• Brutal Legacy: Paul Rudolph's Orange County Government Center
    Sean Hemmerle & William Watson

Sean Hemmerle, OCGC Southern Elevation, Dawn, 2013, Goshen, NY. Courtesy of the artist.

The Orange County Government Center has been the focus of an ongoing public debate concerning the viability and relevance of Brutalist architecture. Opened in 1971, at a time of civic optimism, the building was quickly beset by recessions, political reversals, and negligent maintenance, leaving it damaged and unpopular. Recently, local politicians, who consider the complex an economic and visual burden, have forced the building’s evacuation and continue to lobby for its full or partial demolition. Brutal Legacy is a collaborative project between photographer Sean Hemmerle and designer William Watson that employs photography and research to document this critical juncture in the life of a Brutalist masterwork. The project aims to understand the Government Center through the materials and disposition that will bring about its preservation, or its demise, and to illuminate the moment at which a building and an architectural style face proscription.

Sean Hemmerle is a New York-based photographer whose work ranges from international conflict zones to contemporary architecture. His conflict images span a tumultuous decade, from the World Trade Center to Kabul, Baghdad, Gaza, Juárez, and Beirut. Closer to home, Hemmerle has created award-winning photographs that reflect the pathos and poetry of the American Rust Belt, including work from Detroit, Pittsburgh, Toledo, Gary, and Albany. Hemmerle has exhibited nationally and internationally, recently in a solo show at the Feroz Galerie in Germany, Paris Photo, and AIPAD. He has been showing at the Front Room Gallery since 1999. His work can be found in public and private collections, including the Museum of Modern Art, the International Center for Photography, The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, and the Margulies Warehouse. His work was recently acquired by the Open Society Foundations for their permanent collection. Hemmerle's images have been featured in numerous publications, including The New York Times Magazine, Time, Newsweek, Harper's, Columbia Journalism Review, Le Monde 2, Die Zeit, The Sunday Telegraph, and Daylight Magazine.

William Watson is a designer and writer practicing in New York. His recent article on the Orange County Government Center, “Paul Rudolph: Song of Deeds,” was published in the Fall 2012 issue of San Rocco Magazine. He is a visiting professor at the Pratt Institute in New York and cofounder of Castro Watson, an interdisciplinary design and research firm. He received his MArch from the University of Texas at Austin and his BA in economics from Princeton University. He has worked for Smith-Miller + Hawkinson Architects and Gluckman Mayner Architects in New York, Rubio & Álvarez-Sala Architects in Madrid, and a World Health Organization Collaboration Center in Tokyo.