Brutalism lost the good fight in 2015. One of its most important icons, the Orange County Government Center in Goshen, New York, fell to the wrecking ball this year. Paul Rudolph’s many-eyed monster should still be standing today.
The odds were never so stacked against it as its detractors might think. The Government Center has been on the chopping block since 2011, when it was damaged by Hurricane Irene following decades of neglect. Its supporters rallied this year, when Gene Kaufman, a prominent New York architect, offered to buy and restore the building to turn it into an artists’ residency and exhibit space. Kaufman even offered to design a new government building next door—for millions less than what Orange County was looking to pay. “A no-brainer,” as Michael Kimmelman put it in The New York Times.
The local daily, The Times Herald-Record, nodded in agreement. “What started for [Kaufman] as a hope to preserve a unique building has turned into something else, a chance for the county and especially the Village of Goshen to get more and spend less than they have considered in any other circumstance,” one editorial reads. By tearing down the Government Center, the county was giving up a cultural asset others had deemed valuable—as in purchasable.
Steven Neuhaus, the Orange County executive, nevertheless plowed ahead, vetoing a county bill to hear out Kaufman’s proposal for a “two-building solution.” County legislators declined to override the executive’s veto, and efforts by one attorney to stall the process through the courts ultimately failed. In lieu of a combined government complex and arts center, Orange County is proceeding with a demolition and replacement scheme that has been rife with cost overruns, charges of nepotism, and accusations of environmental neglect.