on the north side, shown in Rudolph's original drawings as full of benches, trees, and people, is now a parking lot with a chain link fence around it.

The building offers many benches and sheltered and concealed spots, which are used by the local homeless population to take refuge from the weather and rest or sleep. In 2008, the state attached signs to the exterior discouraging these uses (and damaging the concrete). Officially, the property is closed to the public on evenings and weekends, but this policy is seldom enforced. More recently, many of the exterior staircases, terraces, and niches are now fenced off.

Recognition[edit]

The building is listed in George Everard Kidder Smith's Source Book of American Architecture: 500 Notable Buildings from the 10th Century to the Present.

The mural in the Hurley lobby, painted on plaster, is by Costantino Nivola.

The building is featured in the 2006 film The Departed. In the movie it is a police headquarters and most of the major characters work there. There are several shots of the exterior and numerous scenes were filmed in the interior offices.

Image gallery[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Photos[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Annual Report for the Fiscal Period June 28, 1970 - June 30, 1971. Commonwealth of Massachusetts Government Center Commission. 1971. p. 57. 
  2. ^ a b c Rohan, Timothy (7 September 2014). "The dream behind Boston's forbidding Government Service Center". Bostong Globe. Boston. Retrieved 31 December 2015. 
  3. ^ Southworth, Susan and Michael (2008). AIA Guide to Boston. Globe Pequot Press. p. 58. ISBN 978-0-7627-4337-7. 

Coordinates: 42°21′45″N 71°03′47″W / 42.3625°N 71.0630°W / 42.3625; -71.0630