Search results for "gensler"

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Upending The Bad News
On Tuesday night AN, Gensler and the California Real Estate Journal (CREJ) hosted our panel discussion, Upending The Downturn at the Poliform showroom in Beverly Hills. Participants did their best to keep the tone positive, and suggested tips for surviving, and even excelling, during the recession and beyond. Most hinted that we're almost out of the woods. Potential bright spots for architects and builders included affordable housing, government work (including slowly-moving stimulus-related projects), sustainable projects (including work in LA's new Clean Tech corridor), health care, and design/build . Some even suggested that small projects are getting financing, and that larger ones should by the end of the year. The recession, one panelist pointed out, will be announced officially over in September. What?? And more good news: co-moderator Jennifer Caterino of the CREJ, noted that according to the Commerce Department US Construction spending rose .3 percent in June. What's next? Constant sunshine? Oh yeah, it's LA. There is constant sunshine.
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Broad Hits the Road
A massing model of a proposed complex for the Broad Foundation, which appears unlikely to be realized, at least at this location.
Courtesy City of Beverly Hills

Eli Broad’s effort to build a new museum on the corner of Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards in Beverly Hills is looking all but dead. Sources close to the project have told AN that the billionaire art collector is looking elsewhere, while the Broad Art Foundation—asked to submit specific plans to the Beverly Hills Planning Division for an upcoming environmental impact review—has not communicated with the department since late April.

If built, the project would be located on one or two parcels of a proposed 3-acre commercial and retail project called the Gateway, located on a narrow strip of land once reserved for a rail right of way. The owners of that project are listed in the draft EIR (released late last year) as Roxbury Managers, Wilco LLC, and M2B2 LLC. Earlier this year Broad expressed interest in becoming part of the Gateway project, submitting a formal letter to the Planning Division. It remains unclear why he may have split from the project.

The site lies between some of Beverly Hill's most prominent landmarks, including the Beverly Hilton and Peninsula hotels and the old CCA headquarters, I.M Pei's first West Coast commission. It is currently occupied by a string of single-story retail stores, including a Starbucks popular with celebrities and their paparazzi.

The Gateway's current occupant.
The Broad Foundation's home in santa monica.
Anne Cusack /LA Times

Broad has been working with Gensler’s Marty Borko to develop a plan for the project, which would become the permanent home for the Broad Collections, a project in-and-of-itself that contains over 2,000 artworks. The building would also house a research and study center as well as the foundation’s administrative headquarters. The foundation currently uses an old Art Deco building miles down the road in Santa Monica. It houses offices and a gallery, which is only open by reservation and too small for the sorts of exhibitions Broad has said he would like to host. Borko did not return calls seeking comment.

Architects on the shortlist for the new project include Thom Mayne's Morphosis, Jean Nouvel, Shigeru Ban, Rafael Viñoly, and Christian de Portzamparc. It would be separate from Broad's two other museums, one at LACMA designed by Renzo Piano and opened last year, the other at his alma mater, Michigan State University, which was designed by Zaha Hadid and will break ground next spring.

One source said that Broad still wants the project to go forward somewhere else, although Erica Lepping, communications director for the Boad Foundation, told AN, “We have no new information to report.” Either way, until the formal environmental review for the Gateway project is released in September, the possibility of Broad still joining the Gateway is not completely off the table.

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Taking Aim at the Downturn
OK, it's time to start doing something about this economic debacle. Next Tuesday, August 4, in Los Angeles, AN, The California Real Estate Journal, and Gensler will be co-hosting a panel to devise ways for SoCal firms to cope with the downturn. Topics will include finding architectural projects, exploiting creative measures like design-build, shaking loose financing, and securing public money and jobs, among other things. The panel will include Larry Scarpa of Pugh+Scarpa; Rob Jernigan of Gensler; Dan Rosenfeld of development firm Urban Partners (and Deputy for Economic Development to LA Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas); Cecilia Estolano, CEO of the LA Community Redevelopment Agency; Denise Bickerstaff of real estate consulting firm Keyser Marston Associates; and Jerry Neuman of real estate law firm Allen Matkins Leck. The event will take place at 6 pm at Poliform, 8818 Beverly Blvd. Networking, of course, to follow. Don't miss this chance to pull yourself up by your bootstraps!
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Silicon Airways
San Jose's new Terminal B will help expand a vastly underserved airport.
Courtesy Gensler

Normally, San Jose is not a place that fosters architectural quality. But when planning began for its Norman Y. Mineta Airport (SJC), city leaders sensed an opportunity for extraordinary design. Ralph Tonseth, then-Director of Aviation, thought this would benefit the whole city, not just airlines and passengers. He wanted, he said, a design so striking that people would argue about it in bars.

A detail of terminal B's facade.
The interior of the terminal is light-filled and expansive.
All images COURTESY gensler

While San Jose is America's tenth-largest city, its airport ranks only 41st in passenger count. And in spite of being Silicon Valley’s airfield, SJC has a Casablanca quaintness, where some flights are boarded by leaving the terminal building, strolling on the tarmac, and climbing a portable stair to the plane door.

But that's changing rapidly under a modernization program that will double the facility's square footage, rationalize an ad-hoc functional and circulation pattern, and present a far more polished face to the world. When completed next year, this $1.3 billion project will appear resolved and effortless, belying an administratively complex gestation and challenging fast-track implementation. Gensler's San Francisco office and local firm Steinberg Architects were master plan architects and designers of the Terminal B concourse, whose first section just opened on July 15. The terminal itself is being carried out by Fentress Architects and Hensel Phelps construction. That part of the project, which includes an immense 3,350-space garage, will open next year.

The current Terminal B Concourse is the central 1,600-foot portion of a 3,500-foot linear scheme that could eventually extend more than a mile if the demand warrants. This linearity, rare in airports of this scale, reflects a tight site hemmed in by a city boundary on one side and the Guadalupe River on the other. It also suggested a design approach: a long rounded extrusion with an elegant curvilinear public exterior face symbolizing a communications cable whose outer layers have been irregularly and expressively sliced and partly peeled away.

Inside, the extrusion is even more consistent. The 90-foot-wide concourse is a dramatic hall of light formed by a convex east wall, a clerestory, a convex glass roof/ceiling, an outwardly slanting interior colonnade, and sweeping window walls with dramatic views of the airfield to the west.

In recent years, traffic has been declining, but the expansion is still needed and welcome. Even before the Transportation Security Administration's colonization of public space for its screening processes, SJC was cramped and inefficient. And after 9/11, security lines often spilled out of the main hall. The current modernizations will decrease the number of flight gates, until traffic growth triggers a final expansion, while increasing floor space. Terminal A is gaining long-needed space for concessions, circulation, screening, baggage handling, and curbside check-in, and naturally the Terminal B components are being built to comfortable space standards.

Technical advances will allow shared use of airline gates and counters, creating efficiencies and flexibility. The new construction is LEED certified, and features generous day-lighting, integral solar shading, and a low-speed, high volume ventilation system. An ambitious tech-themed public art program will be in place at project completion next year.

When the project was initiated, then-mayor Ron Gonzalez had clear ambitious for the airport, seeking an iconic building that conferred a sense of place and arrival that would represent San Jose the way that the Sydney Opera House embodied its city. Since then, budget deficits have led the city to trade vision for caution, but the project still stands as a testament to more aspiring, budget-rich days.

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View From The Top
Yesterday we took a construction tour of Gensler's new 55-story  Marriott/ Ritz Carlton tower at LA Live, at the south end of downtown LA. A  great tour overall, with plenty of spectacular vistas and an opportunity to see the innards of what will be one of LA's most iconic buildings (stay tuned for an "In Construction" feature on the project in our next issue). The highlight was checking out the scene from the helicopter pad on top. The lowlight was checking out the sign on the first floor noting "this job site has worked 0007 days without any accidents." This before taking a creaky elevator up the side of the building. Oh well, at least we made it!
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Denari Starstruck Again
The LA Times reports what we already knew:  LA architect Neil Denari, who already designed the Endeavor Talent Agency headquarters, is now working on the interiors for WME Entertainment in Beverly Hills. WME was recently created in a merger between the Endeavor talent agency and William Morris. Its director is Ari Emanuel (Rahm's brother, and the inspiration for Jeremy Piven's character on Entourage).  The agency will occupy a six-story building designed by Gensler (who recently lost the interiors commission for the project) that is under construction on North Beverly Drive. Denari will design 170,000 square feet of interior space, including a 200-seat screening room.

Eavesdrop NY 10
We know you love the gossip. AN aims to satisfy that itch in print, online, East Coast, West Coast, whatever, wherever, whenever. So here comes Eavesdrop to our blog so you can get it faster, feistier, anywhere you are. Plus, we will be posting Sara Hart’s online-only EAVESDROP ALERTs. But the real fun begins in the comments section, where you can lay on your own gossipy tidbits. And Sara will be sure to respond. For Whom the Buell Tolls There are some whispers coming from the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture at Columbia University’s GSAPP. Our ears immediately perked up, because we never hear anything much from that stone corner of the academic groves. Founded in 1982, the center’s first director was Robert A.M. Stern, who was followed by Gwendolyn Wright, Richard Buford, Joan Ockman (who stepped down about a year ago), and Reinhold Martin, who currently holds the post. The whispers have it that Professor Martin is changing the center’s mild mission to a more politically left-leaning agenda. Some female members of the 12-person board of advisers are also miffed that he’s held boys-only dinners, like a recent bash with board members Peter Eisenman, Stern, and GSAPP Dean Mark Wigley. Could another Penguin Club be in the making? Furniture Fanfare? So, was this year’s ICFF a bust? It depends on whom you ask. One exhibitor told Eavesdrop that traffic to his high-profile booth was off 50 percent from last year, and noted a dearth of posses from the architectural giants. Not so, said PR maven Beth Dickstein. Her math suggests that while some huge manufacturers bowed out this year, there were more smaller exhibitors, and overall the quality of the goods was better. As sales and marketing consultant to the show’s producer, George Little Management, she admits that overall attendance was down about 12 percent. But, she cites numbers from major exhibitors—including Pablo, Chilewich, and Trove—who claim to have written big orders from big firms with big projects. And Make Ours a Double Here’s a twist on surviving the recession. Gensler associate Judy Cheung brought a new client called Flex Mussels to the firm. Her reward was getting laid off. Now she’s a bartender at the Gensler-designed Upper East Side eatery that specializes in the aforementioned bivalve. Her current gig sounds more gratifying. And more tough breaks: A loss on the left coast could be an opportunity for an enterprising museum in the East. Brooke Hodge, the much-admired curator of architecture and design at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, was laid off along with several other staffers, with senior curators taking a 5% pay cut. Another casualty of the institution’s weak finances was Hodge’s long-planned show on Morphosis, now cancelled. Eli Broad, not surprisingly, is also involved. To get his $30 million bailout, the museum has to make good on spending cuts while redirecting its focus to the permanent collection. Send frites and oyster shooters to [This originally appeared in AN 10_06.03.2009 (NY)]
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Civic Over Slick
Vista Hermosa Civic Park won the grand prize, breaking the recent tradition of honoring flashy new towers.
Courtesy Los Angeles Business Council

A park, not a building, was named the grand-prize winner at the Los Angeles Business Council's 39th annual Los Angeles Architectural Awards on May 28, signifying a shift from praising spindly sky-grazing towers to humble community assets, which seemed to be the unifying factor for most of the recognized projects. The 9.5-acre Vista Hermosa Park, designed by Mia Lehrer + Associates and ERW Design, developed by Los Angeles Engineering for the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, includes watershed features, terraced lawns, synthetic athletic fields, and a playground. It's also the first new park to be built in downtown since 1895. 

LOHA, Formosa 1140, Multi-family Award, Housing Category
Gensler, LAPD Fallen Officers Memorial, Civic Award, design Concept Category
Tighe Architecture, Moving Picture Company, Commercial Award, Interiors Category
HLW, Warner Bros. SOund Stage 23, industrial award, sustainability Category
Belzberg Architects, 20th Street Offices,  Office Award, New Building Category
Kanner Architects, 26th Street Low-Income Housing, Affordable Award, Housing Category
All Images COURTESY Los Angeles Business Council

The park topped other notable awardees like the Moore, Ruble, Yudell-designed Santa Monica Civic Center Parking Structure, and LOHA's multi-family Formosa 1140. Belzberg Architect's two awards went to the single-family Brentwood House and their 20th Street Offices in Santa Monica. Kanner Architects also had two nods: the 26th Street Low-Income Housing in Santa Monica, and United Oil Company Rapid 3, a stunning new gas station in Baldwin Hills. The industrial sustainability award went to HLW International for their Warner Bros. Studios Stage 23 in Burbank, while Mia Lehrer + Associates received a second nod in the civic sustainability category for the TreePeople community center, with AECOM and Marmol Radziner and Associates. Preservation work, like the restoration of the Mark Taper Forum by Rios Clementi Hale Studios and unbulit projects like Peter Tolkin's Pasadena Bike Transit Center and Gensler's innovative cabins for a Boy Scout camp on Catalina Island were also acknowledged.

This civic-over-slickness sentiment was proposed early on to the 450 architects, developers, and clients in attendance by emcee Frances Anderton, who presided gracefully over the ballroom at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in a lipstick-red, laser-cut gown. It was echoed, somewhat surprisingly, in the keynote delivered by SCI-Arc director Eric Owen Moss. On the eve of his installation premiering at the school, If not now, when?, he gave a hopeful presentation on LA's future as a role model for intelligent urbanism, complete with witty subtitles like "Brother Can You Spare a (Para)digm?" Moss, of course, managed to work several of his own upcoming projects into the images as well, but one, which felt most in-line with the afternoon's theme, seemed to particularly delight the crowd: An office park proposed for West LA, its offices buried beneath the rolling grassy hills of an actual park, like homes for hobbits.

Even without the presence of no-show Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the afternoon got progressively more political as the bigger awards were presented. When Los Angeles Community College District's executive director of facilities and planning, Larry Eisenberg, took the stage to accept the Community Impact Award for the district's impressive $6 billion district-wide green initiatives, he used his mic time to bash California lawmakers for not devoting adequate attention or funding to education. He was then joined onstage by the dozens of architects who have worked with the district—40 firms were named—visualizing this remarkable collaboration with some of the city's greatest architects and one of the nation's largest green building initiatives, which was launched in 2001, two years before LEED even existed.

Immediately following her firm's victory for Vista Hermosa Park, Mia Lehrer gave an impassioned plea for architects to devote more attention to open space and sustainable practices. "We have no choice anymore," she said. "Hopefully this will be the last green awards." Lehrer also stressed the importance of thoroughly understanding the communities that architects are working in, noting that Vista Hermosa residents warned the team that three different gangs were operating within the park's footprint, and needed to be carefully considered in the park's design. Now, she said, residents have told her they see the gang members jogging or playing sports in the park.

The depth and overall excellence of the winning projects across the board is exceptionally interesting for an almost four-decades-old design awards show that was inherited by the LABC eight years ago. Since then, organizers and juries from diverse backgrounds have focused on making it a team-focused award that looked at the unique three-way collaboration between architects, developers, and owners. "We're filling a gap," when compared to other shows that strictly award architectural process, said LABC president Mary Leslie. "What matters to us is sustainability, magnitude, and civic impact."  What's interesting, however, is that many of the same projects are sure to be lauded again at AIA Los Angeles' awards in a few weeks. If civic-mindedness is now synonymous with cutting-edge design in Los Angeles, let's hope that it's as Eric Owen Moss put it: "We've Only Just Begun."

View a slideshow of all 29 winners here.

Correction: An earlier version of this article said the awards were in their 49th year. AN regrets the error.

Eavesdrop: Sara Hart

Material Guy
New York architect Markus Dochantschi, principal of StudioMDA, has a plum project. His firm is working pro bono with a Malawian architect to design the Raising Malawi School for Girls. The boarding school is a project of Raising Malawi, a charity founded in 2006 by the unlikely duo of pop icon Madonna and rabbi and kabbalist Michael Berg to help the two million orphaned children of the impoverished southeast African country. We hear that the school will have no religious affiliation, but instead will be based on the British system, such as those that Madge’s offspring, Lourdes and Rocco, attend.

Mint Julep With That Pink Slip?
It’s not all death rattles and pink slips, just mostly. We were sad to learn that Gensler is closing its Wall Street office and moving survivors to Midtown. This isn’t firm-wide shrinkage, though. By all accounts, San Francisco and Dallas, to name only two of Gensler’s 31 offices, are in good shape. Speaking of Dallas, the town seems recession-proof, at least compared to the east and west coasts. HKS, architect for the new Dallas Cowboys stadium, is thriving. Elsewhere, New Orleans–based Perez, APC, is said to be in good shape, and ditto for Brown Chambless Architects in Montgomery, AL. Anyway, some firms seem to be booming, possibly because so much misery is concentrated in New York. Can it be true that the New York office of global biggie BBG/BBGM has defenestrated 75 percent of its employees from the 25th floor of the Empire State Building and is down to two projects, leaving it too poor to buy a vowel? Is it also true that CetraRuddy is staying alive doing small lobby renovations and storage spaces? We hope everyone will rebound soon, but for now the Big Apple has been rebranded as The City With No Pity.

The Knock-Off Artists

What Manhattan architecture firm thinks it’s all right to ask a local manufacturer to spend months designing and detailing a custom curtain wall, then rolls up the drawings, specifications, and shop drawings and sends them to China for a cheaper, second-rate copy? We can’t wait to see how the inferior knockoff holds up in the unfriendly New York elements. Hint: The building is under construction in the Way West Village, and that’s all we’re saying at the moment. In future posts, we’ll refer to this firm as the Willful Infringers.

Send pints of bourbon and subpoenas to

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Home Sweet Home
A conceptual rendering of the new museum.
courtesy A+D Museum

After years of nomadic existence LA’s A+D Museum, created in 2001 to “celebrate and promote an awareness of architecture and design,” is finally getting its own home, at 6032 Wilshire Boulevard, right across the street from the Broad Contemporary Art Museum (BCAM) on LA’s Museum Row. The museum signed a six-year lease (with an additional five-year option) for its ground-floor space on April 17, and plans to occupy it in September. It left its former location on 5900 Wilshire—about two blocks east of the new space—on April 20.

Since its founding the A+D has bounced around LA, occupying locations donated by philanthropists like developer Ira Yellin, who gave the museum its first facility in Downtown LA’s Bradbury Building in 2001. It then moved to Santa Monica (2003), to West Hollywood (2003-2005), and finally to its most recent location in Miracle Mile (2006-2009), a large space donated by developer Wayne Ratkovich.

The new venue is on the ground floor of a small midcentury office building, and will be fronted by large storefront windows and bright signage that will welcome the public more immediately than the museum's most recent, set-back site. Design work for the raw, minimal space will be donated by Richard Meier & Partners and by Gensler. The builder has not yet been determined. Once the buildout is complete the museum will measure 4,800 square feet, including a 3,500-square-foot main gallery as well as room for offices, conference rooms, and project storage.

"We see this as our next big step,” said A+D’s president, the architect Stephen Kanner, who stressed the museum’s desire all along to stay in the Museum Row area, near major museums like the LA County Museum of Art, BCAM, the La Brea Tar Pits, and the California Craft & Folk Museum. “This will allow us to have a broader outreach and to have more shows because of the new stable location,” he said. Kanner added that the museum has been fundraising through top architects and designers in the city over the last nine months. The museum will announce several top donors at its fall fundraiser, he added.

Over the years the museum has hosted exhibitions about architects like Ray Kappe, and has put together thematic shows on emerging architects (New Blood: Next Gen), on the future of LA (LA Now!), on design-savvy developers (Enlightened Development), and on the destruction and rebuilding of New Orleans (After The Flood). Future shows—roughly four per year, said Kanner—will be split evenly between architecture and design. The museum had tended to lean more heavily toward architecture. Future exhibits, he noted, could feature production design, commercial design, graphic design, and film set design in addition to a variety of architecture-based shows. The museum will also focus more on outreach and education.

“It’s not just a museum for architects and designers, but a museum for the public,” said Kanner.  

Before construction begins, the A+D will host a pop-up exhibition in the new space from May 8 to 23 called UPCYCLING: Recuperating Past Lives, featuring art and design objects made from recycled materials. Its first exhibition in the completed space is not yet set, although A+D Director Tibbie Dunbar said that the museum will host the Society of Design Administration’s 2009 CANstruction event and exhibition in early October.

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SFMOMA Plans Ahead
SFMOMA has hired Gensler to develop a plan to double the space of its Mario Botta-designed facilities.
Courtesy M. Goodwin Associates

The same day the Department of Labor announced record-breaking unemployment nationwide, the news out of San Francisco was downright optimistic. On April 2, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) announced an ambitious plan to double its exhibition space to accommodate its growing collections, exhibitions, and educational programming. The museum has chosen the San Francisco–based Gensler to plan a 50,000-square-foot addition and guide the reorganization of the museum’s collections, storage, and office facilities. Arthur Gensler is vice chairman of SFMOMA’s Board of Trustees.


As proposed, the new addition will not alter the 3rd Street view of the 1995 Mario Botta building, with its full-height central atrium and cylindrical turret, now considered an icon and anchor in the rapidly developing South of Market district. The new wing will be primarily located on a series of lots that back onto Natoma Street and bridge over a parking area on Hunt Street, a dead end. A new entrance will be added on Minna Street, to improve access to the auditorium and better accommodate school groups. The expansion will also allow the museum to consolidate its offices, 60 percent of which are currently off-site.

The announcement comes at an unusual time, as museums all over the country are struggling to raise money. In addition, the museum has just finished up another major undertaking, a $24 million rooftop sculpture garden, designed by Jensen Architects, which the museum will officially unveil in early May. Still, with the museum’s rapid growth since the Botta building opened, museum director Neal Benezra said now was the best time to act. "Continuing this planning is critical since it will enable us to move forward quickly and confidently with a fundraising campaign once the nation regains its economic footing,” he said in a press release.
Last summer, SFMOMA’s trustees endorsed an initial planning phase for the expansion, but then put fundraising on hold when the economy took a downturn in the fall. A spokesperson for the museum indicated that part of Gensler’s scope of work would be to determine a budget for the project. A capital campaign and architectural selection will commence following the planning phase, which is expected to conclude over the next year.

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The New Green Monster
Cook + Fox's winning design proposal for One Congress Street in Boston.
Courtesy Raymond Property Company

A major Boston developer has proposed replacing one of Boston’s biggest eyesores with one of the largest, greenest developments in city history. The Raymond Property Company has filed a proposal with the city for One Congress Street, a four-million-square-foot office, residential, and retail development. The project would redefine the skyline, with two towers reaching 42 and 52 stories that rise from a series of smaller buildings intended to mask their scale. The developer selected Cook + Fox as designer from a shortlist of five notable firms.

If realized, One Congress will replace the Government Center Garage, a 150-foot-tall, two-football-field-long concrete bunker that spans Congress Street and slices the Haymarket area in two. Like its Brutalist neighbor City Hall, the garage was designed by Kallmann, McKinnell & Knowles.

The infamous Government Center Garage.
All images courtesy Raymond Property Company

“We have been working with the community for months and are excited to kick off the official public review process,” said company chairman Ted Raymond. “In the estimation of most people, the garage has outlived its appeal and today serves chiefly as an eyesore, a Berlin Wall that separates the Bulfinch Triangle and the West End from the North End and downtown.”

Rebecca Mattson, Raymond’s chief operating officer, said that choosing a team of world-class architects was of paramount importance. “Boston doesn’t build that often, and Boston doesn’t build big that often, so we really wanted this to be something special.” Raymond’s selection process for the invited competition, initiated in December, was very direct: two firms were chosen for their high-rise expertise—SOM and Gensler—two for their iconic status—Foster + Partner and the Office for Metropolitan Architecture—and one for its “cutting-edge work”—Cook + Fox, whose Platinum LEED-seeking One Bryant Park Raymond especially admired.

Office for Metropolitan Architecture

Raymond has been developing in and around the neighborhood surrounding the garage for years, and so the developer spent months meeting with the community, seeking both public input and public favor. This led to a planning study with local firm Chan Krieger Sieniewicz that set rather strict guidelines for the five firms: the two towers, rising from a human-scale plinth, plus two smaller towers across Congress Street on scale with the plinth. Still, the results varied greatly, from Gensler's cellular volumes to OMA’s sardonically conventional boxes. “We wanted someone who could do green, iconic, and buildable,” Mattson said. “The question is, who can do those three best?" The answer proved to be Cook + Fox.

Principal Rick Cook said his firm's design casts an attentive eye toward its surroundings. The strands of each tower are arranged to avoid casting shadows to the Rose Kennedy Greenway while the terra cotta cladding of the plinths, which are filled with active retail and civic uses, are gestures to the brick vocabulary of the city, as well as home to some 2,000 mandatory parking spaces.

One side of the 52-story tower is cut exactly perpendicular to the sun for maximum photovoltaic penetration. "That's basically how the buildings were formed, by the environment," Cook said. The towers' undulating elevations also create varying plans from floor to floor, allowing for unique configurations in what are tentatively planned to be a pair of office towers, though one could be a hotel or apartment building, as the development climate will eventually dictate.


Cook said that for him, the true appeal of the project was the way it would repair a longstanding rift in Boston's urban fabric. When the garage was completed in 1961, it was one of many barriers in the downtown landscape. Following the recent transformational success of the Big Dig, however, which buried the Central Artery and the elevated subway tracks, the garage is all that remains, looming over the neighborhood. "It's the last super-damaging artifact left from the downtown urban renewal of the 1970s," said Tim Love, a principal at UTILE, which is preparing a development study of the Greenway.

Raymond has set a tight deadline for the project. In January, the Environmental Protection Agency is set to move out of a two-story commercial addition that was built atop the garage in 1991, the garage's first vacancy in 20 years. Raymond has said that if it does not have most of its approvals in place, it will simply re-lease the space, since revenues from the parking spaces and office rents are considerable. (Raymond bought the garage in January 2007 for $243 million.)


Love said that, given the nature of Boston development, where every project is negotiated with the city on the basis of public benefit, it will be challenging but far from impossible for the project to get approved as proposed. “It’s practically the perfect case study of Boston planning and development,” Love said. “Basically, Raymond is asking, ‘How much do you want this garage to go? What are you willing to give us to take it down?'"

The developer has a powerful ally on his side in the locals and civic groups who loath the garage. “It draws the line on downtown, which is fine—unless you’re on the wrong side of the line,” said Bob O’Brien, executive director of the Downtown North Alliance, making clear where he and his beloved West End fall. "We've become terra incognita, the other side of the map." O'Brien, Love, and others said that in spite of the project's massive scale and scope, it has received generally favorable reviews from the public.

Foster + Partners

Assuming One Congress receives approval from the city, one thing the developer is not worried about is financing. Raymond has partnered with the Lewis Trust Group, a British real estate investment firm, and the National Electrical Benefit Fund, the pension fund of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, both of which have been thus far spared by the recession. “It’s sheer dumb luck we picked them as partners, but thank God,” Mattson said.

Despite such the public and financial support, some politicians have objected, most notably Michael Flaherty, a city councilor running against four-term incumbent Mayor Thomas Menino. He has seized upon Raymond's proposal to include two adjacent parcels in the development, one occupied by a police station, which was recently refurbished for $5 million, and an NStar substation. Raymond conferred with both the city and NStar about its intentions, though no formal deals have been struck. Still, Flaherty has called it a sweetheart deal for the developer.

Politics aside, Peter Smith, principal of Global Urban Solutions and a co-chair of the Boston Society of Architect’s Urban Planning Committee, said that while much work remains to be done, he believes Raymond is headed in the right direction. “They“ve got to work through it with all the stakeholders, dot all their ‘i’s’ and cross all their ‘t’s’,” Smith said. “But in that respect, they’re on the right track."