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Preservationists Fight to Keep Building Looking Brutal

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Brutalist architecture (think big concrete boxes with tiny windows) is a style that had a good run in the '50s through the '70s, but isn't looked at too fondly through the clarity of hindsight. Most people think the buildings are flat-out ugly, in fact. But now one Brutalist structure on the Upper East Side finds itself in the rare position of having people speak up on behalf of its, er, brutality. It's 57 East 75th Street, where an application to enlarge some of the co-op's windows went before the Landmarks Preservation Commission this week. Altering a few windows may not sound like much of a controversy, but this is the Upper East Side Historic District, so it's practically a life-or-death situation.

A few groups showed up to oppose the application and advocate for keeping residents in the dark. The Historic Districts Council said in testimony that "while Brutalism may not be everyone's cup of tea, it is a major architectural movement, one worthy of preservation...If an application proposed changing the size and configuration of the windows on one of the adjacent buildings, the Commission would undoubtedly not approve it." That's right, don't treat one daughter differently from the others, lest she grow up to marry a prince and become all powerful and junk.

The Friends of the Upper East Side concurred, adding that while 57 East 75th Street is "not the most distinguished Brutalist building," it is "distinctive." The Landmarks Preservation Commission agreed! While the LPC didn't take action, it was generally against the window changes, urging more respect for the design. They find the building to be "nice, interesting, quirky," and the windows "unique." Quote of the day, regarding those tiny fenestrae: "They're supposed to be brutal, keep them brutal!" The proposal was kicked back to the applicants for more adjustments. Score one for the brutes.
?Reporting by Deanna Kawitzsky