The future of Paul Rudolph’s 1967 Brutalist icon, originally designed as a Government Center in Goshen, N.Y., remained uncertain after 2011 storms left the structure roughly damaged. Threats of possible destruction galvanized the architectural and preservation communities and prompted critics such as Paul Goldberger, James Russell, and Alexandra Lange to voice dissent against the building’s impending demolition.
Today, Gene Kaufman, principal of Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman & Associates Architects, will submit a proposal to purchase the shuttered Orange County building and turn it into a thriving community arts center. Kaufman’s proposal was developed in response to an RFP issued by Orange County Executive Steven M. Neuhaus last month.
“The Government Center is the single most important piece of architecture in Orange County,” said Kaufman in a press release. “Its destruction would be a tragedy, especially when a solution is at hand—repurposing the building as an arts hub—that would both ensure its survival and yield vast long-term benefits for the entire region.”
Kaufman’s proposal may save the Government Center from facing the wrecking ball, and help it avoid the fate of Prentice Women’s Hospital in Chicago, which was demolished last year to make way for new construction. As ARCHITECT Editor-in-Chief Ned Cramer, Assoc. AIA, noted in a 2012 editorial, “it’s a bad time to be a Brutalist building.” But perhaps the solution lies with architects taking a financial stake in the preservation efforts of historic buildings facing uncertainty, or worse, destruction. While preservationists certainly advocated Prentice’s merits, financial activism by invested architects, such as a $1 million deposit accompanying the firm’s proposal, may prove more effective in preserving Rudolph’s legacy.
A prominent figure in 1950s and 60s architecture, Rudolph was best known for his use of concrete in Brutalist designs, but also produced an extensive collection of quieter residential projects. Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman also restored Rudolph’s 1963 Art and Architecture Building at Yale (now Rudolph Hall) in 2008.
For more Brutalism, please visit ARCHITECT’s Esto Gallery of three notable Brutalist structures.