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UMass campaign to save 'Brutalist' buildings wins national architecture award

The Randolph W. Bromery Fine Arts Center at UMass Amherst (foreground) is an example of Brutalist architecture. Designed by architect Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, it was constructed in 1974.
Bilyana Dimitrova
/
UMass
The Randolph W. Bromery Fine Arts Center at UMass Amherst (foreground) is an example of Brutalist architecture. Designed by architect Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo and Associates, it was constructed in 1974.

A UMass campaign to highlight so-called Brutalist architecture on the Amherst and Dartmouth campuses is among the winners of this year's Modernism in America awards by Docomomo U.S.

Brutalism, which comes from the French term beton brut — or exposed concrete — describes a post-war cost-effective style of architecture.

Senior planner Ludmilla Pavlova-Gillham said the Fine Arts Center is one of several examples at UMass Amherst.

“It pulled together many different programs and had a very important economic development goal to provide one facility for all of the arts, theatre, music and the visual arts,” Pavlova-Gillham said.

Campus planning director Richard Yeager said the campaign, called UMassBrut, aims to change negative perceptions about the concrete structures, and raise awareness on Beacon Hill.

“So ultimately, we can raise dollars in deferred maintenance to be able to retrofit them and find good use for them moving forward. They're excellent buildings but they are in desperate need of help,” Yeager said.

An illuminated display of the university's Brutalist architecture will be projected on the Fine Arts Center on October 29 during homecoming weekend.

Other New England winners of the Modernism in America Award are the Hotel Marcel in New Haven, Connecticut, and the Stockmeyer House in Norwich, Vermont

Kari Njiiri is a senior reporter and longtime host and producer of "Jazz Safari," a musical journey through the jazz world and beyond, broadcast Saturday nights on NEPM Radio. He's also the local host of NPR’s "All Things Considered."