Paul Rudolph's Blue Cross Blue Shield building, Boston.
Blog Post

Paul Rudolph Buildings Threatened Yet Again

Paul Rudolph's Blue Cross Blue Shield building, Boston.

World Monuments Fund has rallied to protect several works by Paul Rudolph over the years, most recently his 1971 Orange County Government Center. That site was included on the 2012 World Monuments Watch, yet after a multiyear advocacy effort by WMF and others, the building is now a shell of its former self.  So, we were especially distressed to hear from Docomomo US that two more Rudolph works have come under threat.

Rudolph’s Blue Cross/Blue Shield Building (1960) in Boston, MA, a 12 story, square plan office building, at 133 Federal Street, features an innovative exo-structure which frees the interiors of columns and also contains the heating and ventilation systems. Rather than sheathing the building with glass, the popular choice of the moment, Rudolph faced the building in masonry to better contextualize with its neighbors. 

Plans for a development threatening demolition of the building originally surfaced in 2007, when the City of Boston announced the construction of a tower designed by Renzo Piano on an adjacent city- owned lot at 115 Winthrop Square.  The plans called for the creation of a new open space to complement the tower on the site of Blue Cross/Blue shield, which the City also owned at the time.  Funding for the project got caught in the financial recession of 2008 and it never materialized.

More recently, the Boston Redevelopment Authority put out a request for proposals in another attempt to develop 115 Winthrop Square.  The RFP drew five responses.  One of them, from Trans National Properties, proposes the demolition of Blue Cross/Blue Shield in the second phase of a twin-tower construction project-- perhaps because, as the current owner of Blue Cross/Blue Shield, it was the only responder in a position to do so.

In Buffalo, New York, phase two demolition plans are underway at Rudolph’s Shoreline apartments (1974). In 2005, the owner of the complex, Norstar Development U.S.A. LLC, demolished five of the existing 32 buildings despite the continued work of many preservation groups that rallied together to save and protect the remaining buildings. Now, there are reports that Norstar has given the remaining tenants a November 1st deadline to vacate their homes before demolishing the remainder of the site.  The complex was determined eligible for a National Register listing, yet the developer is going ahead its demolition plans.

Read more about the developments on Docomomo’s website, which includes links to articles about each building. 


Also by this author: Steeples not Smokestacks.