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Is Boston City Hall one of the 10 most beautiful in the US?

Boston City Hall. Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

A contributor to the website Curbed has declared that the much-maligned Boston City Hall is one of the 10 most beautiful city halls in the United States.

Yes, you heard that right: Boston City Hall, a building that is literally in the Brutalist architectural style, and that some people say has a brutal effect on their eyes.

Megan Barber writes for the real estate site, “Without the ornamentation of Victorian or Beaux Arts buildings, it’s easy to see why some might decry the building’s massive concrete as, well, not ‘pretty.’ ”

You can say that again.

But she continues, saying that “we appreciate the Boston City Hall for its bold Brutalist charm. It takes guts to design a city hall like no other — a blocky, geometric design that while imposing, is also heroic. Brutalism may not please everyone, but the architectural style captured a moment in time and, as such, Boston City Hall deserves recognition on this list.”

One opinion writer in the Globe has described the building as an “atrocious waste of space” and called for it to be torn down; another called for a makeover of a building that’s “fortress-like, grim, top-heavy, ponderous, intimidating, shadowy, graceless, unwelcoming, cavernous, confusing.”


The Globe took an in-depth look at how the City Hall design was born in a 2012 Ideas piece.

“Art is not what pleases you immediately,” one of the architects told the Globe. “It is not pretty-pretty, easy on the eye.  . . . That is operetta stuff. That is Rodgers and Hammerstein.  . . . That is not what we did.”

So maybe Barber has a point.

One thing’s for sure: The inclusion of City Hall on Barber’s list, along with a slew of more conventionally pretty municipal buildings, gives the list a little contrarian zing.


Boston City Hall in 1968.Dan Sheehan/Globe Staff/Globe Staff
Ground cleared for a City Hall in 1964. Paul Connell/Globe Staff