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Michael McKinnell, 1935-2020


At the age of 84, on 27 March, Michael McKinnell died of pneumonia after testing positive for Covid-19. Born in Manchester, McKinnell attended the university of his native city before leaving for the United States. He finished his architecture studies at Columbia University, which also gave him the opportunity for a first foray into professional practice. This was in 1962, through a competition that garnered more than 200 entries, and which made him a 26-year-old co-author of the new Boston City Hall. If the commission brought him celebrity, it was not so much due to the virtues of the building, a powerful brutalist structure on a major public square, as to the polemic surrounding its construction. A controversy that echoed the tensions afflicting American architecture at the time, and that featured the critic Ada Louise Huxtable, who upheld the building as an example of civic commitment in spite of its radical language.

McKinnell would never manage to step out of the long shadow of the Boston City Hall, no matter how successful his firm was in taking on important projects and executing them in a postmodern language. The Hynes Convention Center in Boston and the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia are by him. 

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