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Health and Human Services Building

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Health, Education and Welfare State Service Center
1972, Paul Rudolph, coordinating architect; Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott; Pederson and Tilney and M. A. Dyer and Desmond and Lord. Staniford, Merrimac, New Chardon, and Cambridge sts.
  • Heath and Human Services Building (Health, Education and Welfare State Service Center) (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)

This mega-structure was designed to incorporate health, education, and welfare services. Paul Rudolph set the design criteria of this eight-acre complex in accord with its triangular site. Few buildings seemed as exciting at the time of its construction; its colossal striated-concrete piers and stepped terraces within sloping to the projected focal tower at the center created a high amphitheater-like space. Further drops mark the Staniford Street facade, where a stairway winds through the monumental volumes, defining the building's service functions. Rudolph's original sketches reveal an elaborate and brilliant rationale connecting the building to the sea. Unfortunately, economics interfered, leaving the centerpiece a gaping hole until the construction of the adjacent Edward W. Brooke Courthouse (GC24).

Early enthusiasm for Rudolph's structure has waned as younger generations feel that as a building designed for serving people, many of whom are needy, it is quite threatening instead of welcoming in its lack of attention to the human scale. Nevertheless, the drama of the central courtyard remains compelling.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan



  • 1972


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Health and Human Services Building", [Boston, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 54-55.

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