Michael Kubo: Escape from Ugly Valley: On Time and Maintenance

Michael Kubo: Escape from Ugly Valley: On Time and Maintenance

  • 28 May 2020
  • Michael Kubo is Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator for Architectural History and Theory at the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture and Design, University of Houston. He was previously with the Wyeth Fellow at the Center For Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C and associate curator for OfficeUS, the U.S. Pavilion at the 2014 International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. His recent publications on the history of twentieth-century architecture and urbanism include Imagining the Modern: Architecture and Urbanism of the Pittsburgh Renaissance (2019), Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (2015), and OfficeUS Atlas (2015). He holds a Ph.D. in the History, Theory, and Criticism of Architecture from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an M.Arch from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He is currently preparing a book on The Architects Collaborative and the authorship of the architectural corporation after 1945, with particular attention to transnational exchanges between U.S. firms and architects and engineers in the Middle East.

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Ugly Valley is a place bounded by temporality. The phrase describes a dip in the sine curve of a building's popularity that generally occurs about 40-60 years into its history. Such a downturn is dangerous because it represents the vulnerable period in which many works of architecture are destroyed because their original use value has expired, and their styles have fallen out of public favor. This talk discusses how the boundaries of the Ugly Valley are formed by taste and language. 'Monstrosity' appears to be a favorite word for those who wish to bully and belittle architecture into obscurity and, in the more alarming cases, onto a demolition list. We need not look hard to remind ourselves that the term has been used by previous generations to describe Victorian architecture, French Second Empire buildings, and many other styles seen as outmoded within a half-generation of their heyday. Today, the same language is used to deride significant examples of Brutalism, Late Modernism, and Postmodernism Because these periods are currently subject to fickle judgement, it is important to reframe the criteria for how they are valued. Reframing architectural works stuck in the Ugly Valley around issues of time, process, and obsolescence does not reflect a longing for a more authentic or autonomous architectural expression (indeed both terms are suspect), but rather a search for the missing conditions that might redefine or reorient preservation’s relationship to the cultural moment.

Thanks everybody for joining me for this remote talk, hopefully I'll have the chance to deliver talks at Monash in person in the future, but for now we're doing it remotely.

Today I'm going to talk about what I and my collaborators have come to refer to as the ugly valley, and it's essentially going to be a presentation of works, specifically of a book project that I and my collaborators have worked on over the last decade or so, and a series of thoughts or investigations that that book project led us to after the book was published in fact, as its kind of made its way into the world. To do with ugliness, maintenance, care and time and temporality. The book project is this, it's called Heroic: Concrete Architecture in the New Boston, my collaborators in this project are Mark Pasnik and Chris Grimley based in Boston, I'm now based in Houston at the University of Houston.

It's a book project that began really as an advocacy effort, specifically around the legacy of concrete architecture from a particular time period in Boston, from the 1950s to the 1970s. What was really the heyday of concrete buildings not just in Boston but in many places, in many cities especially, around the globe. So, we describe the project as about a city, a material and a movement, and the ways that these three things intersected kind of uniquely in the context that we were dealing with. The city of course is Boston, a place that was undergoing radical transformation after the 1950s, a declining population like many major urban centres in the US, was in need of some form of economic and social revitalisation and transformation, not necessarily the forms that it took in terms of urban renewal, but was clearly in need of transformation and architecture and urban planning became key vehicles in that process.

So, for a time period Boston really became a symbol of urban transformation through architecture, and urban design, and urban planning around the world. The material of course was concrete, a material that was very much in its heyday in that period, partly as a result of the existence of contractors before the specialisation, contractors that could execute extremely high levels of quality of concrete work, and at a moment when the concrete was economically competitive with things like steel frame, kind of for the only time in its history and a sort of unique set of circumstances for various reasons, and which became then the expressive material for these kinds of social transformations and the ambitions and idealism of governments in places like Boston. The movement was Brutalism, Brutalism understood as a global and specifically transatlantic movement quite heavily from Europe, between Europe and the US, and South America. We were looking at the ways in which the city, the material, the movement intercepted to produce things like this Boston City Hall as the emblematic product of sort of a unique conjoining of these different kinds of global and local developments, both within architecture and more broadly speaking within culture and society at large.

We developed the project at a very particular moment in Boston's history, when many of these buildings were reviled, were candidates for demolition, there were articles like this from 2006 right at the beginnings of the project for us, where the Mayor of Boston at the time talked about demolishing Boston City Hall and moving its governmental functions out of that building and into other parts of the city. There was a lack of interest and appreciation of these kinds of architectures, and so the project was from the beginning an advocacy effort primarily to advocate for the preservation and appreciation of these buildings that we loved, many other people hated, and that we saw going away and which we wanted to save. We didn't realise in the beginning, but came to understand very quickly that the project was about advocacy not just for buildings, for physical spaces and works of architecture, but also to preserve the voices that were involved of the protagonists of that era, and that the voices and the characters that were responsible for this kind of urban transformation were as… it was as important, or in some cases more important to preserve their thoughts, their ambitions, their hopes and ideals, and to preserve the tenor of their voices in these conversations just as much as the buildings.

So, in that sense I want to dedicate this talk today to one of those voices in particular to Michael McKinnell, the architect of Boston City Hall who passed away last month due to Covid-19, and it's really in his spirit that we are continuing to think about this work along with other protagonists of the era who have recently passed away as well, among others that we interviewed numerous times for the book Henry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed and Partners, and I. M. Pei and others that we've lost after completing this project.

The project, just to describe the sequence of it a little bit on the way to the thoughts that this led us to, the project began as an advocacy and effort centred around exhibitions, specifically in our own gallery called Pinkcomma in Boston, and we began kind of informally with these sorts of mechanisms, we did an exhibition on our heroic research and thinking very early on in the project, where we made information sheets kind of started innocently information sheets about different projects, with kind of dates, information, texts that we wrote, photographs that we took, with the idea that these were tearaway sheets that people could take and then inform themselves, but also bring them into other spaces in other parts of the city, could take this information out of the gallery and maybe that these things as they floated around the city and different public spaces could, kind of innocently land in some place where they could kind of… someone could encounter them in an unexpected way and they could change people's opinions a little bit about buildings that they might hate, they might never have thought about, they might never have looked at in any particular kind of way.

We eventually started a website that included a lot of this information, and kind of gave us another platform to work. We started a Twitter feed, we started to develop mechanisms for getting the word out and for trying to build a discussion around buildings that we called, not Brutalist, but heroic, as an attempt to get out from under the accumulated historical baggage and the misconstrues and misinterpretations of a term like Brutal or Brutalist, in favour of a term that we felt could restore some of the discussion of the social idealism of the time. We started to draw these buildings consistently at the same scale, to understand their material construction, how they worked, we started to map their locations within the city, to try to get a sense of what was built in this era, how comprehensively, how much of the footprint of the city did it affect, and then eventually we moved into more of a formal book project and we started a Kickstarter campaign to raise money, and through other means, and then eventually this led finally to the book, Heroic, as just one out of sort of a long chain of these kinds of activities that we were conducting.

So, as we were working in these various different ways, we were also writing text, not just for the book but in different kinds of newspapers and magazines both locally and sort of farther away, and we started partly through articles that we were writing and also through reviews and articles that were being written by other people, by architectural critics and others, started to contemplate a series of terms that kept coming up in the reception of these buildings, and specifically the idea of ugliness, so these buildings of ugly, versus other kinds of arguments that they were beautiful to some people and to start to play out these different ideas of Brutalism and brutality, but also of ugliness and beauty, how we saw those things as being related and really what caused certain things to be understood in particular time periods, especially the time period that we were looking at or operating in as ugly as opposed to beautiful, things that had once been thought to be beautiful and maybe still were to us, but which many of the people saw kind of commonly as ugly.

So, we became more and more invested as the book was finished and started to make its way out in the world and different things started to circulate, and we became more invested in taking on the notion of ugliness as a kind of cultural idea. So, we started looking into the history of the term and we found sort of fellow travellers like Rem Koolhaas, in this case, talk about beauty and you get boring answers, but talk about ugliness and things get interesting. So, if you go back into a history of certain cultural concepts of ugliness, it leads for example back into the history of aesthetics, and aesthetic theory, and into things like Rosenkranz, who developed the first attempt at least at a systematic theory of ugliness in the nineteenth century, and then on to people like Eco and his book on ugliness that developed more of a cultural history of notions of ugliness. Ugliness as a concept, or an idea in aesthetics, ugliness is the opposite of beauty, and a kind of necessary for Eco counterpart or sort of opposite in this dialectic with certain notions of beauty as the ideal or the totality, but that produces necessarily its opposite the ugly, right. Eco writes about the 19th and 20th centuries romantic and avant-garde, especially early 20th century avant-garde, attitudes in which there was a kind of validation of the ugly. What he calls the triumph of ugliness in the early 20th century, in a kind of avant-garde idea, that ugliness was a marker of something that was a challenge, a challenge to social conventions, a challenge to ideas commonly held ideas of beauty, and that ugliness was in fact something that could be a kind of a breakthrough that would pave the way, for example, towards new and challenging notions of beauty, rather than as being been necessary opposite to a kind of stable notion of beauty.

We see these kinds of ideas over and over again, especially among architects that have been sort of lumped in with the Brutalist movement, or in the interest in concrete like Lina Bo Bardi, beautiful is easy, what's difficult is ugly, the true ugly as she calls it, and we were interested in people that were interested in this kind of notion, of the true ugly, as a positive, ugliness seen as a positive, as a challenge, as the thing that would kind of break through and produce the new, the unknown and the kind of truly, authentically, radically new. Or people closer home, like Ed Logue, the head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority, who also echoed this kind of language in advocating for the architects that he hired, or that the BRA hired to develop a lot of these buildings that became emblematic of what was called the New Boston in the area we were looking at. Modernity does not have to be characterised by ugliness, but in his opinion, we may well have to make some revisions to our standards of beauty.

So, again this idea that ugliness in one time period can pave the way towards different conceptions of beauty in another. What's ugly in one time period, can become beautiful in another. Again, some of the early foundational statements about the new Brutalism, as it was known at the time by people like Alison and Peter Smithson, also channel this idea of, you know, the ugly as a kind of true, poetic and in many ways, new kind of beauty, a rough poetry that you could drag the confused and powerful forces at work in society in an authentic way. We’ve ran those ideas up against other very different ideas of the ugly that we encountered, for example Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, and their idea for the ugly and ordinary as a notion that they use actually against these kinds of buildings, against these sorts of heroic concrete works. On the argument that buildings, like Boston City Hall, kind of a hobby horse for their criticism, that that were often referred to as in these ways as ugly, as the true ugly, they didn't think were ugly at all in the sense in which they meant it. For them these buildings were trying to be avant-garde and exceptional, to be singular, exceptional, heroic works of pure architecture, and in that sense they didn't feel like that's what ugliness meant to them, for them the ugly was the opposite, it was the abject in some ways, the banal, the ordinary, the unvalidated, exactly the opposite of this kind of monumental avant-garde kind of singular architecture and so we had to confront you know, different ideas even in the same time period of what was ugly, is the ugly the exceptional or is the ugly in contrast the ordinary.

We were looking at other kinds of sources like these, that expanded a different notion or set of notions of the ugly all together. Gretchen Henderson for example in her book on Ugliness: A Cultural History, develops the idea that ugliness is relational, both within a given culture and across cultures, so that what manifests culturally as ugliness in her view are really moments of encounter, or even of transgression of certain kinds of social limits, which are themselves constantly changing in this relational or contextual view of ugliness. Timothy Hyde quite recent book Ugliness and Judgment, extends this sort of idea, to the idea that ugliness is not an aesthetic value as such but really a social judgment and points to the ways that debates on ugliness, in architecture for him actually point to moments of frictional or what he calls excessive entanglements with the real contingencies of social life. In particular he reads the ugliness of Brutalism, one among other topics in this book, as something that was meant in its time to confront a collective subjectivity, one that was steeped in customs and conventions, and he reads specific examples of the judgment of ugliness, sort of applied onto these brutalist buildings, particularly this building the Southbank Centre in London as what he calls the disconcerting of civic spaces of collective expectations through architecture as a mechanism or an instrument.

So, this idea from ugliness as relational, of pointing towards certain kinds of social relations, are judgments we also found in people like Mark Cousins, who wrote a series of articles on The Ugly in AA Files in the mid-90s, and his idea that the ugly object is experienced as something that shouldn't be there and really as an object which is in the wrong place, he likens this to Mary Douglas' work on dirt, dirt understood as matter out of place and extends this to the idea of the ugly, right, something which isn't a long place and that's kind of what gives it the characteristics of ugliness. We became interested in thinking about this idea of the wrong place, not just in terms of physical places spatially, but in terms of time. What would it mean for something to be in the wrong place temporarily, and is there a way of understanding ugliness not as aesthetic, as an aesthetic category or determination, but to think about ugliness as temporal or as pointing to certain conditions of temporality that we found in the buildings that we were looking at.

We tend to forget when certain kinds of buildings were ugly, or judged as ugly, because we can't think of them that way nowadays. So, for example something like Penn Station in New York, the famous building by McKim, Mead and White opened in 1910 as a kind of a building that we think about this way, we think about through these kinds of images and photographs of these soaring spaces, grand spaces, filled with light from the steel frame and all of these other needs. We tend not to think about it the way that it was 50 years later, when it was demolished. Its demolition is regarded of course as one of the tragic examples of misguided lack of attention to a building, as a criminal act almost. But we we forget what kind of reception the building had in 1960 when it was seen by many people to be ugly, to be obsolete and ugly, it was decrepit, kind of run-down, it was seen as having outlived its useful life, its surfaces and its interiors have been allowed to decay and darken, it was kind of blackened, it was full of commercial junk and tchotchkes, it was not regarded very positively, it was regarded as a building that was ugly, rather than what we think of it as now today in its ideal original state of something that was beautiful, but which nevertheless was allowed to be demolished.

Similarly, a building like the Auditorium Building in Chicago, Louis Sullivan with a young Frank Lloyd Wright working in his office on the acoustics of the auditorium and other features of the building, nowadays one of the tourist landmarks of Chicago. A building that would be unthinkable, it would be unthinkable for somebody to consider demolishing this building in its current state, its beloved as a beautiful example of Sullivan's work and of Wright's work. We forget when it was ugly. Again about 50 years after the buildings opening during World War II, its lowest point when the building was used as away station for soldiers on their way to be shipped out for, to serve during World War II. The stage had been converted into a bowling alley, the building had been previously abandoned and this was kind of its only possible use. It was decaying was decrepit, it was really only that it was saved in 1947 by Roosevelt University deciding to buy the building and move in, otherwise as it very likely would have been demolished, it was considered to be obsolete, outdated, abandoned.

So, thinking in this way about ugliness as a kind of a temporality, and although it’s a thing, buildings could fall into the category or the reception of ugliness and maybe could crawl back out of them, we were led to this thing that we started calling the ugly valley, as a kind of temporal zone that buildings can fall into. We copied the term, kind of modified it a little bit of course from the idea of the uncanny valley in robotics and in kind of 3D animation now and other venues, the sort of cultural idea of a kind of valley through which certain representations have to pass from being artificial to being seen as real, where there's a kind of danger zone where something is not quite realistic enough, where its reception actually becomes quite uncanny, disturbingly uncanny almost because it's neither artificial enough nor exactly real, kind of falls into this middle or uncanny zone that is quite problematic.

We realised that this was exactly what was happening to the buildings of the era, of a heroic era, in the time that we were looking at them, in the 2000s. That these buildings, temporarily speaking, had fallen into this kind of ugly valley which for us was a period about 40 to 60, even 30 to 60 years after a building had opened, it’s a kind of dip in the sine curve of the building's popularity, and which really had historically been in many different carats the danger zone, in which these buildings were allowed to decay had were seen to have reached the end of their first useful life, but had not yet been transformed into a second useful life, and which became really the vulnerable period for many of these buildings in which they were either demolished or disfigured, mutilated, modified without any sensitivity to the original building. It was a period in which their styles have fallen out of public favour, and it clarified things immensely for us to think about these buildings and the ways in which they were routinely judged in the way that this article did as ugly, as you know among the ugliest buildings that had ever been designed, that it wasn't specific in other words to the architecture of these buildings, there was no necessary relationship between these buildings their style their material and a particular notion of ugliness aesthetically speaking, but it was a temporal condition more than anything and that it was happening to these buildings in the time period that we were looking at, but it had happened to many other buildings in the past.

Then we were confronting as part of this process other terms like monstrous, the idea of the monstrosity, another term that was commonly applied, still is, to these kinds of buildings as not just monumental but monstrous or even grotesque in their monumentality. So, we would get routinely these kinds of comments in articles that were written about these kinds of brutalist or heroic buildings, there was a very frequent link in terminology between concrete and this notion of the monstrous or monstrosity right, building those concrete monstrosity as hideous eyesores, or as ugly monstrosity. If you look up on Google the definition or at least at the time of monstrosity, it was a kind of supposedly neutral definition, we found that even the definition of monstrosity refers twice to buildings, to architecture, to this idea of raw concrete or a concrete monstrosity, so concrete had become folded into these kinds of cultural notions as these buildings found themselves exactly the low points of the ugly valley. We started mapping these kinds of terms, this was back when you could use Google Ngram to map the frequency or the kind of origins and extension of different kinds of terms, the period in which concrete monstrosity had kind of surged exactly in this timeframe that we were looking at, which again was about 50 years, 40 to 60 years after the period in which these buildings started to be built, right. Then we started looking at other eras of building that had in the same temporal relationship, 40 to 60 years on from their heyday, had fallen into a similar kind of valley. So, if you look for example at the conjunction of the terms Victorian and monstrosity, sure enough you find about 50 years after this sort of heyday another sort of peak, right, the peak that coincided precisely in the U.S. with the origins of historic preservation movements, which arose largely to preserve and validate the legacy of these kinds of Victorian era buildings which members of that generation saw as valuable, even as beautiful, but which were at that time sort of at the low point of their own ugly valley and were frequently demolished because they were considered to be grotesque, monstrous, obsolete, abandoned and ugly. Part of this process for us has been an attempt to recognise a process that we came to term active neglect, to describe the ways in which a lot of these buildings have been allowed to fall into disrepair, ruin and abandonment, and eventually in many cases demolition.

A lot of the buildings that we were looking at seemed not just to have accidentally or innocently fallen into this kind of decay, but to have been actively allowed by their stewards, by the people that were supposed to be protecting them, actively allowed to fall into disrepair, often as a pretext for radical changes or for demolition. In other words, neglect we started to see as an active process, not just as a passive lack of attention, but it was a deliberate refusal to maintain and to care for these buildings in a way that paved the way for… as in the case of the Martin Luther King School, exactly for demolition, through faults that were then blamed on the original architecture, as if it were the fault of the original architects to have designed buildings that required maintenance and care in the future, which was not given to them, rather than as a lack of maintenance that was in some ways we felt calculated.

We developed an exhibition on this idea of active neglect and abandonment and demolition at Pinkcomma Gallery a few years later in 2018 called Brutal Destruction, which was an exhibition of photography, by various different photographers of buildings in different parts of the country and internationally that had fallen into, and were unable to escape the ugly valley, and had in fact been demolished after being allowed to decay through these processes of active neglect, abandonment and disrepair. Prentice Hospital in Chicago, Araldo Cossutta’s Third Church in Washington DC, Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments in Buffalo, Alison and Peter Smithson’s housing estate in London, and other kinds of projects that for us were all part and parcel of similar dynamics of active neglect that eventually led to demolition.

As a counter we wanted to pose a return to a different territory of thinking about maintenance and care, not about abandonment, neglect, decay and demolition, which was very much sort of what was happening at the time. Maintenance and care puts us into a different history, a different set of attitudes, in relation to the built environment. Shannon Mattern has written an excellent article on Places Journal, on maintenance and care, where she develops a lot of these ideas about the ways in which these are very different territories of attitude let's say towards how we live in and Shepherd the built environment around us. She points to people like Mierle Lademan Ukeles and her manifesto on maintenance art from 1969, and her development of a dichotomy or a dialectic between what she calls development, and what she calls maintenance. Development according to Ukeles is really the heroic, the origin moment of creation, the kind of heroic act of initial creation, that's so much of the focus of art, history and architectural history have tended to privilege and to validate, right, the act of creation, gendered in Ukeles terms it's masculine, the kind of masculine heroic act of making that doesn't take into account the afterlife, what happens in other words after this moment of creation, which she refers to under the rubric of maintenance. Maintenance is everything that's neglected, about care, about preservation of objects and time, not the act of creation but the act of caring for things gendered in her viewpoint very much in terms of labour as feminine. She intended to validate the latter over the former.

It pointed us to histories in which maintenance and care really played an outsized role in narratives, and of physical spatial histories of the built environment that folded back on architecture in particular ways, for example Pruitt-Igoe’s apartments in St. Louis, a very famous case of demolition but which was really a huge part of the story as the documentary around those years and other kinds of sources made clear, a huge part of the story about Pruitt-Igoe was in fact a story of maintenance, or specifically the lack of maintenance that allowed the buildings to decay very much in process of active neglect, but then almost necessarily condemned the buildings to demolition, as they were… as both the social conditions and the architectural matter of the building were allowed to decay by the government that was… and the city that was supposed to be responsible for stewardship.

Returning to these ideas of maintenance and care, we wanted to in a way move these buildings, these heroic era concrete buildings that we were interested in, to move them away from the history that they were often primarily associated with, namely the history of urban renewal. Urban renewal is a process, in those decades, based on demolition and clearance of large areas of cities in the U.S. and North America through the declaration of neighbourhoods of slums or as blighted, this is the language that accompanied urban renewal developments at this time, in other words many of the buildings which we sought to preserve and generate a new conversation about, were themselves the products of a previous cycle of demolition of buildings which had not been maintained, which were actively neglected and then were demolished in favour of, as Ukeles would say, development of the heroic sort of originary new in place of the old, rather than processes of caring for the old.

Many of these buildings, part of the reason that they were hated and reviled, was because of their associations with this previous cycle of neglect, of abandonment and of demolition of whole swathes of urban fabric, and they were condemned in the reputation the present by sort of as guilty by association with these kinds of urban processes. So, it was interesting to see what happened when we took these buildings which were associated with this kind of masculine macho, indeed almost all of their architects were male, originary acts of heroic creation and to suddenly now have to regard them as being on the other end of the spectrum or the dialectic in this relationship between development and maintenance, or between creation and care, and to think about building a discourse of caring for these buildings. Buildings which were themselves seen very much as coming out of a lack of care for the things which preceded them, but which now we have to apply kind of a similar lens to look at and to build a conversation about how to validate these buildings in the present, how to think about not just repeating the cycle of demolition over and over and over again and constantly search for the new as a kind of replacement, and instead to think about continuity in time. To think about ways of allowing buildings that were seen as ugly to persist in time and to find ways of excepting in some sense they're out of placeness, they're out of placeness temporarily, their sense of being temporarily in the wrong place and to find ways of learning to live with this and to kind of think through what those things could mean for a sense of anachronism or a kind of renewed sense of their possibility in the present.

So, we were again sort of in line with certain kinds of fellow travellers that we found along the way, like Koolhaas again, the idea that ugliness also has a right to exist, is kind of out of placeness or wrongness or sort of out of alignment with certain kinds of cultural conditions in one's time should… there should be a place for that, there should be a way that these buildings could be allowed to exist, right? and then it's really the fault of a society that it can no longer tolerate ugliness, versus the idea of preserving even the ugly. So, in terms of what happened to these buildings and specifically Boston City Hall, we saw some of these things actually transpiring out of our… or in relation to, let's say in parallel with our meditations on these ideas of ugliness, maintenance and caring time as a set of temporal processes. Boston City Hall, after our book was published, kind of in the few years afterwards started to be in fact revitalised, rethought and reused in a much more loving and robust way, by a new Mayor, it became the centre of events, of temporary exhibitions, music performances and other kinds of things, it started to be adorned in the way that Michael McKinnell and Gerhard Kallmann had had always intended with artworks and other things that would make the building sort of more lively and robust. We were astonished that Michael McKinnell was brought back into the fold by the new Mayor of Boston, Martin Walsh, as a kind of a sea change from the previous era in which we had started when the Mayor at the time Thomas Menino again was talking about demolishing the building, went from that to a period when Mayor Walsh invited the original architects of the building back to meet with him and try to understand the legacy and the value of the building, in a way that was for us quite, kind of exceptional.

We were involved with others who applied for conservation grants, for example from the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, Keeping it Modern grants, to study the physics and the technics of this kind of concrete, and to study the preservation techniques that would be specific to these kinds of 20th century buildings that were materially innovative and therefore often, in our time, now require specific conservation techniques that require new kinds of technical and scientific research. We also became involved in conversations with the Mayor, with the government of the city of Boston around the history of the building, we presented our book, we tried to spur a new kind of discussion in order to try to get these buildings out of the ugly valley that we found them to be in.

Now all of this culminated for us with the 50th anniversary of Boston City Hall, in which Michael McKinnell the original architect was invited back to give a speech on the building which for was a powerful moment of revitalisation, of validation, of not just our efforts, but the efforts of very many people with which we were involved in… and kind of a sign that the building maybe had been able to cross the dangerous valley, the ugly valley, and to make it out to the other side. It was accompanied by these sorts of articles that for us also signified that something was changing, that these ideas about ugliness that were embedded in the reception of these buildings when we started were themselves changing, right.

Why not just why Brutalism is back but the case for ugly, these kinds of things, the buildings that people love to hate are once again in vogue, we thought you know, this was a kind of proof of the idea that these were unstable and mutable concepts that could change, right, we got to these… the point of these kinds of articles, very different from the ones that had been written before. Brutal is now beautiful, not ugly but beautiful, right. So, this was all sort of where we were led to in terms of our speculations and what we saw happening on the ground in the years after the book.

These were kinds of victories but as a conclusion I would say if the fight is not yet over. That's some of what happened to Boston City Hall, a building that we now feel that is out of the ugly valley and out of the danger zone in terms of preservation, conservation and care, but other buildings, even adjacent ones nearby, master works like Paul Rudolph's State Services Centre are now themselves just as we speak in the danger zone, passing through their own ugly valley still. This is an article from the last couple of months about proposal on the boards to redevelop the site of the State Services Centre, so for us the fight continues, we keep going and we hope that this framework of thinking that we've engaged in on temporality and on the relationship between ugliness and certain ideas at that time, maintenance and care, can help us address the fate of these kinds of buildings going into the future.

Thanks everyone for your attention. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.