PAUL RUDOLPH, COORDINATING ARCHITECTS; SHEPLEY, BULFINCH, RICHARDSON AND ABBOTT WITH DESMOND & LORD
Health and Human Services Building, 1963

This building, or set of buildings, is astonishing in many ways. It is clearly one place, yet it is the work of several firms following the design leadership of one.... It is massive and shapely, imaginative, technically ingenious, sometimes gratuitously graceful, alternately comfortable and overpowering (mostly overpowering).... The concrete plaza surface and surrounding buildings make a field of vision filled with a single material variously textured and sunned, but perhaps more comforting to Italian hill-town aficionados than to the unemployed who use the building perforce.... Passage between the [upper and lower plazas] is via an elegantly attenuated, rhythmically paced curving exterior stair that would serve better in a Fred Astaire extravaganza. It descends through the space among piers, bridges and still crazier stairs heading elsewhere, in a spatial sequence that is at times literally dizzying. If you can keep track of where you’re going, you’ll almost certainly swing out at the bottom in a gliding step with your fingers snapping—though your clothes may be a bit tattered by the rough concrete. The building is genuinely an astonishing performance but one that finally and sadly makes the people who use it seem clumsy, frail and incongruous.

Donlyn Lyndon The City Observed: Boston, 1982

The program called for the provision of vast areas of free plan offices to house Employment Security, Health, Welfare and Education and Mental Health. Rudolph’s master design fitted into the triangular site and placed the offices on stepped terraces inclined like an amphitheatre to an urban space at the center; the focus was reinforced by a large tower, which was never carried out. On the basis of practical requirements like access platforms and vertical service towers, Rudolph worked out a dramatic, almost Baroque, fantasy of ascending stairs, twisting volumes and giant, corduroy concrete piers. The stepped interpenetrations were typical of his style at the time, and represented a restless fusion of heroic, Corbusian forms with spatial complexities derived from Wright. However, the synthesis has been more than the sum of its sources.

William J. Curtis Boston: Forty Years of Modern Architecture, 1980

In a tour-de-force demonstrating the sculptural possibilities of concrete, Paul Rudolph created his own landscape for a large government complex using his trademark corduroy concrete. The long stretches of stretches of terracing, deep overhangs, and cylindrical towers forms a twentieth-century evocation of a European piazza. It establishes its own strong vocabulary without attempting to relate to its diverse neighbors. Sunscreens mask the endless office windows, stairways become sculptural flights, and paving swirls in sinuous curves of small terraces.

Susan and Michael Southworth AIA Guide to Boston, 1992