Modern architecture can often compliment and blend into the context of historic neighborhoods, and this example in Boston’s South End neighborhood is one of the best examples locally. In 2002, developers eyed a long-vacant lot on the busy Mass. Ave corridor through the South End and began designs of a contextual addition to the streetscape. Dolezal Architecture was tasked with designing a modern residential building that would comply with local historic district regulations, a balance that can be difficult to accomplish. Employing traditional masonry, solid-to-void ratios, massing, and bays, but in a modern context, the building blends in with its surroundings yet is architecturally interesting. The building contains ten condos in a single building which reads more like two distinct structures.
Located on the same block as the Arnold-Palmer House (last post) in Downtown Providence, this apartment building is the work of one of the most prolific Modernist architects of the 20th century, Paul Rudolph. During Downtown Providence’s period of urban renewal, which saw the demolition of much of Cathedral Square (much of which remains surface parking lots), planners sought a high-rise apartment building to house displaced elderly residents and others who hoped to reside close to downtown shopping and amenities. Architect Paul Rudolph, who was at the time Dean of Yale’s Architecture School, designed the brick building which employs horizontal bands in concrete which marks off floor levels and provides some breaks in the materiality. The building was originally designed in 1963, but after years of delays and budget cuts from rising construction costs, the balconies and other design features were removed from the final product, leading to its present simplicity. While simple, the building retains intrigue, especially with the projecting window bays and offset openings, a departure from the block apartment buildings at the time.
As technology and engineering advanced, buildings could go taller and taller, something banks loved in the Post-WWII era to showcase their wealth and stature in cities. The Old Stone Bank was a popular banking institution in Rhode Island that was founded in Providence in 1819. In 1969, the bank decided to build a new tower in Downtown Providence, hiring the New York firm of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon (the firm who designed the Empire State Building forty years prior) to design the skyscraper. The 23-story structure is set back from the street and is raised on a podium. The first story is marbled sheathed and serves as a base for the concrete-grid curtain wall, which blends International and Brutalist styles well. The building opened in 1972 and is today known as the Textron Tower. I think it is interesting to read architectural historian views of Modern buildings, as many despise 99% of Post-WWII buildings, but I kind of like this one.
I typically do not connect my posts to current events, but I really wanted to take time to highlight the strength and fortitude of the Ukrainian people fighting to preserve their home and democracy around the globe. Closer to home, a growing Ukrainian community in Boston in 1956, decided to erect a new church in the Forest Hills section of Jamaica Plain. Land was acquired and a blessing ceremony was attended by members of the church, the architect, and Reverend John Theodorovich; the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of America, who was born in Ukraine, and served at chaplain with the Army of the Ukraine National Republic in the war against Russia in 1919-20, before eventually moving to North America. The architect, John Kodak, was a Toronto-based architect of Ukrainian descent who ended up in Canada after fleeing from his home to escape communist rule from the USSR. This church is a Modernist interpretation of the iconic St. Andrew’s Church in Kiev, Ukraine, with its onion domes surmounted by crosses. The church, like many others, is holding prayers for Ukraine and is coordinating donations and aid to the Ukrainian people and related charities.
Christensen Hall at the University of New Hampshire in Durham is a rare example of the much-maligned Brutalist style of architecture in the state. In the late 1960s, the university needed more housing and a dining hall for new students of the growing campus, but a very low budget to accomplish this. They hired Ulrich Franzen, a German-born architect (featured on here previously) who attended school at Harvard, learning Modernist principles there that would shape his career. The boxy buildings feature deep recessions to provide each student an identifiable corner and windows. The concrete frame building and engineering provide breezeways and forms that conventional buildings would not be able to accomplish. The building was completed in 1970 and was immediately applauded by architects and was featured numerous architectural publications.
One of the most recognizable buildings (largely due to height) on the University of New Hampshire campus in Durham is Stoke Hall, a large dormitory on the outskirts of campus. The building was designed by Leo Provost, a New Hampshire-based architect, who actually graduated from UNH in 1936. Stoke Hall is named for Dr. Harold Walter Stoke, President of the University of New Hampshire from 1944-1947 during an enrollment surge that more than tripled enrollment and the beginning of a massive building program that continued for decades. The surge began with the conclusion of WWII, and the increase in young men going to college thanks to the GI Bill. Mr. Stoke got around as a President, as after three years at New Hampshire, he became President of Louisiana State University (LSU) until 1951. He later served as President at Queens College, New York, for six years. The Y-shaped building was constructed in two phases, the two wings facing the street were built in 1965, with the rear wing added the summer later. The design blends mid-20th century styles from New Formalism to Mid-Century Modern in a graceful way, especially for a college dormitory, though, I cannot speak for the interiors.
Perched atop the rocky coast of New London, CT, and seemingly at the base of the iconic New London Harbor Light, the “Castle House” stands as one of the most significant examples of 1960s residential design in a state known for such homes. The Castle House was completed in 1964 from plans by German-born American architect Ulrich Franzen (1921-2012), who attended Harvard’s Graduate School of Design after his service in WWII. After graduating, Franzen worked under I.M. Pei, until he formed his own firm, Ulrich Franzen & Associates, in 1955. The home’s signature element is its dramatic free-floating glass living room pavilion with cantilevered paraboloid vaults and flanking service wings, with a jaw-dropping cypress butterfly ceiling. Additionally, the oval pool sits over the harbor water and provides the best possible views of the 1801 lighthouse towering above. The house was recently updated by SchappacherWhite, a design firm who are known for their thoughtful Mid-Century Modern house preservation projects.
Occupying the highest elevation (315 feet) in Newton, Massachusetts Baldpate Hill and its residential development encompasses perhaps the largest concentration of architect-designed custom homes from the 1940-1960 period
in the city. Newton realtor Arnold Hartmann purchased large land holdings in the minimally developed Oak Hill village, developed some land into the Newton Country Club and other areas for suburban neighborhoods. He laid out building lots on Baldpate Hill from 1926 to the late 1950s, and many of the homes were built after WWII. One of the later homes built is this house, built in 1959 from plans by the architectural firm of Hoover & Hill of Cambridge. The home features a low-slung roof with the home in a Ranch form, yet extends to two stories as the hill drops off at the rear of the home. A small garden is located in the front yard, and terraced yard is located at the rear.
One of the lesser-known and written about examples of Brutalism in Boston is this refined, elegant take on the style, found in Downtown Boston. While many of you may dislike or even despise Brutalism, this building is a lighter version of the strong mass that we all know. The Massachusetts General Life Building was designed by Boston architect Frederick A. Stahl, who was trained in architecture locally at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design and MIT. Frederick Stahl was a perfect architect for Boston, he often worked on preservation projects including the rehabilitation of the Old South Meeting House, but showcased how 1960s architecture could compliment historic forms in a big way. For this building, he re-envisioned the historic granite commercial blocks found scattered around Boston, but showcased the ability of concrete to do more for much less massing. One of the key features of the design is that the two entrances are somewhat hidden, and are recessed in 14′ wide slots where the building is connected to the adjacent historic building. This was the aim to make this structure recess and not try and command the prominent corner. In the Mass. General Life Building, tenants also included the Loeb, Rhoades & Company, a brokerage firm based out of New York, that had offices in buildings in major financial centers all over the country. They later merged with Hornblower & Weeks, a Boston based firm, who had their own building in Boston.
One building in Boston that has always perplexed me is this round church building. It echoes Eero Saarinen’s MIT Chapel in Cambridge, but is much heavier and plain. After over an hour of researching, I finally found out some history behind it! The church was constructed in the South Cove Redevelopment area, an urban renewal program run by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (now BPDA) as a sort of “slum” clearance near Chinatown. The Church of All Nations was founded in the South End in 1917, housed in a Gothic Revival chapel that was seized by eminent domain for the Massachusetts Turnpike Extension and demolished in 1963. The congregation met in temporary quarters on Arlington Street until the new church was constructed in 1975. Records show that the congregation hired famed Modernist architect Bertram Goldberg as early as 1967 to design a new chapel, set in a new public park. The original plans called for a square building with a massive “steeple” incorporated as the entire roof. For some reason (possibly funding and changing demands for the church), the final design was a little more mundane. The cylindrical church is clad in dark glazed brick with a cross raised in the brickwork. The church suffered from a dwindling congregation in its location, and now appear to rent out the building. One of my favorite local architecture firms Touloukian Touloukian, Inc., re-imagined the site as a new residential tower. It would be one of the few beautiful new buildings in Boston in the past decade or two. Can we please make this happen?!