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The ‘brutalist’ fight over the old Cambridge courthouse

Boston Condos

Boston Condos

The fight over what to do with the old Middlesex County Courthouse in Cambridge is beyond NIMBY at this point.

Forget about redeveloping the site. Some residents and city officials are actually calling for it to be outright town down – or at least to be chopped down by a large number of floors:

Several Cambridge city councilors are calling on the state and Leggat McCall to work together to substantially reduce the height, traffic, and environmental impacts of the development.

“This is a building that probably never should have been built. That is the problem,” said Councilor Dennis Carlone.

On one point, all parties agree: The building is ugly. Leggat McCall describes the 1970s-era architecture as Brutalist. When the state built the courthouse it was exempt from local zoning laws, and the 22-story tower soared above neighboring homes.

The proposed redesign of the courthouse (illustration above) doesn’t look too bad to us. In fact, it looks nice. But then, we don’t live in the neighborhood.