Good news for Greensboro and Guilford County was reported on the front page of the Dec. 26 edition of the Wall Street Journal.
No, it isn’t financial or economic good news. It’s architectural.
A front page headline reads, “Brutalist Buildings Are Back In Style – Except With Architects.”
Both Greensboro’s city hall and the Guilford County Courthouse are examples of Brutalist architecture. When they were built 1968-1972, it was a popular style of architecture. Since then the buildings have been derided as “the ugliest in town,” although that is a much disputed claim since both beauty and ugly are in the eye of the beholder. But the description often used, “pillboxes on steroids,” does seem appropriate.
The Wall Street Journal article by Alistair MacDonald states, “Brutalism, the oft-derided architectural style of blockish buildings and naked concrete, is making a comeback.”
It also states, “Architectural styles fall into and out of fashion, but few have been as controversial as Brutalism. It flourished in the post World War II period of public housing construction and tight budgets.”
The buildings are as brutal on the inside as they are on the outside, and those who don’t frequent the buildings find navigation inside extremely difficult. A few years ago two reporters working on an article about the courthouse being extremely user unfriendly ran into an assistant county manager hurrying to a meeting for which they informed him he was going to be late because he was on the wrong floor.
One outdoor staircase of city hall has had yellow caution tape blocking the entrance, not for years but for decades. The doors to that staircase might be permanently blocked except they are used by councilmembers who like to take a cigarette break during meetings.
But if the popularity of this type of architecture really is “making a comeback,” perhaps the city and county could unload the buildings to a developer for enough money to build welcoming rather than frightening public buildings.