The Architect’s Newspaper’s Facades+ conference, part of a conference series on innovative building envelopes, has once again touched down in New York City. This year’s morning keynote speaker, Francine Houben of Mecanoo, delved deep into the firm’s projects around the world. The Dutch architect described seven very different projects, united by technically demanding facades that all referenced the unique history of their surroundings. Houben began with the Maritime and Beachcombers Museum on the isle of Texel, The Netherlands. The 4,000-square-foot museum punches above its weight with a facade of vertically-oriented, recycled wood planks that dapple the incoming sunlight and reference the maritime history of the island. “I’m here to tell you how I work,” said Houben. “I try to observe, I try to extend the flow of the people, how they walk through the city; how can I connect these people to the building, bring them up?” That attention to observation extends to a series of contextual facades. In discussing the Palace of Justice in Córdoba, Spain, Houben referenced the city’s extreme heat and the way that residents layered terraces to block the harsh sunlight as key factors that drove the densely-layered development around courtyard recesses. The tessellating perforations in the white glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) panels passively shade the interiors and cool occupants while also referencing historic sun shading in the region. A blending of old and new design also featured prominently into Mecanoo’s work on the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Boston. The firm’s first built projects in the U.S.–in collaboration with the locally-based Sasaki Associates–involved inserting a sinuous brick building on a triangular plot with curving historical facades in each corner. The integration of the freestanding stone facades was accomplished by convincing then-mayor Thomas Menino to purchase and expand the initial site to include two other buildings beyond the original’s single-facade scope. In between the historic remnants, Mecanoo paid homage to Boston’s history of intricate brickwork by designing snaking walls built from bricks laid vertically and in a variety of other patterns. Houben described the influence as “Boston meets the Netherlands”. Infilling with sensitivity and drawing from the surrounding environment are strong hallmarks of Mecanoo’s work. But beyond the aesthetic appeal of the firm’s facades, Mecanoo makes sure that they’re also practical and contribute to the comfort of those inside. “We always try to combine the formal with the informal,” said Houben. “The inside with the outside.”
Posts tagged with "Boston":
The rumor mill is buzzing around the purportedly budding relationship between Boston-based architect and artist Neri Oxman and actor Brad Pitt. According to Page Six, Oxman met Pitt when he was referred to her for guidance on an architectural project. Since then, the two have developed what the publication called a "professional friendship." Celebrity gossip mag US Weekly took it a step further, claiming the two have been secretly rendezvousing for months, with Brad even tagging along on Oxman’s professional trips across the globe. The Israeli-American Oxman, a professor at MIT and founder of design group Mediated Matter, is known for her forward-thinking approach to architecture and design that fuses natural, biological forms with the growing capabilities of digital fabrication. Oxman has produced acclaimed pieces such as “The Silk Pavilion,” a CNC-fabricated scaffold coiled with silk thread produced by 6,500 silkworms, and “Gemeni” a solid wood chaise crafted to resemble a cocoon, adorned with cells of varying colors and rigidity. Her ventures into 3-D printed wearables also include a design for Björk's Vulnicura tour, a movable mask that mimicked the musician's own bone and tissue based on scans. Oxman’s work is exhibited widely, including at MoMa, San Francisco's Museum of Modern Art, and the Centre Pompidou. This is not Pitt’s first flirtation with the world of architecture. The Hollywood star met and befriended Frank Gehry in 2001, leading to an internship focused on computer-aided design at the international architect’s Los Angeles office. Since then, Pitt has gone on to found Make it Right, a non-profit focused on delivering environmentally-friendly housing to post-Katrina Louisiana. During this venture, Gehry designed a duplex in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward, his only residential project in the state of Louisiana. While Pitt has dabbled in architecture and design, he has nothing on Oxman’s impressive record of academic and design accolades, including the 2016 MIT Collier Medal, the Textiles Spaces 2015 Award, and the 2014 Vilcek Prize. Whatever the truth about their relationship is, Oxman is probably too good for Pitt.
On April 12, Boston’s Pinkcomma Gallery is opening its Brutal Destruction exhibition. In the context of contemporary demolitions of Brutalist buildings and complexes, such as Paul Rudolph’s Shoreline Apartments and Orange County Government Center, Brutal Destruction joins the growing reappraisal of maligned Brutalism as architecture worthy of historic preservation. Curated by Chris Grimley, of the Boston-based interdisciplinary practice over,under, Brutal Destruction is a collection of photographs of concrete architecture undergoing the process of demolition. By examining the widespread dismantling of Brutalist structure, the exhibit seeks to stir up debate regarding their disfigurement and society’s seeming incapacity to repurpose these half-century old architectural works. Grimley frames Brutalism within the larger narrative of the architectural conservation movement. Similar to Brutalism, historicist and classical styles such as the Victorian or Second Empire faced similar rhetorical and public attacks and were cast as outmoded and outdated forms. Grimley suggests that just as we regret the mass demolition of historic buildings in the mid-twentieth century, we should pause to properly assess America's concrete heritage before wiping it out entirely. The exhibition is part of the ongoing Heroic Project, a book and advocacy web archive cataloging Boston’s substantial Brutalist legacy.
In Boston, a booming job market is drawing people back from far-flung suburbs and remaking the region, but it is also exacerbating a housing-affordability crisis and forcing difficult conversations about the future of the city. Greater Boston is riding a wave of development that is perhaps the largest the region has ever seen. By 2030, the city of Boston projects its population will top 700,000, a number it has not seen in 60 years. “The vast majority of our growth is happening in the inner core of the Boston region, so within the city of Boston, Cambridge, Somerville, Everett, Quincy, and in some of the other municipalities within the Route 128 corridor,” said Eric Bourassa, director of the transportation division at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). “This is a trend we’ve been seeing over the past decade, and we’re just predicting more of this growth.” The MAPC is in the process of updating the 30-year plan it released in 2008, highlighting housing, sustainability, and transportation. Another regional planning group, the Boston Region Metropolitan Planning Organization, is updating its periodic long-range regional transportation plan. But change is happening quicker than the region’s existing plans can reflect. Data from the MAPC shows the region added more than 225,000 jobs between 2009 and 2015, and nearly two-thirds of them were in those inner-core cities. In July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Boston’s non-farm employment rose 2.1 percent compared to the previous year, outpacing the national rate of 1.5 percent. The engines of that growth are Greater Boston’s dozens of colleges and universities, and the biotech industry that grew out of them in the 1970s. Biotech turned Cambridge’s Kendall Square from an undeveloped urban frontier into a regional hub home to the highest concentration of biotech companies in the world, but many migrated to the area around Route 128 during the 1980s and ’90s to build suburban campuses. Today some of the same genetic engineering startups that began that transformation, like Biogen, are reinvesting in Boston and Cambridge. That trend is likely to continue. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker recently announced his plans to put another $500 million into the life-sciences industry over the next five years. In addition to Kendall Square, the South Boston Waterfront—better known as the Seaport—has gathered a growing share of those new jobs in a growing portfolio of pricey office developments and luxury condos. Many suburbs are also becoming more dense. Needham, Natick, and Framingham are among the further-out cities developing around commuter rail stations in their downtowns. Two areas of Somerville are undergoing massive redevelopments tied to public transit, as well: Assembly Square, which recently landed the new offices of the state’s largest private employer, Partners Healthcare; and Union Square, which is preparing for major changes ahead of getting the first new MBTA train stop in decades. Matthew Littell is principal of the Boston design firm Utile, which is working on the Cambridge Master Plan, and was a lead consultant on Imagine Boston 2030, Boston’s first citywide plan in 50 years. His firm analyzed demographic patterns in the region and found that younger employees in industries like tech tended to cluster around the inner-core cities and neighborhoods where they worked, compared to Boston’s bankers and lawyers, who still generally preferred houses in the suburbs. Littell pointed to Autodesk’s decision to supplement its office space in the suburban Route 128 corridor with a new space in the Seaport. “That’s a classic example, and the only reason these companies are moving is to attract and retain talent,” he said. “The young, smart folks don’t want to be out in Framingham or Waltham. They want to be in downtown Boston or Kendall Square or somewhere like that.” MAPC socioeconomic analyst Sarah Philbrick agreed that young people are flocking to the inner-core cities in search of walkable neighborhoods and city life, and businesses are following them. “Businesses want to attract these workers and therefore decide to locate in highly desirable locations,” Philbrick said. “I don’t believe many businesses would pay the high rents of the core if this were not the case.” Real estate is booming along with the regional job market, but housing is coming up short, and local business leaders worry that could hobble their ability to attract top talent. Finding enough skilled employees is already an issue in a state with one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates—soaring housing costs could drive away would-be residents. “We just we don’t have enough housing to meet the demand,” said Bourassa, “and so we lose a lot of young professionals who can’t afford to live here.” The MAPC estimates only about two-thirds of the region’s housing needs are being met. Some worry that could lead to long-term stagnation or brain drain away from Greater Boston. “I have a real question about how sustainable this rental housing boom is actually going to be in the long term,” said David Hacin, principal of Hacin + Associates. “There’s a lot of pent-up demand here, but it’s hard to build in the Boston area. It’s a very expensive market from a construction cost point of view, and when you combine years-long review processes with limited site opportunities because it’s a mature market, you run into problems of affordability.” The City of Boston said it’s trying to address that problem. Mayor Marty Walsh has pledged 53,000 new housing units as part of a new housing plan—a sizable effort that may have contributed to median rent in the inner-core cities dropping for the first time since at least 2009. Still, Barry Bluestone, professor of political economy at Northeastern University and lead author of the Boston Foundation’s Housing Report Card, estimates the region needs around 160,000 new housing units by 2030. So far statistics show that efforts to ease the housing crunch are having mixed results. The pace of new housing construction in the same inner-core cities seeing the most population growth has slowed lately, according to the Foundation’s report card, published in November. In its report, the Boston Foundation found that the City of Boston has issued more than 41 percent of the new housing permits in the region this year, almost double its share five years ago. But fewer than one in five new units put on the market since 2011 were affordable, less than half the rate seen between 1996 and 2003. Meanwhile, the number of permits issued outside the city of Boston declined this year, while more than half of renters reported paying more than 30 percent of their income on housing, according to the report. The region’s recent growth spurt may be making that problem more severe, but it should not come as a surprise, said Michael Goodman, executive director of the Public Policy Center at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. “Population growth is contributing to some of the congestion and growth pressure being experienced in Greater Boston,” said Goodman. “But our transportation and housing issues are primarily the result of inadequate infrastructure investment and counterproductive zoning regulations which limit new housing development.” With more people and corporations calling Boston home, housing advocates are calling on local governments to direct the benefits of a growing tax base into more affordable housing initiatives. “Even in Boston, there continues to be a challenge of creating a housing stock that benefits working households along with everyone else who strives to live in the city,” said Barry Bluestone, lead author of the Boston Foundation’s housing report, in a statement. He recommends the creation of “21st-century villages,” defined as multistory mixed-income buildings located near public transit. In an interview, Bluestone expanded on that idea. Many communities around Boston currently prohibit accessory dwelling units and, in some cases, ban multifamily housing outright, he said. “In the past, everyone has acknowledged there’s a housing problem, but they’ve mostly looked to their neighbors to solve it,” said Bluestone. Now that the whole region’s housing market is feeling the squeeze, however, more local governments are starting to take note. On December 5, municipal leaders from 14 cities and towns in the Boston area came together to identify a regional housing goal and recommend zoning changes to help them get there. “I’ve been looking at housing for two decades, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this kind of coordination,” said Bluestone.
A massive, 1.1-million-square-foot development adjacent to Fenway Park in Boston is finally set to rise, following 15 years of delays, setbacks, and logistical issues. The first phase of Fenway Center will bring two residential buildings with 312 units, 37,000 square feet of ground floor retail and 200 underground parking spots to what is currently a parking lot, at a price tag of $240 million. Fenway Center has been plagued by false starts for years (AN last wrote that it might break ground in 2013), but construction on the mixed-use development is now supposed to begin in the next two weeks and wrap up by 2020. One of the most difficult hurdles that the project has had to clear, other than financing, is that phase one would have originally placed the residential towers over the Massachusetts Turnpike, with phase two building on the parking lot. Spanning a deck over the turnpike made the project prohibitively expensive and complicated, and as the site is state-owned, Massachusetts’s officials required developer John Rosenthal to have both the funding and deck plans in place before they would sign a lease. These problems seem to have been resolved by Rosenthal rearranging the project’s timeline, as Rosenthal hopes the new towers will build anticipation, and funding, for decking over the turnpike. “We’re going to create a neighborhood here where today there are parking lots and windswept bridges,” Rosenthal told The Boston Globe. “That will attract the debt and equity for Phase 2.” With the residential towers going up on the nearby lot instead, phase two will now see an office tower and garages being built over the turnpike. With a 99-year lease in place between Rosenthal and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, construction on the project is poised to begin immediately. The scheme will build off of an earlier master plan by New York-based Carlos Zapata Studio, and Chelsea, Massachusetts-based The Architectural Team (TAT) will be designing the buildings, as well as the site’s elevated pedestrian walkways and new green spaces. TAT has also promised that Fenway Center will feature one of the largest private solar power plants in the state, and the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority’s first net-zero-energy train station. Repurposing the unused land around sports venues has become increasingly popular, as the ballpark-adjacent Fenway Center will join the likes of Denver's new stadium district and the office complexes bordering Wrigley Field. Phase one of Fenway Center is expected to finish construction by 2020, and the developers are required to finalize their lease with the MassDOT for the second phase by the same year.
2017 Best of Design Awards Retail – Interior: Health Yoga Life Architect: BOS|UA Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts The yoga studio is located in the ground floor of the Novartis Building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The new 1,500-square-foot commercial space has great street presence, providing the opportunity to showcase the values of the studio and the brand to a larger audience—namely, that yoga is the practice of connecting to oneself and others. The key elements that make Health Yoga Life stand out are the mentoring and learning functions of the business. The architecture firm decided to translate these three main aspects—community, coaching, and practice—into defined spatial experiences: shop, forum, and studio. Public programs, such as the forum and the shop, act as magnets to the street, while the studio focuses on the interiority of yoga. “It’s inviting, flexible, and straightforward — a nice, fluid transition of spaces that all seem restful even though exposed at street level.” —Irene Sunwoo, Director of Exhibitions, GSAPP (juror) Contractor: Atlantic Management Group Millwork: Bill Bancroft Furniture: BOS|UA
2017 Best of Design Award for Civic – Administrative: Boston Emergency Medical Services Architect: The Galante Architecture Studio Location: Boston, Massachusets This new Emergency Medical Services facility replaced a dilapidated garage located on the historic grounds of the old Boston Sanatorium. Working in concert with the City of Boston Public Facilities department, the firm built a modest yet elegant building that provides security and stature through its solid shell and minimalist form. The approximately 10,500-square-foot structure comprises 11 bays—each capable of double loading and outfitted with a vehicle exhaust system—to house emergency vehicles already in Boston EMS’s fleet, plus additional equipment provided by Homeland Security in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon attack. A robust thermal envelope, efficient LED lights and daylighting units, and low-flow plumbing fixtures help make the building energy efficient. Its inherent flexibility supports Boston’s first responders in their efforts to protect the public and manage emergencies in both the short term and foreseeable future. "This project is a wonderful use of quotidian materials in a sharp, sophisticated way. Robert Venturi would be proud." —Matt Shaw, senior editor, The Architect's Newspaper (juror) Contractor: Gianluca Morle, WCI Corporation Project director: Scott Dupre with Boston Public Facilities Department Metal Wall Panels: Morin Daylighting Units: Firestone Building Products Site Lighting: RAB Lighting Honorable Mention New United States Courthouse – Los Angeles Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Location: Los Angeles, California Modern in spirit and rooted in classic principles of federal architecture, the New United States Courthouse contains 24 courtrooms and 32 judicial chambers within 633,000 (energy efficient) square feet. Envisioned as a “floating” cube, the building’s innovative structural engineering concept elevates the glass volume above its stone base, mitigating blast threats while appearing as a single hovering form. Honorable Mention San Diego Central Courthouse Architect: Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Location: San Diego, California This project consolidates San Diego County’s Criminal Trial, Family, and Civil Courts into a 22-story, 704,000-square-foot tower in the city’s downtown—a catalyst for the emerging government district. A three-story public lobby serves as the heart of the courthouse, while the traditional courthouse pediment has been reinterpreted as a shade-giving soffit.
With housing prices soaring and available stock dwindling in cities across the country, the micro-unit apartment trend has spread to Boston for the first time. National Development and New York-based Ollie have teamed up to bring a 14-story co-living micro-unit apartment building to Boston’s South End. Ollie is no stranger to the micro-unit game, and its modular, nARCHITECTS-designed Carmel Place drew media attention after being built offsite and assembled in only a month. With units ranging from 260 to 360 square feet but market-rate prices, Ollie included concierge service and a suite of luxury amenities in an attempt to lure in tenants, a model it will attempt to replicate in Boston. Planned for the Ink Block complex in the South End, the Elkus Manfredi Architects-designed, 245-unit building will follow the co-living model, offering fully furnished apartments, free housecleaning services, and communal events that are meant to make the transition to co-living as clean as possible. With many of the units under 400 square feet, Ollie is trying to win over young professionals who either won’t be home that often, or won’t mind the lack of space. “You walk into this building and you feel like you’re in a millennial resort,” National Development managing partner Ted Tye told the Boston Globe. “It’s kind of like a grown-up college experience.” Combining the micro-unit and co-living models seems like a natural progression, as developers can trade unit square footage for the added experience that tenants receive. While the still-unnamed development isn’t the first micro-unit building in Boston, it is one of the first to bank on the idea that residents would willingly pay more for added services. The co-living model is catching on across the country, and Ollie has similar buildings in New York City and Pittsburgh, with others currently under construction in Jersey City and Los Angeles. WeWork’s WeLive buildings have also sprung up in New York and Washington, D.C., although their leases are typically short-term. The dorm-style communal living arrangement, complemented by access to WeWork office space in the same building, has been met with mixed reviews so far. Micro-unit arrangements have not arisen without their share of criticism, either. Still, Ollie feels that the demand for shared living spaces is particularly high in Boston. The Ink Block co-living building will still need approval from the Boston Planning and Development Agency before it can proceed. More detailed plans will be coming in the next month, and construction should begin sometime in 2018.
While tech giant Alphabet recently announced it would develop 12 acres of Toronto waterfront into a smart-city-technology testing ground, a similar undertaking has already begun 12 miles south of Boston. Developer LStar Ventures has big plans to turn this 1,500-acre site, dubbed Union Point (formerly South Weymouth Naval Air Station), into a “smart” development that will specially cater to technology companies. On the surface, the project is an eco-friendly exurban development with a leafy, bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly mixed-use master plan. In addition to offering housing, retail, residences, restaurants, three million square feet of office space, and eight million square feet of commercial development, Union Point would connect to Boston—and its booming tech industry scene—via a nearby MBTA commuter rail. Boston-based Elkus Manfredi and Watertown, Massachusetts–based Sasaki are master planning Union Point and working with engineering firms such as Arup, Vanderweil Engineers, and VHB on a range of sustainable features, including natural, on-site wastewater treatment systems. However, where Union Point really sets itself apart is in its information technology infrastructure. The city will lay the foundations for its tenants to use its streets and buildings as testing grounds for smart city technology. In addition to omnipresent wi-fi, “Union Point will have a site-wide fiber-optic cabling system to support commercial tenants, building assets, and IoT [Internet of Things] systems,” said David Wilts, associate principal and digital master planning leader at Arup. In other words, companies will be able to install sensors to collect data on air quality and building performance, and even be able to set up public digital signage. In this way, Union Point could easily support smart city ventures similar to Chicago’s Array of Things sensor network or New York City’s LinkNYC towers. The first stage of development is a $25 million sports complex designed by Elkus Manfredi and Sasaki that will feature multiple fields, including a rugby pitch, playground, park, restaurant, and renovated gymnasium. Including this complex was crucial in the two-year process of getting local communities on board with the development; its fields will be available to the three nearby towns at reduced leasing rates. Technology, however, is a notoriously fickle thing to design into a project. For example, the video-call screens installed in Korea’s smart city mega-development Songdo are already obsolete. But Union Point hopes to avoid that by only laying the groundwork for its tenants. “LStar Ventures aspires to be the leader in the practical application of technology that we know, that we can imagine, and that is beyond today’s imagination,” said David Manfredi, founding principal at Elkus Manfredi. “That is why the armature that we create must be flexible, durable, and adaptable over time.” The Boston-area is no stranger to smart city developments, as the 45-acre Cambridge Crossing tech hub was also unveiled this year.
Cambridge Crossing, a 45-acre development at the nexus of Cambridge, Boston, and Somerville, will provide another hub of tech and life sciences to the greater Boston area. The San Francisco-based developer, Divco West, has already begun construction on two structures within the complex as of this week, including a 430,000-square-foot office building intended to house science and tech groups. CBT Architects are the designers behind the master plan. Previously dubbed NorthPoint, the mega-development will include 4.5 million square feet of mixed-used space. Divco West has pitched the project as a more affordable alternative to Kendall Square, a neighborhood further south in Cambridge housing large tech companies like Amazon, Google, and Facebook, alongside pharmaceutical companies and start-ups. Cambridge Crossing will include five office buildings and nearly 2,400 condos or apartments. There will also be extensive ground-level retail space including restaurants and shops. Eleven acres have been set aside for a public park at the campus' center. "We've had some very good interest from prospective tenants already," Tom Sullivan, Divco West's president of development, told The Boston Globe. Office space within the development has been largely marketed toward tech, life science, and research groups, all thriving industries in Boston. The site could also potentially house part of Amazon's second headquarters, but not all of it–the tech giant's RFP requested up to eight million square feet of office space. In 2015, Divco West paid $291 million for the total acreage, which includes 17 individual parcels across what has been described as Cambridge's "last frontier"–the city's largest remaining infill development. The site will be even more accessible with the relocation of a Green Line light rail stop four minutes away. Plans for the development are moving through staggered permitting processes in each of the three cities involved. There is no set timeline for construction yet. Divco West expects the development to garner interest among organizations seeking cheaper spaces with more amenities in the increasingly expensive rental landscape of Boston.
In AN's new series of climate profiles, we will be learning from designers who are working to incorporate climate responsiveness in their work or have blazed the way for others in the field. As this year's hurricane season reaches its third quarter, coastal and riverfront cities across the country are thinking more than ever about how to adapt urban landscapes to increasingly intense storm surge and sea level rise. Chris Reed, founding principal of Stoss and professor of landscape architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD), is particularly good at asking questions about these issues. While completing his undergraduate degree in urban history at Harvard College in the 1990s, Reed was exposed to a split in schools of thought among landscape architects: one approaching landscape at the scale of urban planning, another at the more traditional gardens and parks scale. James Corner, who at the time was beginning his own landscape practice, was someone Reed felt successfully merged the two. Reed sought to do the same. In 2001, after he completed a Master’s at the University of Pennsylvania, Reed’s firm Stoss was born out of a desire to create high-density urban environments thoroughly engaged with landscapes and environmental processes. Over nearly two decades, Stoss has completed riverfront designs for five cities across the globe (Shanghai, Green Bay, Minneapolis, Dallas, and London, Canada) as well as countless waterfront parks and public spaces. A 2011 profile of Reed in Places Journal noted that "stoss" is a German word that means "to kick, as in 'kick in the pants,' to initiative, activate." In Dallas, Stoss' Trinity Waterfront project innovatively addressed a vacant flood zone of land dividing the downtown area from Trinity River, which winds through the city. The city wanted to transform this zone into a new public space and economic boon to draw developers. While the city's RFP asked designers to connect the downtown area to the waterfront, Stoss expanded the landscape in two directions – extending fingers of the river and wetlands into the city, and likewise extending the city out into the flood zone. This is especially illustrative of Stoss' approach to adaptive water management. Even an open-air theater has the capacity to flood, diverting waters from the paved and developed areas beyond. The sports fields are flanked by bioswales, depressed areas that are designed to capture runoff. The resulting parklands are both densely urban and perform ecological functions. "The debate now has become not just how to incorporate environmental resilience into cities but also social resilience," Reed told AN. "The world is not the same as when I was in school. Now we have to ask questions like: what are the responsibilities of designers to address climate change, population growth, political shifts–and how have all of these things affected design?" Most recently, Stoss has worked on providing solutions to some of the climate-focused questions through a large-scale riverfront project in Boston. In January 2017, the City of Boston released a public RFP seeking design teams to realize elements of their Imagine Boston 2030 plan. A major part of the plan is riverfront development, both in terms of creating more effective storm-resistant infrastructure as well as in creating compelling public spaces. Stoss was an obvious firm to address the tasks at hand. Of the six neighborhoods identified in Imagine Boston 2030 for waterfront renewal, Stoss was selected to work on two: East Boston and Charlestown. In East Boston, the site runs roughly from around Falcon Street to Piers Park. The Charlestown stretch is still under wraps, with the entire waterfront owned by a single private entity. The focus for both will be on coastal flooding and sea level rise. To tackle these issues, Stoss partnered with Kleinfelder, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the New York office of Dutch firm One Architecture. According to Stoss' Studio Manager Amy Whitesides, the project will occur in a layered approach at three different scales. The first, most local scale, will look at simple engineering solutions to flooding, common sense gray infrastructure that will prevent stormwater from rising up or scouring its way into the city's streetscape. An example of this would be a retrofit to the East Boston Greenway that would funnel water along the park's existing railway rather than letting it run off into adjacent neighborhoods. The second, intermediate scale will look at the landscape's existing and potential ecologies—including the redesign of Piers Park itself. The current plan is to take the land and raise it into a berm-like park, creating a barrier that will protect the Greenway and the residential areas while doubling as public space. The third scale looks at the waterfront as a whole from a developer's standpoint, asking which areas will require rezoning for designs to be effectively implemented, how to address private interest (as a good portion of the waterfront property included is privately owned), and perhaps most importantly: how will this all get paid for? The project takes inspiration from the same multi-scalar approach Reed discussed – territory-scale projects with a social bent. "I'm interested in projects that are more about setting up relationships between people rather than relying solely on form-based agendas," Reed told AN. "How do you have a conversation that might seek change?" In East Boston and Charlestown, these kind of conversations are well underway. The design team has held over fifty meetings with stakeholders ranging from Boston's Department of Parks and Recreation to private developers, held community workshops in all of the affected neighborhoods, and formed working partnerships with a number of local nonprofits to inform the design. According to Reed, it should be impossible to complete such large-scale designs with far-reaching impacts without forging local relationships. "Many cities across the U.S. are looking at profound issues of aging infrastructure," Reed said. "With major riverfront projects like this, the changes made are often wrapped up in concerns about affordability." Reed referred to the fear of rent increases pushing out residents as new development moves into neighborhoods. "In dealing with climate change, the question becomes: how do we design for equity? How do we make for welcoming spaces?" Stoss will formally announce their design for the Imagine Boston 2030 plan in the coming weeks.
Winners of the fifth Design Biennial Boston can be viewed on The Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy in Boston. Aimed to celebrate and give exposure to up-and-coming architects and designers from the New England region, the Biennial is on view until October 18th. This year, it consists of four installations which vary in themes, materials and artistic style. In order to bring their ideas to life, Design Biennial Boston has provided each winning team with $10,000 and access to cutting-edge fabrication equipment provided by sponsor Autodesk BUILD Space. The four winning teams, selected among a pool of designers from New England, were called upon to create installations echoing the region’s unique qualities and reflecting on the Greenway’s Playful Perspectives theme. The works by Jennifer Bonner of MALL, Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy of DESIGN EARTH, Daniel Ibañez of Margen-Lab, and Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest of ULTRAMODERNE entertain ideas of rigid to free-flowing forms, local materials, economic trends, and global impacts all representative of the region. Another Axon by Jennifer Bonner of MALL (pictured above) is an installation comprised of a colorful array of twelve minimalist trees. A play on traditional architecture and design rendering, the installation uses common building materials such as vinyl siding, stucco, and artificial turf to challenge perceived building ideas. Primitive by Yasmin Vobis and Aaron Forrest of ULTRAMODERNE is a geometric disposition of lines juxtaposed with rough materials: rugged cedar columns canopied with a thin aluminum shroud. The relationship between the shapes create an experience of existence within an abstracted, delicate grove. Blue Marble Circus by Rania Ghosn and El Hadi Jazairy of DESIGN EARTH is a spherical, plastic monument highlighting the correlation between humanity's actions and the degradation of the ecosystem. The installation, as the name suggests, is a deep-blue plastic sphere which through form, color and material refers to the iconic symbol of environmental awareness. Ways of Wood by Daniel Ibañez of MARGEN-LAB is a compilation of logs that serve as public seating. The logs draw a visual connection between different states in timber's industrial process, from raw material to its highly polished state as a designed object. The installation aims to initiate a conversation on North America’s timber extraction industry and serve as a reminder of the often forgotten natural source of timber.