Because I’ve been spending so much time on architecture lists these days, I decided to collect some “best buildings” lists for my local environs, specifically Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. I was shocked to discover that the building on the most “Best Boston Buildings” lists is almost universally reviled by the general public: Boston City Hall. What do the experts see in it that the average person is missing? Or is it a case of the Emperor’s New Architecture?
Also, despite Boston’s reputation for being a city with a lot of history (at least by American standards), there are very few old buildings on the list – and nothing before 1700.
Boston City Hall, Boston, MA: Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles (1963-1968) – Brutalist
The much-maligned Boston City Hall topped the charts.
Massachusetts State House, Boston, MA: Charles Bulfinch (1795-1798); Charles Brigham (1895); Sturgis, Chapman & Andrews (1917) – Federal
Paul Revere covered the dome with copper roof after the wood one began to leak. The gold came later.
Trinity Church, Boston, MA: Henry Hobson Richardson (1872-1877) – Romanesque Revival
A gem in Copley Square.
Boston Public Library, Boston, MA: McKim, Mead & White (1887-1895) – Renaissance Revival
Philip Johnson’s modernist addition didn’t make the cut.
Baker House, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Alvo Aalto (1947-1948) – Modern
Baker House is a dormitory for MIT students.
MIT Chapel, Cambridge, MA: Eero Saarinen (1955) – Modern
Theodore Roszak’s spire and bell tower were added in 1956.
John Hancock Tower/Hancock Place, Boston, MA: Henry N. Cobb/I. M. Pei & Partners (1968-1976) – Minimalism
At first, the windows were falling out, but the problem was fixed eventually.
Faneuil Hall, Boston, MA: John Smibert (1740-1742); Charles Bulfinch (1805) – Georgian
Faneuil Hall, in a slightly smaller iteration, was the site of many Revolutionary activities.
Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard, Cambridge, MA: Le Corbusier (1961-1964) – Modern
Harvard’s Carpenter Center is the only Le Corbursier in the United States.
Simmons Hall, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Steven Holl (2002) – Modern
Simmons Hall at MIT.
Stata Center, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Frank Gehry (2004) – Modern
MIT sued Gehry when the building developed leaks, cracks and mold after heavy winters.
Old South Meeting House, Boston, MA: Robert Twelves (1729) – Georgian
It was here that the American colonists planned the Boston Tea Party.
King’s Chapel, Boston, MA: Peter Harrison (1749) – Georgian
The 18th Century congregation of Kings Chapel mostly opposed independence from Great Britain.
Old City Hall, Boston, MA: G.J.F. Bryant & A.D. Gilman (1862-1865) – Second Empire
Known as old City Hall, this building was erected on the site of the first public school in America.
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, MA: Willard T. Sears (1903) – 15th Century Venetian Palazzo.
The courtyard of the original museum, which was designed to look like a 15th century Venetian mansion.
Kresge Auditorium, MIT, Cambridge, MA: Eero Saarinen (1950-1955) – Structuralist Modern
MIT’s premier performance space bears some resemblance to Saarinen’s famous TWA Terminal.
Holyoke Center, Harvard, Cambridge, MA: Josep Lluis Sert (1965) – Modern
Harvard’s Holyoke Center was designed by the-then Dean of the Design School.
Design Research Headquarters, Cambridge, MA: Benjamin Thompson (1969) – Modern
Benjamin Thompson designed this building to house his retail store, Design Research, which went bankrupt in the 1978.
Christian Science Plaza, Boston, MA: Araldo Cossutta/I. M. Pei & Associates (1968-1974) – Brutallism
I.M. Pei’s design for the Christian Science Church Plaza includes several buildings, fountains and a reflecting pool.
Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston, MA: Benjamin Thompson (1971-1976)
The development of Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market into a tourist-friendly area with shops and restaurants spawned imitators around the U.S.
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, MA: Diller Scofidio + Renfro (2009) – Modern
The new ICA building in South Boston was almost universally lauded by the architectural community.