After a historic win against Harvard, I and my suitemate decided to spend the day before our flight to Cleveland (I’m spending Thanksgiving at his house in Ohio.) in Boston. It was unusually cold; every time we made the mistake of stopping and losing the body heat accumulated from very brisk walking, we shivered in cold.
Despite the cold and the chilling wind, we still walked around quite a bit. We saw the Old North church, and I got to hear a fifteen-minute talk about Paul Revere by my roommate (Due to the extenuating circumstance of severe cold, I can recall exactly nothing from his talk.) As Boston is not a very large city, we comfortably walked through a good part of it. I enjoyed the harbor and a vast number of very solid-looking, elegant buildings. That was, of course, until we walked by the Boston city hall building.
My hometown, Tbilisi, quite understandably, is a home to a lot of Soviet-style architecture buildings. I have seen some truly horrific ones, like the Tbilisi Transportation building. In my humble opinion, it looks like a stack of misplaced Legos.
Having experienced some Soviet architecture at home and Mussolini’s Fascist architecture over my summer course in Rome, I thought I had seen some pretty horrible stuff already. Little did I know that the city of Boston – had an interesting, somewhat aesthetically offensive surprise for me. That surprise came in the form of a city hall building that looks like a tomb of extraordinary proportions made even more attractive with the fine ornamentation of prison windows. If this was not enough, the multiple arches that support this funeral of human self-esteem seem to be designed by a child stubbornly intolerant of geometrical harmony.
I could not understand why this building ruined the aesthetics of what seemed to me to be a nice city. I felt this way especially when we walked past the old town hall building that looks much more American and if not that friendly, maybe at least similar to a lot of American government buildings; The American federal and state buildings, while radiating power, do not necessarily make you feel insignificant and certainly do not make you question your faith in architectural elegance. Boston city hall seems to be a very large exception.
During my five-week humanities summer course in Rome, we had a chance to look at Mussolini’s EUR district; examining the Fascist architecture, I realized how its geometrical rigidity, concrete façade and stern look made one feel insignificant, overpowered and subordinated. Thinking in retrospect about Mussolini’s agenda and how the buildings in EUR perfectly served what he stood for, made a lot of sense.
Why would the Boston city hall need the same attributes? A place where the Boston Tea Party took place and the significance of human voice has been historically celebrated, has a city town hall, a civic center, that looks strikingly fascist/soviet. I certainly do not understand why this building still pollutes the beautiful skyline of Boston. At least, if you are reading Orwell’s 1984, you have a nice place to sit down and enjoy the book in an appropriate surrounding.