Brutalism: A Look at Boston City Hall

MON, JAN 11, 2016 (1:15:11)

Boston City Hall and Plaza were intended to create an open and accessible place for government, an exuberant statement of democracy and civic life. Needless to say, that’s not the prevailing opinion today.

What can we learn from Boston City Hall’s early ambitions? This Designing Boston panel will focus on the building and plaza, and its original design and intent. The building was designed in the 1960s as a new space for citizens to engage with their government. The plaza was intended to provide a monumental gathering space and welcome all who pass through. What happened? How far have we strayed from the original goals? Is there an opportunity today to reset the clock? Panelists Mark Pasnik, Anita Berrizbeitia, and Michael McKinnell offer their opinions, with attorney Michael Ross moderating.

+ BIO: Michael Ross

With the experience Mike Ross gained solving complex problems and bringing disparate parties together as a legislator, he now brings to his practice as an attorney where he focuses on real estate, strategic advice, and government relations. Mike served for 14 years as a Boston City Councilor, as well as serving as the President of the body. In 2013 he entered the race for mayor, sharing a bold vision for the city’s future.

As an elected official he championed the opening of elementary schools in underserved neighborhoods and recently celebrated the announcement of the opening of a new downtown school - the first since the Carter administration. He brought physical education to area schools and focused on creating innovative job training models. His efforts revitalize the Boston Common and launch Food Trucks by borrowing ideas from other cities, have helped to move Boston forward.

Ross represented District 8 on the Boston City Council, including Back Bay, Beacon Hill, Fenway, and Mission Hill and some of Boston's greatest institutions and landmarks: Fenway Park, the Longwood Medical Area and Massachusetts General Hospital, the Museum of Fine Arts and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and a number of our city's finest academic institutions. World-renowned public spaces like the Boston Common, the Public Garden, the Esplanade, and Frederick Law Olmstead's historic Emerald Necklace are also in the district.

Ross spearheaded the effort to turn the Boston Common into America's greatest park. As Chair of the Special Committee on Boston Common, Mike led the effort to bring more activity to the Boston Common, through improved programming efforts, as well as creating a restaurant and other eateries like the ones in a number of New York City's parks to draw tourists and residents alike to the Common.

Mike has a long history of utilizing technology to make city government more accessible for residents. Prior to his election to the Council, Mike was part of a team that developed Boston's first Website. The site received the "Best of the Web" award for municipalities by Government Technology Magazine. As Councilor, Mike wrote for Boston magazine's blog, Boston Daily, as well as contributing to Blue Mass Group. He believes that there is a strong role that technology and the internet can play in making government better, more open, and more accessible.

+ BIO: Mark Pasnik

Mark Pasnik, AIA, is a principal at over,under, an interdisciplinary architecture, urban design, graphic identity, and publications firm based in Boston. He is also an associate professor at the Wentworth Institute of Technology. Pasnik graduated from Cornell University College of Architecture, Art, and Planning with a Bachelor of Architecture degree.

+ BIO: Anita Berrizbeitia

Anita Berrizbeitia is Professor of Landscape Architecture and Director of the Master in Landscape Architecture Degree Programs at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Her research focuses on design theories of modern and contemporary landscape architecture, the productive aspects of landscapes, and Latin American cities and landscapes. She was awarded the 2005/2006 Prince Charitable Trusts Rome Prize Fellowship in Landscape Architecture.

+ BIO: Michael McKinnell

Michael McKinnell FAIA is the co-founder of Kallmann McKinnell & Wood Architects, Inc, and along with Gerhard Kallmann and Edward Knowles, designed Boston's current City Hall. The selection of McKinnell and his partners' design in 1962 marked the beginning of the firm.

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Boston Society of Architects/AIA and the BSA Foundation