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Michael McKinnell



On 27 March, a coronavirus-induced case of pneumonia took the life of Michael McKinnell. He was 84. Born in Manchester, McKinnell attended his city’s university, then left to complete his studies at Columbia University. In the USA, he had his first professional opportunity. This was in 1962, through a competition that drew in more than 200 entries, thanks to which he became, at only 26, the author of the new Boston City Hall. The commission brought him celebrity not only because of the good points of the powerful brutalist volume adjoining a large public square, but also because of the controversy it sparked in the wake of its construction. It was a controversy that echoed the tensions gripping American architecture during that period, and involved figures like the critic Ada Louise Huxtable, who hailed the building as an example of civic commitment, despite the radical tone of its language. McKinnell never managed to unshackle himself from the shadow of Boston City Hall, even though his successful office raised postmodern works of note, such as the Hynes Convention Center in Boston and the Independence Visitor Center in Philadelphia.

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