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City considers brutalist downtown building for landmark status

No, not City Hall or the Government Services building a few blocks away. The Boston Landmarks Commission is considering granting landmark status to the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building, 133 Federal St. downtown.

The commission says the building is significant both for its architecture and its role in downtown renewal in the 1950s and 1960s as Boston awoke from decades of slow stagnation:

It was the first new building to be erected in the Central Business District since the 1920s, and was one of the earliest buildings erected in Boston in the Brutalist style. It is one of three buildings in Boston designed by Paul Rudolph, and it is especially notable as his first tall building and an early prototype of the idiosyncratic design philosophies that would then influence the remainder of his impactful career. Its distinctive form with Y-shaped, precast-concrete piers and columns, large white quartz aggregate, and an innovative engineering and HVAC system hidden within the nonstructural columns were all a direct challenge to the glass curtain wall, and pushed the boundaries of contemporary architectural discourse. The building contributes to Boston’s collection of Brutalist architecture which transformed the city in the 1960s and 1970s, and represents the resulting shift in the design idiom of Boston and the United States from the International style to postmodernism.

A group of residents first petitioned the commission to designate the building as a landmark in 2016, after a developer proposed knocking it down as part of a Winthrop Square skyscraper proposal. The city ultimately awarded that project to Millennium Partners, which did not propose demolition of the building, but, the commission says:

[T]he threat of demolition remains. The exterior maintenance has recently been neglected, with precast concrete cladding falling off the retaining wall along the north edge of the property. The recent threats to Rudolph’s diminishing body of work, combined with the 2009 Boston Landmarks Commission’s survey update of cultural and architectural resources in Boston’s Central Business District which determined that the Blue Cross Blue Shield Building was eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, inspired the petition for designation

The commission will consider landmark status for the building at a meeting on Dec. 12. It's also collecting written comments in advance.

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If it will forever be called the "Lollipop" building


Thank you. I see you.

Lollipop building?
Are you thinking 100 Summer Street which used to have that Lollipop sculpture outside?


I had the wrong building


I thought the Lollipop Building was 100 Summer. I had a temp job there doing data entry in the 70s. One of my co-workers said it was symbolic of all the suckers who worked there.



And then there's Massachusetts Department of Public Health building. Having trouble sending photo. How can that building not even be considered???!!!


Was that the one with the wooden doors that looked abandoned back in the 1990s?? Where was that?

That publicly accessible first-floor men’s room has some tales, I’m sure.

One example of what happens when architects forget they are human beings building for human beings is enough. City Hall fills that bill a thousand times over. Ugly, inhuman and so utterly disconnected from any sense of humanity that one has to wonder if sentient non-humans possessed of emotions we can not name, because we can not experience them, came up with the style of Brutalism. I can see if the architects and supporters of inhuman architect were Nephilim of Genesis.

Keeping one Brutalist building is the public architecture analogy to a child learning once to not touch a hot stove. A lesson that need not be repeated. But retaining more than one of the same style is the child for reasons incomprehensible unable to connect burning pain to not touching that stove.

The Landmarks Commission is dubious as a commission of actual human beings; one has to wonder if Nephilim are the commissioners. They give the nod to destroying buildings of great beauty all the while knowing that the replacement will be designed by the architectural firm of Dullard, Boring and Anodyne. The Berkeley Building being the latest example of the failure of the Landmarks Commission to act responsibly and intelligently.

Perhaps it would be better to replace the current Landmarks Commission with an AI. At least an AI can make decisions based on objective criteria, such as whether a building benefits the city and it's community, as opposed to whether a builder can apply some special, friendly persuasion (out of public view) to the commissioners to get their support.


Brutalism architecture doesn't need to be anti-human. I've never been inside the building in question but I think it's pleasing to the eye on the exterior. I like the 45 degree windows on the corner.

I don't have an opinion on preserving it but it doesn't strike me as an eyesore that only needs to be kept as a warning to future generations.


It's definitely more aesthetically pleasing than the government center building.

Cities must contain many buildings. One might think that all should not be of one POV. Thanks for your educated opinion. I’ll feel free to judge all the art, now.

That building, which I workedatfor 1.5 years 1990s, has zero historical value. I don't even think it qualifies as brutality even though it was constructed in that period.

Now Government Center is another story. It's world class brutalist.

That building absolutely should be protected.

I took one look at that building (100 federal) and knew where it was.. and was like "Tear this crap down". It looks like bad 1960s architecture. Let it go.

Three different buildings. Get it straight.

...and some it was horrible.

133 Federal is from the first category. The Government Services building is from the second.

Can it be landmarked simply as a cautionary tale in bad judgement? It is hideous! Every piece of that piece of ... spews ice chunks in the winter.

Which was built on a former city parcel. Any future development here would block the views from the new tower. Now the city is trying to prevent development there by citing “landmark status”. Hmmm

Though what replaces it will likely be worse, so maybe it is.

Buildings built within living memory, or even within the last 100 years, should never be deemed historical landmarks. That's how a city freezes itself in time.

Won't prevent the decline of this building considering the post-pandemic office market. A 60+-year-old building without some other sort of distinguishing feature isn't going to be attractive to new tenants, and if the owner ultimately isn't bringing in enough rent to cover the expenses and mortgage, it's probably going to go back to the bank(s).

Maybe it could be turned into housing if the floorplates are small enough, but if the exterior maintenance is too costly, that would be a challenge for a conversion, too.