BY NAOM DVIR
Exposed concrete became the skin and bones of Boston’s civic architecture in the early 1960s. Like other great American cities, it suffered from a severe postwar urban crisis, prompting leaders to embark on a series of multimillion-dollar urban regeneration projects. Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston (The Monacelli Press), a new book by three local architects and academics, describes the transformative period between 1960 and 1976, and explains how adapting a shared vocabulary of modern concrete architecture allowed Boston to operate as a lab for radical formal ideas. Throughout 300-plus pages, the authors posit that concrete was quite literally a choice between life and death for the city; in doing so, they present a wealth of original drawings and expansive, if academic, descriptions of the city’s Brutalist gems. Projects within pages include Marcel Breuer’s Madison Park High School in Roxbury—a lesser-known 1977 work from the famous modernist—and the 1969 New England Aquarium, possibly the most insanely ahead-of-its-time sea-life museum in the world, with its super-sized fish tank’s backdrop of ravishing exposed concrete. Although Heroic serves as an important depository, it fails to explain the public’s ongoing dismay for concrete architecture—a noticeable oversight in a time global debate over the very significance and ethics of Brutalist architecture.