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Posts tagged with "Boston":
Brought to you with support fromThe rapid development of urban areas across the country is leading to the reappraisal of the commonly found, and often maligned, parking garage. Boston-based architectural practice French 2D has joined this trend by invigorating a drab parking garage using a mesh facade with dynamic graphics intended to serve as a large-scale artistic canvas as well as a functional enclosure. The design of the parking garage’s facade was intended to reference the competing architectural scales and functions of the surrounding Kendall Square. The neighborhood, separated from downtown Boston by the Charles River, is defined by newly built tech hubs, residential buildings, and a fading industrial heritage. For the design team, the primary challenge and objective of the project were to break up the monolithic scale of the existing garage—it is eight stories and measures a whopping 350,000 square feet.
Brought to you with support fromIn October 2018, Amherst College opened the New Science Center on its historic Massachusetts campus. The new academic building, which replaced an aging science center that was failing to keep up with its contemporary academic needs, is a six-story structure offering a home for six different science departments. Designed by the Boston-based architectural practice Payette with aggressive energy targets in mind, the enclosure is wrapped in a quintet of materials; glass, brick, concrete, weathered steel, and metal composite.
Zahner. Along the complex's forecourts, the perforated weathered steel panels face narrow side out, while the western elevations are fully shrouded. The weathered steel is backed by narrow glass-and-composite-metal panels. The project, which has received numerous accolades for its environmental performance, will be presented by Payette Principal and Director of Building Science Andrea Love at Facades+ Minneapolis on July 24.During the design process, Payette paid particular focus on how to minimize thermal bridging between the myriad facade components. "The brick masonry angles are held off the face of the building wall to permit insulation to run continuous," said the design team, "and Teflon spacers were utilized in the support of exterior weathering steel screen. The structure of the roof overhang and canopies are thermally broken to minimize heat transfer at those locations as well." The 251,000-square-foot project is located on the eastern border of the Amherst campus, its form primarily consisting of a large rectangular volume running on a north-south axis, with three fingers protruding to the west. This main rectangular volume is home to the structure's primary gathering space, The Commons. From the west, the circulation paths and spaces within The Commons possess near-complete visibility due to a colossal structural triple-glazed silicone curtainwall. To reduce UV exposure, the insulated glass units were treated with two different low-E coatings, Vitro Solarban 60 & 72, to achieve a system U-Value of .25 while maintaining a visible light transmittance of 56 percent. A series of sawtooth skylights is located atop the primary rectangular volume and serves two functions: further illumination of the interior and structural support for the glass curtainwall. The steel roof structure is cantilevered from the concrete core, and in turn, hangs the glass curtain wall. According to the design team, "the columns supporting the glass wall are nearly 40 feet removed from the curtain wall, supporting a load of nearly 10,000 pounds per mullion in addition to the dead, snow, wind and seismic loads." For the eastern elevation of the structure, which faces the campus boundary on East Drive and is visible from town, the envelope switches over to a more traditional brick facade. The bricks produced by Danish-manufacturer Petersen Tegl are long and flat in dimension, approximately measuring 20.8 inches by 4.3 inches by 1.5 inches. Their finish is irregular and resembles grayish rough ashlar. The three protruding wings of the New Science Center are all three stories in height and clad in a screen of weathered steel produced by
Brought to you with support fromCommonwealth Avenue, snaking from the Boston Public Garden through the greater metropolitan area, is no stranger to significant cultural venues and institutional buildings. Boston University’s Joan & Edgar Booth Theatre and College of Fine Arts Production Center, by local firm Elkus Manfredi Architects, joins this assemblage with an angled glass curtainwall shrouded in a scrim of ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) and flanked by vertical strips of metal panels.
Centria, and treated with their Kolorshift PVDF, the aluminum panels reflect different colors depending on their exposure to sunlight—their character effectively morphs according to weather, time of day, and season. This dichroic effect is amplified along the northern corners of the east and west, where the aluminum panels were installed diagonally, producing a wave-like effect of color differentiation. The relative formality of the south elevation, along Dummer Street, is a response to the immediately adjacent residential neighborhood. Throughout the design process, the design team met regularly with the surrounding community to address their concerns. The use of Ipe wood softens this elevation and links it materially to it wooden dropside neighbors, while louvered windows provide glimpses within.The 75,000-square-foot building rises to a height of approximately 57 feet and largely follows a rectangular massing. While the majority of elevations rise perpendicularly from the ground level, the north elevation is defined by a 42-foot-tall glass curtainwall tilted at a 14-degree angle. The glass panes, measuring 7-feet-by-14 feet, were structurally adhered on site and lifted into place using a custom steeling rigging system. A scrim of UHPC panels frames the primary northern elevation and folds onto the east and west elevations, a design feature intended to evoke a proscenium screen shrouding the entrance of the theater. In total, there are 83 UHPC panels measuring 14-feet by 7-feet, each weighing approximately 1,600 pounds. Tubular steel outriggers, cantilevered from the slab edge and running horizontally, serve as a platform for the concrete panels. For Beton, a Montreal-based fabricator, the project was a first in their production of ultra-thin concrete. "Not only does the color of the UHPC concrete tie the building into its immediate surroundings—including the sandstone former Cadillac dealership, a national landmark next door—the material can also take the desired form reminiscent of theatrical fabric, unlike stone," said Elkus Manfredi Architects vice president Ross Cameron. "The engineered concrete-polymer material has three times the tensile strength of traditional concrete yet weighs half as much, so the design team pushed to use the material in these new ways, striving for ever thinner and delicate forms." Besides the entrance atrium, there are limited chances of fenestration across the rest of the building due to performance spaces within. For the remaining elevations, the design team opted for Ipe wood and aluminum siding. Produced by
Brought to you with support fromArchitectural preservation is often cast as a zero-sum game; historic structures are either painstakingly maintained or demolished in favor of contemporary development. Arrowstreet's Congress Square, a 530,000-square-foot project in Boston's Financial District, provides an alternative solution for this quandary with the restoration and consolidation of an entire block of historic structures that integrates a contemporary glass addition with a fiberglass reinforced plastic (FRP) soffit. The historic core of the project is composed of three separate Beaux-Arts banks built in the early 20th century. Over the course of their lifetime, and a number of financial mergers, the banks were haphazardly joined into a single entity. A lightwell was located between these three structures but it was filled with a web of mechanical systems over the years.
Kreysler and Associates and Midwest Curtainwalls, to develop the soffit design. The design and fabrication teams reviewed three color options in both glossy and matte finishes, constructing full-scale mockups to effectively gauge the product most complementary with the historic ornamental metalwork found throughout the buildings. Ultimately, the team settled on an iridescent gold-like finish that reflects light to the street below. "Our team refined the design of the soffit using Rhino 3D software and 3D printing to visualize the final installation," continued Korté. "Sharing these models, we could interface directly with Kreysler and Associates' sophisticated fabrication equipment, including six-axis CNC robotic routers to realize complex geometries." While the bulk of the project focused on the insertion of the seven-story glass pavilion atop three historic banks, the northern rump of the mixed-use project involved the restoration of two additional historic structures and the construction of an entirely new 12-story addition. The facade of the addition was manufactured by Island Exterior Fabricators and was fully installed in under two weeks. Amy Korté, Arrowstreet President, will be presenting a deeper dive into this project as part of the panel, "Lightness & Weight | Creating Continuity in Cityscape with Hybrid Facades" at the upcoming Facades+ conference in Boston on June 25. For more details, along with registration info, visit Facades+ Boston.For the design team, one of the greatest challenges of the project was how to structurally support the seven-story glass addition, and its 24-foot cantilever, without visually disrupting historic elements. "A 1,700-square-foot mat foundation was constructed in the basement supported by more than 60 mini-piles that were all driven inside the existing building," said Arrowstreet President Amy Korté. "Fourteen super columns were then threaded through the perimeter of the existing buildings to support the vertical addition." Additionally, a new concrete core was inserted within the lightwell to both support the new glass canopy as well as house contemporary mechanical equipment. The new concrete core also facilitated the open-floor plan of the glass-clad office space. The structure's sharply-angled cantilever and soffit are located on the prominent southwestern corner of the project, adjacent to Post Office Square. Arrowstreet collaborated closely with the FRP and the curtainwall manufacturers,
Brought to you with support fromThe Greater Boston area is home to a large collection of brutalist structures. Now, with these historic buildings passing their semicentennials, municipalities and institutions are reappraising their original designs and coming up with solutions to adapt them to contemporary needs. Harvard's Smith Campus Center, a colossal academic building located on Massachusetts Avenue across from Harvard Yard, is an exemplar of this trend, with a significant overhaul led by design architect Hopkins Architects and executive architect Bruner/Cott Architects consisting of facade restoration and the insertion of glazed pavilions. Formerly known as the Holyoke Center, the Smith Campus Center, completed in 1966, was designed by Josep Lluis Sert, dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design from 1953 to 1969. In total, the center's original design encompassed over 360,000 square feet and reached a height of 10 stories. The massing was generally an extruded H-shaped plan, with a three-story pavilion found on the north elevation. For the design team, the goal of the project was the retention and strengthening of the original concrete-and-glass facade through sealant removal, concrete cutting and chipping, and glass replacement, and the opening of the ground level with a new glass curtainwall. The design team conducted extensive studies prior to the intensive intervention. "Restoration originated in 2008 with a study by Simpson Gumpertz & Heger and Bruner/Cott Architects," said Bruner/Cott principal Henry Moss. "Two vertical drops down the 100-foot height of Sert's concrete facade identified areas of incipient spalls from cast-in-place concrete. In 2013, the same team did a binocular survey from street level to locate fractures and estimate the frequency of different types of repair for the building as a whole." Similar to many mid-century structures, the Smith Campus Center was beleaguered by environmental performance issues—low-E coatings did not exist in this area, and the bulk of the building's windows were single glazed. To bring the Center up to contemporary environmental and performance standards, Bruner/Cott designed a new system of insulated glazing systems. Additionally, Sert's original design featured non-tempered glass—the present building code requires safety film for any fenestration located 25 feet above pedestrian areas. "On all but the north elevation, new clear films provided enhanced solar control with a slight shift towards a bluer hue," continued Moss. "Thirty-five-year-old reflective solar films were removed from all elevations to restore the figure-ground relationship between translucent and clear panes in the composition of facades by restoring transparency to Sert's "vision panels." While a significant portion of the project was dedicated to the renovation of Sert's brutalist complex, the footprint's forecourt provided an opportunity to embed a contemporary welcome pavilion. The pavilion's new glass panels, typically measuring 7'-8" wide by 11'-2" tall and 1 ¾" thick, were double-laminated with polyvinyl butyral and a 16mm argon-filled void. The glass curtainwall is held in place by toggles fastened back to the custom-fabricated interior columns. Panels located atop the pavilion are 7'-8" feet wide and 18'-3" tall. Henry Moss, Bruner/Cott principal, will be presenting a deeper dive into this project at the upcoming Facades+ conference in Boston on June 25. For more details, along with registration info, visit Facades+ Boston.
Brought to you with support fromOn June 25, Facades+ is returning to Boston for the fourth year in a row. The conference, organized by The Architect's Newspaper, is a full-day event split between a morning symposium and an afternoon of workshops led by top AEC practitioners. Leers Weinzapfel Associates (LWA), a Boston-based firm with projects nationwide, is co-chairing the conference. Panels for the conference will focus on the changes underway in Boston, ranging from new educational structures, the city's new tallest residential building, and historic preservation projects. Participants for the conference's symposium and workshops include Behnisch Architekten, Knippers Helbig Advanced Engineering, Pei Cobb Freed & Partners, Bruner / Cott, Arrowstreet, Consigli Construction, Walter P. Moore, Autodesk, Atelier Ten, Harvard GSD, the Wyss Institute, and Okalux. In this interview with The Architect's Newspaper, LWA's designer and business development representative Zhanina Boyadzhieva and associate Kevin Bell, the conference co-chairs, discuss their firm's growing body of work and the developmental trends within the city of Boston. The Architect's Newspaper: Boston is known as a relatively quiet city with a predominantly low-slung skyline. How is current development reshaping that identity and what does it mean for the future? Zhanina Boyadzhieva: Boston is indeed a “quiet” city, but it is also a hub of innovation and creative thinking. In the past few years, we have observed dynamic design work, largely by local firms, on several fronts: 1) creative re-envisioning of historical landmarks through readaptations and additions such as Smith Center at Harvard University and Congress Square in downtown Boston 2) careful insertions of new landmarks in the skyline such as One Dalton 3) fast development and growth of existing or new resilient neighborhoods such as Harvard’s Allston campus. Each design solution addresses unique urban conditions and entails holistic thinking about city planning, resilience, and sustainability, coupled with a sense of function, form, materiality, and human experience. Naturally, facades combine all of these considerations and become dominant players in the reshaping of cities. The diversity of approaches we observe—controlled material juxtapositions of old and new, sculptural form-making, and playful screening strategies—are testaments to ongoing design experimentations here. There is a search for new methods to address creative reuse, high performance, material fabrication, and user experience. AN: The city possesses one of America's largest concentrations of brutalist buildings, as well as large historic districts. How can Boston embrace its heritage while moving forward? Kevin Bell: The rich building history of Boston, including modern landmarks like City Hall, and its brutalist companions make for wonderful urban fabric for intervention and a great place for an architect to practice. This history should serve to elevate our expectations for new buildings and major renovations in the city. The recent warming to Boston’s brutalism, its strong geometry and bare materials, is welcome, encouraging designers to consider rather ignore these local icons. It presents the opportunity to consider adaptation and re-envisioning through sustainability’s lenses, the human experience, and materiality. If we can dramatically improve the energy efficiency and human use in these sensitive historic buildings, we can achieve the same in new construction and create a model for continued improvement. AN: What innovative enclosure practices is LWA currently executing? KB: As a firm, we have a legacy of designing efficiently in an urban context. Often, our site is an existing historic building or a tightly constrained sliver of land, or sometimes, there's no site at all. This fosters a sensibility within the studio toward compact volumes, materially efficient, with taut fitted skins, a practice that serves us well as we work to make evermore energy efficient and sustainable buildings. We're also redefining our performance expectations around our clients' commitments to energy efficiency, many of whom have established operational carbon neutrality as their aim by mid-century. The enclosures we design today will be part of that efficiency equation. They must be considered to be part of a carbon neutral organizational environment as a performance baseline above simple compliance with today's codes or target certifications. Envelope performance, especially the use of innovative glazing materials, is a logical extension of the way we think about reactive, efficient space and energy efficiency targets in building enclosure design. Our Dartmouth Dana Hall renovation and addition, under construction now, is an example of this process and practice. We worked closely with the college to define a program for building reuse around its energy use reduction targets that dramatically improved envelope efficiency. Through the design process, we worked with our design and construction partners to continually refine the design while holding to incremental improvement in energy efficiency at each step; our modeled efficiency improved even as we moved through cost reduction exercises. The result is a highly insulated building, triple glazed throughout, with a thermally improved, south-facing glass curtainwall system combining vacuum insulated high-performance glass modules with integrally solar shaded, triple glazed vision glass as part of a building with a predicted energy use index (pEUI) in the middle twenties before the introduction of site renewables. AN: Which materials do you believe are reshaping facade practices? ZB: Materials are the agents of larger design strategies shaping the practice such as resilience, sustainability, and human experience. The aim to rethink and cherish historical buildings, for example, leads to a careful layering of existing and new materials that contrast and simultaneously enhance each other. Heavy textured concrete at the Smith Center is supplemented by light and open transparent glass, green walls and warm wood. Traditional brick block at Congress Square is juxtaposed with a floating glass box on top of sculptural fiber-reinforced plastic panels. On the other hand, the vision to create new landmarks that celebrate and reshape the Boston skyline result in the careful sculpting of distinctive volumes as in One Dalton, a tall glass skyscraper with careful incisions of exterior carved spaces for human use. Finally, the goal to produce energy efficient but playful envelopes leads to a game of patterns composed of an inner insulated layer with an outer wrapper of perforated metal screens or angled aluminum fins. Each choice of material and its manipulation reflects a larger vision to create a unique experience in the city. Further information regarding Facades+ Boston can be found here.
A monumental sculpture symbolizing the love and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Coretta Scott King will be erected in the historic Boston Common sometime in 2020, according to The Boston Globe. Designed by artist Hank Willis Thomas and MASS Design Group, The Embrace was chosen from a pool of impressive works honoring the beloved civil rights leaders; the 22-foot-high pair of clasped bronze arms rose above the fold. King Boston, the organization behind the memorial project, announced the winning design yesterday. Cochairman Paul English told The Globe the decision was near unanimous—both the art committee and the members of the public who viewed the proposal on display at various locations around town, agreed it should be built. “The committee was really moved by it,” English said. “They thought it was iconic. People would come to see it and take pictures and share it. You could imagine people hugging each other next to it.” Not only did the selection committee and thousands of Bostonians consider The Embrace a moving work of art, the design would also be much less expensive and easier to construct than the other five finalists. Adam Pendleton and Adjaye Associates’ collaboration with Future/Pace and David Reinfurt would have brought an elongated steel walkway—part of which was cantilevered—into the park. Walter Hood’s project with Wodiczko + Bonder and Maryann Thompson Architects, The Ripple Effects, would have also significantly altered the landscape with a large, public plaza and terraced field. The Embrace is reminiscent of Anish Kapoor’s Cloud Gate (a.k.a The Bean) in Chicago's Millennium Park. People will be able to walk beneath the interlocked arms and gather in the public spaces surrounding the piece. It also provides a literal point of reflection for visitors and exists as a stand-alone sculpture that surprises but doesn’t overwhelm. According to a statement by King Boston, the sculpture and landscape call people toward empathy and action. ”Is there a more radical act of justice than love?” said Michael Murphy, founding principal and executive director of MASS Design Group. “The choice to love your neighbor, to love someone that is not yourself, to go into a community and act is the foundational seed of social justice. To us, there was no better way to honor the Kings’ legacy and advance collective action.” With such community support and government backing—Boston’s City Hall has already greenlighted the project, according to English—the group expects the project to be built fairly quickly. It’s likely to rise in conjunction with an already-planned restoration of Boston Common, reported The Globe. The nonprofit aims to raise up to $12 million for sculpture, which is likely to cost between $3 and $4 million. Some of the money raised will go toward the new King Center for Economic Justice in Roxbury, Massachusetts, as well as the local congregation of Twelfth Baptist Church where Dr. King preached and the couple first met. King Boston also plans to fund a 25-minute documentary on their love story and lives in Boston during the early 1950s. So far, $6 million have been raised.
MALL stands for Mass Architectural Loopty Loops or Miniature Angles & Little Lines, among other variations. Just like its ever-changing moniker, MALL’s work is constantly shifting. Founded by Jennifer Bonner in 2009, the Boston-based studio develops collections of projects that iteratively build from one to the next. As a graduate of Auburn University’s Rural Studio and Harvard Graduate School of Design—where she currently serves as faculty—Bonner channels her love of the American South and uses her teaching to experiment with new typologies and invent new modes of architectural representation. Her colorful, out-of-the-box approach to design is just one of many reasons why she is named one of AN Interior’s top 50 interior architects. AN associate editor Sydney Franklin spoke with Bonner about stepping away from tradition and what’s next for MALL. AN Interior: What would you say are the driving forces behind your aesthetic project? Jennifer Bonner: As you probably noticed from looking at my work, each of the projects are very different formally. At MALL, we begin by working on a conceptual and intellectual project first, and the formal emerges out of these considerations. I am against producing an overall “MALL aesthetic” and much more interested in many architectures. Yet within a single project, the process I’ve set up for my office is to work through many iterations around singular ideas—never discarding any, but creating a cute collection. You can see these collections in the work of Domestic Hats and Best Sandwiches. The latter is a colorful spatial experiment questioning how architecture might stack, in which we are interested in reimagining the extruded midrise office tower. AN: So these collections allow you to explore multiple new typologies? JB: Each of my larger conceptual projects has the potentiality to question paradigms, which is what I’m most interested in. Take the roof forms in Domestic Hats and Haus Gables, a single-family house opening this month made from one of the original Domestic Hats models. I believe the roof plan can be an instigator of space rather than using Le Corbusier’s free plan and Adolf Loos’s raumplan. Here I was looking to expand different roof typologies, which is a topic I dove into while teaching at Georgia Tech. AN: You’re also keen on expanding your use of unique materials, textures, and colors in your formal projects. JB: Yes, I really want to keep pushing the boundaries of materiality. I’m currently working on this through a project called Faux Brick, a distant cousin to the Glittery Faux-Facade study I developed in 2017. In preparation for this year’s Bauhaus Centennial, I’ve studied a pair of houses by Mies van der Rohe in Germany where I argue that authentic bricks are used as a fake structural strategy. In this project, we’re trying to figure out how the rendering and other representational techniques involving bad bump maps and bad meshes might create new faux-brick facades. AN: How has your experience teaching and living in different places like London, Istanbul, Los Angeles, and Boston informed your work? JB: As someone who has one foot in academia and one foot in practice, it has been exciting to absorb all of these cities into the way I imagine architecture. Having grown up in Alabama and recently living in Atlanta, I have decidedly made an effort to work on architecture in the American South. It is not by accident that my first architecture, Haus Gables, is located in Atlanta. AN: For Atlanta, Haus Gables is a really avant-garde residential design. It’s made of cross-laminated timber and features quirky exterior and interior finishes. How were you able to make it so different? JB: It’s completely self-funded without a traditional client—so my partner and I have taken on all of the risk. It was important for me that the design be as radical as possible in my first built work, and not diluted by many external factors. Radical, however, does not mean there wasn’t a fixed budget (which there certainly was). Throughout my career, I’ve worked with several clients associated with the public realm, such as institutions and galleries, but that kind of client is different from, say, a client who wants you to design a house. AN: So you want to design and develop your own projects too? JB: I wouldn’t call myself a developer just yet. But I’ve always been into what John Portman did in Atlanta in the 1960s as an architect who both developed and found financing for his projects. By doing this, he was able to produce a new typology, the super atrium, which I’m not sure he would have been able to accomplish so early in his career if he had faced typical constraints.
The pop-up, temporary store phenomena, began a dozen years ago when local, community-based associations attempted to deal quickly with unwelcome empty storefronts on struggling main streets. They have now become a cliché of contemporary corporate branding and a quick, inexpensive way to make a product seem "cool." But Spaceus, a temporary floating workshop in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, is trying to put the local back into pop-up. The creation of two MIT graduate students Ellen Shakespear and Stephanie Lee, Spaceus takes empty storefronts and turns them into temporary workspaces and information centers for artists. The architects created a membership structure that lets users determine the function of Spaceus, and then the designers used their skills to create a simple, inexpensive, and handsome walk-in space. The initial pop-up was located in an empty shop in Faneuil Hall, then the Roslindale neighborhood, then Harvard Square, and now on February 2, they launched their latest “hybrid workspace” at 11 First Street in East Cambridge. Shakespear and Lee think that “many young architects are frustrated by the traditional mode of practice” and “are looking toward new models of funding.” Instead of having to jump into top-down design practices as young professionals they went out and found a design problem to solve, organized their own client base, and created a space to make it work. It’s not an entirely new idea that architects can take control of their agency, particularly at MIT, which has long supported "Participatory Action Research," but it is one that needs to be brought back into the architecture studio. Spaceus is the current generation's attempt to reinvigorate the model. If you’re in the Boston area, drop into the latest Spaceus in East Cambridge.
For decades, Boston’s brutalist City Hall has been a heated point of debate among locals. Is it beautiful or is it ugly? Does it spark city pride or is it a dark spot among Boston’s vast array of historic architecture? Though widely praised when built in 1968, the now notorious, nine-story, 515,000-square-foot structure sits like an underutilized behemoth at the core of the downtown Government Center district. Many Bostonians are tired of it. Its commanding facade and dysfunctional interior layout are neither conducive to daily inspiration nor workplace productivity, some complain. But others see it as an enduring symbol of the early brutalist movement—an icon. Regardless of its aesthetics, the building’s biggest issues can no longer be ignored. Leading up to Boston City Hall’s official 50th anniversary this year, the Mayor’s Office of Arts and Culture has instigated small changes and proposed other sweeping updates to the building, originally designed by Kallmann, McKinnell, and Knowles, that could potentially bring it into the 21st-century era of civic and office architecture. In a comprehensive report conducted through the city’s Public Facilities Department, a multi-pronged planning process to introduce both design and operational improvements to the structure has already begun. The big ideas are outlined in the Boston City Hall and Plaza Study, completed in 2017 in collaboration with Boston-based Utile Architecture + Planning and Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architects. It makes the case for a top-to-bottom reorganization of the administrative and public service needs of City Hall and its 7-acre plaza through improved design. In order to engage both employees and civilians, the dark, precast concrete building needs to both open up to the community and provide more space for work. Circulation patterns need to be updated, wayfinding needs to be implemented, building systems and infrastructure should be upgraded, and accessibility should be top of mind, according to the report. In recent years, various government departments have moved out of City Hall due to spatial constraints. Utile aims to restructure the upper floors of the building and introduce shared spaces that can be used by different teams. Large-scale meeting rooms and public spaces will remain on the lower floors while the lobby will serve as a welcoming, secure, and light-filled entry for visitors and employees. Along with interior improvements, the project scope includes repairing the sprawling, brick plaza that surrounds City Hall and introducing a stormwater management system to the landscape. It will also feature new seating and infrastructure, as well as larger programming areas for sports celebrations and concerts, to make the plaza the next great civic hub for the city. Minor changes to the facilities, including a handful of pilot projects like the new exterior lighting system as well as the Boston Winter Market, started in 2016. Urgent repairs will continue over the next four years and major renovation work on the interior is expected to begin in 2020.
After seven decades in practice, Henry Cobb has published his first collection of essays, interviews, lectures, and projects: Henry N. Cobb: Words & Works 1948–2018. The story of his best-known building, Boston’s John Hancock Tower (now 200 Clarendon), follows a dramatic arc from the controversies of its public review and construction to its recognition as a beloved icon of the city. In this excerpt, Cobb describes the Hancock’s apparent adherence to the rules of typical office buildings yet acknowledges that the form of the “notched rhomboid” deviates from such expected patterns. It can only be understood as a response to the setting, Copley Square, where the tower stands adjacent to H. H. Richardson’s Trinity Church. In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the idealized image of the square had suffered from the intrusion of commercialism, and had, as Cobb observed, lost its meaning. His proposition was to find a new meaning for the square, seizing the opportunity of the Hancock company’s need for office space to propose that “Copley Square should have its own tower.” As Cobb's newest tower—the Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences, One Dalton Street—nears completion, it's time to hear in his own words how its bold precursor, the Hancock, came to be more than 40 years ago: Our proposal was not well received. Indeed, the response in Boston was one of shock and horror. What we saw as the right building in the right place at the right time was seen by almost everyone else, and above all by our fellow architects in Boston, as the wrong building in the wrong place at the wrong time. But after nine months of acrimonious public debate, the necessary permits were obtained, and in the fall of 1968, construction began. Permission was granted not because I had succeeded in converting people to our way of thinking—for with only a few exceptions, I had not—but because had a building permit been denied, the Hancock company might well have carried out its threat to move its headquarters, with its 12,000 employees, to Chicago. This brazen exercise of corporate arm-twisting on the part of our client naturally contributed to the widespread opinion, often explicitly conveyed to me in person, that my colleagues and I had prostituted ourselves professionally in accepting and carrying out this commission. To compound the agony, during construction the building endured a series of mishaps that caused us and our client to experience the rare privilege of being, for almost half a decade, simultaneously despised and ridiculed. The most notorious of these problems, publicized worldwide, was the failure of insulating glass units that necessitated removal and replacement of all 10,334 panels in the curtain wall. Many in Boston saw all this as entirely just retribution for the egregious overreaching of the city’s largest corporation. Mercifully, however, an entrepreneurial T-shirt artist didn’t lose his opportunity to find a lighter side, with which I was able to outfit all three of my daughters in the otherwise miserable summer of 1973. Although the deceptive mutability of its image may suggest otherwise, there is nothing mysterious about the design of the Hancock Tower. It perfectly illustrates my view that the architecture of a tall building is 99 percent logic and 1 percent art—but don’t you dare take away that 1 percent! The extreme disparity in size between the tower and the church was the central predicament we faced. We chose to deal with it not by creating a gratuitous distance between the two—this would only have exacerbated the problem—but by bringing them into close proximity while positioning and shaping the tower in such a way that it becomes the contingent satellite and the church the autonomous center in the composition. To accomplish this, several aspects of the tower’s design may be cited as essential. First, the attenuated rhomboid plan-form, placed diagonally on its site, emphasizes the planar while minimizing the volumetric presence of the building, so as to effectively disembody the tower as seen from the square. Second, a bullnose corner detail facilitates the crucially important transition from trapezoidal base to rhomboid tower. Third, notches bisecting the end walls accentuate the weightless verticality of these planes and make legible the tower’s nonrectangular geometry. Fourth, the tower’s uniformly gridded and reflective surface, stripped of all elements that could suggest a third dimension, mutes the obtrusiveness of its enormous bulk and defers in all respects to the rich sculptural qualities of its much smaller neighbor. Fifth, rather than standing on the ground, the tower’s rhomboid volume slips weightlessly up out of the surrounding granite pavement, from which it is separated by a 1-inch-wide perimeter slot. Finally, the triangular space created between the church and the broad face of the tower pays homage to the apsidal view of Richardson’s building, reinforcing its intended role as the architectural cynosure of Copley Square. With regard to this latter aspect, it should be noted that the three-story lobby at the base of the tower is sheathed in precisely the same manner as all other floors; had the monumental scale of this space been directly exposed to view, it would surely have destroyed the delicate balance in the dialogue between church and tower. This concern also accounts for the modest scale of the three entries, originally sheltered by clear plastic domes, which were subsequently replaced by an attenuated stainless-steel canopy. Truth be told, the tower’s reflective surface and reticent posture do not invite entry. I used to joke with my colleagues—but not with our client!—that the proper means of gaining access to this impenetrable monolith would be through the porch of Trinity Church and along the nave to the crossing, where one would turn and descend by escalator into a tunnel below the street and emerge, finally, in the tower’s elevator lobby. On October 28, 1980, more than four years after the building’s completion, in my inaugural lecture as chairman of the architecture department at Harvard, I summed up my view of the matter as follows: We adopted a strategy of minimalism in the design of the Hancock Tower not for ideological reasons, but because the situation of the building demanded it. In the determined pursuit of our goal—to achieve a symbiosis between the church, the tower, and the square—we excluded everything that did not contribute directly to this end. For we believed that only thus could we temper the inherent arrogance of so large a building and endow it with a presence that might animate rather than oppress the urban scene. Today, more than three decades after writing these words, I find that I can still subscribe to them. Yet I also find myself still confronting a few questions that just won’t go away: Can this accommodation justify that transgression? Is this performance appropriate to that occasion? Does this tower belong in that city? To each of these questions the answer, it seems to me, must finally be both yes and no. This persistently disturbing ambiguity, in which the building discloses the anxiety of its predicament, perhaps explains why, among all my built works, the Hancock Tower is as close as I have ever come to poetry. It is also as close as I have ever come to silence. The building’s restraint to the point of muteness, its refusal to reveal anything other than its obsession with its urban context, is surely its greatest strength but also its ultimate limitation as a work of architecture. Despite the forcefulness of its gesture, the tower remains virtually speechless, and this resolute self-denial is, in the end, both its triumph and its tragedy. Henry N. Cobb: Words & Works 1948–2018, Henry N. Cobb, The Monacelli Press, $45.00