Paul Rudolph’s Masterpiece at Risk

by Paul Rudolph © New York Times - Tony Cenicola

Considered one of Paul Rudolph’s greatest achievements, the 1970’s Orange County Government Center is an icon of the late modernist era. Poor maintenance has lead to deterioration and in September a large flood caused extensive damage to the structure, forcing county officials to close the center. Since then, the county government has been calling for the building to be demolished. Last week, Orange County Executive Ed Diana proposed to replace the cultural icon with a $75 million, 175,000 square-foot mediocre building, offering only 22,000 square-feet of space more than the existing building. With renovation estimates around $67.2 million, or $40.9 million for a “less extensive upgrade”, the architectural and preservationist communities are outraged. Continue reading for more. 

Orange County legislators are currently divided on whether to demolition or preserve the government center, and a vote may take place in April. Speak up now and help save this endangered brutalist legacy. Need more motivation? Check out the entire proposal for the “new” government center here. Find more information on how you can help save the Orange County Government Center here.

Orange County Executive Edward A. Diana’s New Government Center Proposal

Reference: Culture Grrl, World Monuments Fund

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "Paul Rudolph’s Masterpiece at Risk" 13 Mar 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 19 Sep 2014. <>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    This is an unfortunate reality that we face in the industry. However it teaches a very important lesson- plan and think very seriously about the sustainability of your structures.

    • Thumb up Thumb down -4

      Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

      • Thumb up Thumb down +10

        Shame on the Architect? They said what happened:
        “Poor maintenance has lead to deterioration”
        Would you drive your car for 10 years without changing the oil or tires?

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    This will be a crime against architectural history. What a shame and why would anyone sign (especially an architect) to build and replace it!

  3. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I think Historic Preservationists should be renamed, “Historic Revisionists”.

    After practicing in America for nearly 10 years, I’ve often found that Historic Preservation Committees are often made of “volunteers”. School teachers, moms, retired politicians. Whom have little to no experience in architecture or architectural history.

    It is those “volunteers”, however trained or in-experienced, often make the most important decisions in a building’s survival or death. And however subjective it may seem, most Committee members want to live either before WWII or wish to re-make all buildings to something before that era. Why?

    Why can’t Americans embrace the pluralism and messiness of history? And respect the each era’s culture of building? How will Preservationists deal with the 1970s & po-mo 1980′s?

    • Thumb up Thumb down -2

      Perhaps it would be an idea to not build these buildings were normal people with no architectural education live and are then?

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    yes, it would be a great pity if this were demolished, but do architects seriously expect every important modern 20th century building to be preserved? especially Brutalist structures like these, which almost every layperson would think is atrocious.
    let’s be honest, these are buildings only an architect could love. the same goes for most of the utopian social housing schemes of the ’60s. and many others. i am an architect, so i can see the value, but i can also see that most people won’t understand (or don’t care).
    @ scott m: you speak about “volunteers” who have “little to no experience in architecture”… if someone needs an architectural education to understand the value of a particular building, what does it say about that building? or about architects?
    at the end of the day it’s a matter of resources and sustainability, like CBradshaw says. unfortunately the structural daring, materiality and spatial organisation that made Brutalism so powerful is also its greatest weakness, because it ages so badly, causing great expense to the owner.
    without intervention these concrete wonders wouldn’t last more than a century…

    • Thumb up Thumb down -1

      Have to say,

      this is really elegant ang organic for a 20th century building. It really hasn’t seen any brutalism of anykind, at least in a way it is seen in Europe. Take my word on it as an European architect.

      Replacing a building is another thing. What is really ecological is to keep old structures and renew them even it costs as much as new one (usually does). LEED in calcs does really not result to ecological results but merely to vague feeling doing something right without calculating it.

      Neo-anything always raises a question whether replacing something is involved with qustionable taste more than technical or economical reasons.

      Really, is that kind of proposal in USA really serious? Wouldn’t be in Europe’s northern countries.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    It’s a pity that those who never chanced to see this buidling in reality will have to see it through pictures only. Had we paid more attention to the beautiful structures that surround us, time would have seized to forget them, as is the case here.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      A pity?
      The far greater shame is that you would force people who hate this building to live with every day of their lives.
      What egos! Whar arrogance!

  6. Thumb up Thumb down -3

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +5

    I think calling the proposed replacement “mediocre” is too generous.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    Having lived in the area for years I can tell you that the current building is an eyesore both inside and out. The replacement is far from being an architectural achievement, however to argue that the current building is a testament to creative imagination is a bit of a stretch.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +2

    It is in the interests of the local economy, Goshen N.Y. I believe it is, to retain and establish the Rudolph architecture as a mecca for those interested in the arts. It is built and they will come to see it as a work of art. The new building can go elsewhere.
    And I have to wonder what prompted the hiring of such an inventive and enthusiastic architect to begin with? How on earth did that ever happen? Keep the architecture and be glad that did.

Share your thoughts