Introduction

City of Concrete Exhibit Header

Close your eyes.

What do you think of when you picture Boston? 

Many people call to mind the city’s narrow alleys, cobblestone streets and brick Colonial-era buildings. Perhaps you imagine the bright green of the lawn of the Boston Common, the muted tones of Back Bay brownstones, or the primary colors of the MBTA rail system barreling through the city.

What about gray, solid concrete?

Brutalist architecture makes up a significant part of Boston’s landscape. The skyline is littered with looming concrete towers and hefty, square buildings, which are as “quintessentially Boston” as brick rowhouses and drive-thru Dunkin’ Donuts. Yet, these structures are rarely beloved by contemporary Boston residents. They’re called “ugly,” and “eyesores,” and are under threat of being destroyed and replaced with a sleeker look. The architecture seems to violate our modern ideas of aesthetic appeal as well as what we regard as historically significant. Yet the style persists. 

Just how did Brutalism come to so dramatically shape the Boston landscape? What should we do with it now?

This exhibit will explore these questions through photographs and documents related to Brutalist architecture in the city of Boston. 

Introduction