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Madison Park High School

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1967–1968, Marcel Breuer and Tician Papachristou. 55 Malcolm X Blvd.
  • (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)

Harsh, brutal, and empty, this vast complex of prefabricated concrete is testimony to the sixties' translation of urban renewal goals to create a model social agenda. Part of a sixty-acre site was to be transformed into a residential, commercial, and industrial area, with a high school cast in the mold of a collegelike campus serving as its core. Designed to accommodate five thousand students, the compound also features a theater, an art center, and a gymnasium, all open to the neighboring communities as well as to students. Adhering to the idea of a college campus, the school is composed of subschools, or “instructional houses.” Underground concourses and connecting bridges join the different activities and lead to athletic facilities and parking beyond.

A syncopated rhythm characterizes the long New Dudley Street facade, its complexity manifest in deeply recessed angled cubes serving as fenestration on the three stories; this volumetric design alternates with metal vents on the flat surfaces. The whole sits on a high base of poured concrete, partly concealed by the lawn fronting the street. A central three-aisle colonnade marked by eight piers at either end results in a nondescript entrance, beyond which one sees the terrain and wall surfaces of unrelieved concrete. Rising from below, the trees imprisoned in its sunken court serve as but another reminder of the absence of an intelligently designed landscape that could have softened the environment, and, at the same time, responded to the dramatic rocky outcrop of the park across the street.

Although built with exemplary intentions and harboring a host of amenities, not least, multilingual communication and placement centers, the high school does not appear to have fulfilled the original aim of the program as an organ for positive social change of the individual and the community.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Madison Park High School", [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, 244-245.

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