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The Boston Globe

Ideas

Can buildings be too young to save?

The struggle to predict — and preserve — the architectural landmarks of tomorrow

It’s possible to love a city without loving all its buildings. That’s a lucky thing for Boston, where some of the most notable works of architecture since the 1960s are also the most loathed. There are the looming twin towers of the JFK Federal Building (1966), the forbidding 1972 addition to the Central Library, the dementedly Seussian Stata Center at MIT (2004), and the Government Service Center (1971), an aggressive concrete behemoth designed by star architect Paul Rudolph. And of course there’s City Hall, finished in 1968, which has been called the ugliest building in the world.

City Hall is so architecturally unpopular that Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh made a campaign promise to sell it off to the highest bidder, the latest in a long line of proposals to get rid of the concrete giant. The building has its defenders, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to save it. And similar fights over buildings too young to have accumulated affection are going on in other cities. Last month, residents of Houston voted against a referendum that would have saved the skyline-defining Astrodome, built in 1965, from demolition. “We can’t imagine a more iconic structure in our community,” said Stephanie Ann Jones, executive director of the nonprofit Preservation Houston, the day after the vote. “That’s what’s most disheartening.”

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