Opinion

How to Destroy a Brutalist Masterpiece Without Demolishing It

The newly renovated Orange County Government Center is a special type of building that makes you want to scream.

The state of the Orange County Government Center today (photo by Doug Ensel and via @TedGrunewald)

Today, architectural flaneur Theodore Grunewald tweeted a shocking image by photographer Doug Ensel showing what the Paul Rudolph-designed Orange County Government Center has become. Behold.

Rudolph’s Brutalist building was completed in 1967, but its fate today is akin to … actually, I’m speechless. This is a travesty. When plans for demolition were first announced, the proposed replacement looked boring but not hideous. This — from what we can tell — looks like a tacky condo that someone might call “Aqua” or “Riverside” in order to attract oblivious buyers, or maybe it looked like a tiny IKEA store; either way, just no.

The original plans to replace Rudolph’s structure (via Orange Country)

The design is by New York–based Clark Patterson Lee, but judging by the firm’s website, this may be the ugliest building it has ever created.

In 2015, Zaha Hadid sang the original building’s praises:

Rudolph’s work is pure, but the beauty is in its austerity. There are no additions to make it polite or cute. It is what it is.

If only there were other signs that the distinguished and austere reminders of our heritage were being wiped out by some crass new upstart that doesn’t know what it is doing or even allow us to enjoy what we have. If only there were more signs of how things have devolved into a shitty swamp that makes no sense and provokes us with its proud stupidity. But alas, I think all we have is this hideous blue building that is standing in the way of a much better building. I guess we can just look at this and meditate on the state of the world. Let’s just be thankful buildings can’t tweet.

Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in 2015 (photo by Faheem Haider/Hyperallergic)
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