Sunday, February 3, 2019

HUD Building, West Facade

Wander just a block or two off the tourist-populated National Mall and you will find yourself in the Washington DC of the government worker. On a weekend (or during a government shutdown) it can be a lonely, almost unfriendly place. One of the unfriendliest may be the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Designed by Marcel Breuer and completed in 1968, it's an example of what is known as Brutalist architecture. The curving facade was the first federal building made from pre-cast concrete. While it is undoubtably dramatic, it has never been a people-friendly structure. The plaza was redesigned in the 1990s to include curved seating areas with canopies like hovering spaceships. The canopies were supposed to be in bright colors but this was just too much individuality for the government decision-makers. Now the plaza must depend on human beings to add color and, yes, humanity, to the design.