“A box is the easiest thing to build. This ain’t no box,” said Paul Rudolph in response to criticism of the Government Center he designed in the town of Goshen, New York. Completed in 1967, the Brutalist building is considered one of Rudolph’s greatest achievements. However, the structure landed on the World Monuments Fund watch list after poor maintenance led to deterioration and a series of damaging storms caused its closure in 2011. Preservationists want it saved, many in the Orange County legislature do not, and – in an interesting 11th-hour twist – architect Gene Kaufman recently offered to buy the building and transform it into art studios and exhibition spaces.
Located an hour northwest of New York City, the building is worth going to see, as I did recently. At first, it felt smaller than it appears in photographs, but then it literally grew on me. I’ve always been a fan of Rudolph’s work, and this building does not disappoint. Standing at the end of an empty parking lot riddled with cracks and weeds, the now vacant building is surrounded by a freshly mowed lawn and neatly trimmed trees. The facade is a cluster of windowed boxes that appear to be lurching forward, as if they’re each trying to get a better look at you. The side of the building that faces Main Street is long and windowless. Having a sense of exaggerated perspective, the stretched and staggered boxes look as if they were frozen in mid stride, like a single frame of a stop-motion film.