I have always been disappointed that Americans who thrill to the visceral power of Europe’s ancient castles, cathedrals, and piazzas don’t appreciate the strength and integrity of modern environments designed along similar lines. Timothy M. Rohan (“Concrete baroque,” Ideas, Sept. 7) has done an excellent job of putting the towers and courtyard of Paul Rudolph’s Government Service Center into the context of architectural and urban history and suggesting a more open-minded way to understand this much-maligned masterpiece.
But the building and surrounding spaces won’t ever live up to their potential if they aren’t better integrated into the physical and social context around them. Siena, Italy’s Piazza del Campo, one of Rudolph’s inspirations, is wrapped by cafes that keep it energized long after the city hall at its center has closed. France’s Dordogne Valley castles, with massive towers much like Rudolph’s, are surrounded by shops and houses that connect them to village life. Cathedrals throughout Europe front on market squares that attract people day and night.
The Government Service Center and adjacent spaces should be respected for their design integrity, and then thoughtfully transformed to accommodate the urban activities on which a city’s vitality depends.
The writer is an architect.