Eyesore preservation

by Walter Olson on December 19, 2007

The brutalist-modern Third Church of Christ Scientist is one of the most widely disliked buildings in Washington, D.C., not least by its own congregation, which groans at the impracticalities of maintaining the concrete monstrosity: “According to one church official, you’ve got to build scaffolding just to reach some of the [light] bulbs [to change them].” But Washington’s local architectural-preservation authorities forbid the congregants from replacing the building, which dates all the way back to 1971. (Charles Paul Freund, “A Brutalist Bargain”, American Spectator, Dec. 18).

{ 3 comments }

1 Ted 12.19.07 at 8:50 am

That’s a great article. The monstrosity was my next-door neighbor for two years. (Picture of it at its most appealing—it looks considerably worse for the wear now, not least because my former office building now takes up that swath of blue sky on the right, and is a glass tower that is a complete mismatch with its neighbor.) It’s apparently not entirely unwelcoming, because the alley between the octagon and my then office building perpetually reeks of urine, even from the normal sidewalk. But I don’t know why we can’t just point to the even uglier FBI building as an example of Brutalism if preservation laws require such a monument. At least let it be a government boondoggle rather than one imposed upon private citizens.

NB the perverse incentives: if you spend a lot more on an architect up front to design something unique, you face the risk of being regulated extra hard on it on the back end. Better on every account to spend less to build something that doesn’t stand out. The architects really screwed themselves over when they lobbied for preservation.

2 spongeworthy_us 12.19.07 at 10:12 am

Hold on a minute, overlawyered.com dudes.

You can’t exactly fairly blame the lawyers for this situation.

Doesn’t the blame actually rest with the past idiot legislators who created the laws, as well as the current idiot legislators who cannot or will not, but in any case do not, repeal or amend commonsenseless laws such as these?

3 Happy Fun Ball 12.19.07 at 5:45 pm

I guess if you can’t afford the view, don’t complain about the view.

Oh, but wait, those that own it are unable to do anything about it!

Why doesn’t the public or the preservationist group BUY it and then they can do whatever they want with it?

Sounds like an illegal taking without ANY compensation whatsoever-by another private entity.

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