The Rose Kennedy Greenway was supposed to transform downtown Boston, and while the Big Dig has had some impact on traffic, its above ground success have been far fewer, at least in the three years since the project was completed. At least two major developments have been forestalled because of competing demands on the Greenway's open space, which itself has not been a smashing success, and now the Boston Globe reports the demise of yet another cultural institution that had been planned for the 1.5-mile park. The latest loss is the New Center for Arts and Culture, an $80 million project designed by Daniel Libeskind that was meant to foster diversity and dialogue between disparate groups. Other of the glassy, glitzy victims—blame falls largely on poor fundraising due to the economy—include a new YMCA, Garden Under Glass, and the Boston Museum, which has since relocated to a different site where it also struggles to get off the ground. After the jump, a graphic from the Globe breaks the blunders down.
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The news out of Boston this morning is that developer Don Chiofaro has bowed to community opposition (pun intended?) and will reduce the height of his harborside Boston Arch tower complex, designed by KPF. Formerly at 1.5 million square feet, the building will shave off 10 to 15 percent of its bulk, including the loss of the distinctive "skyframe" that gave it its name. The frame, which rose to 780 feet, is gone, leaving the towers behind, also at reduced heights. The slenderer residential and hotel tower will now rise to 625 feet, instead of 690, a Chiofaro representative told us today, and the 560-foot office tower will also shrink. Final designs are still in the works. Not to say we didn't see this coming. Indeed, when we first wrote about the tower back in June, we expected as much:
Then again, this is how most real estate deals get done: propose the most extreme possible project, and work down from there. Chiofaro said he had toiled for months on getting the project just right, revising its scale, composition, and components. “The geometry of the buildings begins to be set specifically by what goes inside of them and what we’re trying to achieve on the ground,” Chiofaro told AN. [...] The only problem was that against the skyline, the two towers looked somewhat muddled, which is how the arch was conceived. “Not only does it create an icon, a real gateway,” said Andrew Klare, an associate principal at KPF, “but with that addition, it actually makes the scale break down.”According to Chiofaro, the height reductions were provoked by Massport, which oversees the airport and apparently did not feel safe with anything taller than 625 feet near the Logan approach, and thus the reduction. But could it also be that the arch was originally conceived as a folly to make the building look taller than it actually is, only to be cast aside later to assuage the concerns of the community? When we suggested as much, Chiofaro's people demurred. Now we're left with two stepped towers with some sort of retail base—not unlike Chiofaro's first major success, the nearby International Place, designed by Philip Johnson. And now, onto round two, as we wait to hear from the BRA on its Greenway study, which was advocating for something in the 400-foot range at the extreme.
Increasingly becoming home to Boston's architectural community, pinkcomma gallery opened its third Fall season on with two exhibitions: Heroic and Publishing Practices. Heroic takes a closer look at the material that re-shaped Boston, concrete, and the idealistic architects that used it from 1957-1976. The exhibit consists of a selection of local concrete buildings intertwined with essays by some of the architects who built them, material experts, historians, and voices from a new architectural generation who seek to put this work in context. Heroic, however, boasts a larger and weighty agenda: to educate the public at large on the innovations and ideals of Boston's concrete architectural legacy to save endangered buildings. On pinkcomma's second room Publishing Practices traces a history of practices that use publication as part of the tools available to them to think about and produce built form. Perhaps as interesting are the results of a survey on contemporary attitudes towards publishing conducted by curator Michael Kubo. Not surprisingly, Kubo finds that most people get their architectural news from websites and blogs while a great majority of respondents say that the physical book will always have a place in their studios. The results begin to show practices more comfortable using digital-physical media hybrids in their publishing projects. During the opening the crowd enjoyed the interactive yet low-tech nature of the exhibit. Heroic, for example, consists of over thirty 11" x 17" pieces of paper that the gallery encourages its visitors to collect and asks them to participate by suggesting additions to their growing list of notable concrete buildings. Both shows run through October 15.
Fifty-one years after his graduation the late Max Bond Jr.'s influence is once again felt in his alma mater, Harvard's Graduate School of Design. An exhibit and celebration of his life and work opened there on Monday September 14th and will run through October 18th. The exhibit takes a close look at Max Bond's personal life, his passion for social equity, and his professional design work. Bond made all three areas of his life inseparable. In an 1981 interview with Paul Broches in the Journal of Architectural Education he pronounced that "Progress means trying to improve the lot of the people in the world generally and to have architecture contribute toward that goal." The exhibit displays Bond's design work from Ghana to Harlem to Washington DC that shows what may be Max Bond's most important contribution, taking strongly held social ideals and turning them into built form. This posthumous lesson is specially timely for a class starting their design education in the midst of what many consider to be the worst economic down turn in over 80 years. Life and Works of J. Max Bond, Jr.: Practice, Education, and Activism September 14th-October 18th Related lecture: Max Bond, Multiculturalism, and Social Equity in the Built Environment October 2nd - 3:30PM Harvard University's Graduate School of Design
After the recent mixed reviews of his KPF-designed Boston Arch project, local developer Don Chiofaro has been told within the last few days by both state and city officials that his proposal is considerably too large and may take years of regulatory review and planning to get off the ground. No worry, as the infamously forthright developer has taken his project to the people, counting on concerts and blaring signs like the one above to show that it is the mayor and the BRA that are bullying his grand vision and not the other way around.
A double whammy came last week for Boston developer Don Chiofaro's Boston Arch project, which we first wrote about last month. On Thursday, The Boston Business Journal ran a story suggesting Chiofaro was stuffing the BRA's mailbox with letters supportive of his KPF-designed project, while the following day it reported that the aquarium the project was meant to improve feared for the worst. The letters are part of the redevelopment authorities public comment period, and among them was one from the president of the Boston Aquarium who wrote that, according to the Journal, "the project threatens the long-term viability of the Aquarium." As we noted in our June report, officials at Massport were concerned about undue impacts on Logan flight paths, something Chiofaro told us was being addressed. But maybe note, as the Journal turned up the following comment in a Massport letter:
“Massport strongly supports the continued economic development of the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” the letter stated. “However, as owner and operator of one of the Commonwealth’s most critical transportation infrastructure assets, Massport cannot condone and urges you to help prevent any degradation of the airspace surrounding Boston-Logan by tall structures proposed as part of this project.”Chiofaro did not comment for the story, but what he had been doing was far more intriguing:
In total, there were 381 letters and postcards submitted in support of the Harbor Garage project, compared with the 252 letters opposed to the project. [...] Of the 266 postcards in favor of the 1.5 million square foot mixed-use project, 144 were signed by people who do not live in Boston, according to the BRA.Then again, most of those letter opposing the project came from residents of the neighboring Harbor Towers apartment buildings, who obviously have a stake in the project not going forward. Looks like it's up to the BRA on this one, though if that is any indication, Chiofaro may just be out of luck.
This past week, the Boston Globe's editorial page has been enthralled with the Greenway and Don Chiofaro's proposed Boston Arch thereon. (We'd like to think they were inspired by us.) It began with an editorial criticizing the Boston Redevelopment Authority's apparent foot-dragging on its Greenway development study, followed by an encapsulation of the comments from said editorial--many in favor of the project--and now an op-ed calling for greater density on the Greenway. While the Globe's editorial board is welcome to its opinions, it should not be as disingenuous as the power brokers it attempts to lampoon. Let's start with last Monday's editorial. As soon as we saw it, red flags went up. Should Mayor Thomas Menino have begun the study years ago, as the board asserts? Yes, of course. But now that it is finally underway, there is no reason to rush it, especially to the benefit of a certain developer working nearby. We spoke with some people involved with the development study, and they actually said it is moving faster than normal. Furthermore, from what we heard, the developer was asked to wait for the completion of the study before certifying his project with the city. Obviously, Chiofaro had no interest in waiting. Partly this is because he is old school, as they say, a former Harvard linebacker, among other things. Another issue, as argues today's op-ed--which calls for no restrictions but good design--is that the BRA would likely set a height well below the nearly 800-feet Chiofaro is seeking. Indeed, of the six plans put forward for the garage site by the BRA's planners, Greenberg and utile, heights ranged from 125 feet to two towers of 400 feet, something that could become sacrosanct once the plan is adopted. So why not wait until the final plan is put forth before passing judgment? Why call for a rushed plan with limited inhibitions? Is this editorial outcry really about elections and transparency? Or is it about shilling for a connected Boston developer?
While it is relatively old news that Apple (and ur-designers BCJ's) efforts to build a new Apple Store in Georgetown are being foiled by a group of local preservationists--I first stumbled upon it on Apple Insider while reading reports from MacWorld--it was a Bloomberg report in today's ArchNewsNow (h/t) that really got me thinking about the reality of such a store and just how it might take shape. When I read that "Apple’s architects, Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, proposed building a store with an all-glass front at street level, topped by a slab of masonry with an Apple logo cut through it," I was rather surprised by the proposal. After all, one need look no further than Apple's three Manhattan stores to see a thorough going commitment to historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Apple's first, and most sensitive, venture in the city was the 2002 conversion (as always, by BCJ) of a sumptuous 1920s post-office in perhaps our most chicly historic neighborhood into an intensely sleek and yet extremely demure flagship. Despite all the straight lines and polished glass inside, the exterior of Apple Soho remains almost untouched, a respectful gesture to the cast iron beauties that surround it. While its--much ballyhooed--24-hour sibling on 5th Avenue has a decidedly more modern look, so does its surroundings, at the foot of the GM Building. Not to mention that, as MAS president Kent Barwick once told us, the new store resurrected an otherwise insufferable plaza. And while slightly more ostentatious than the Soho store (and really, isn't the entire Meatpacking District?), Apple's latest store on 14th Street still manages to adeptly combine a classic concrete loft building with a glassy electronics outlet. Why, then, would Apple make such a radical proposal for such a buttoned up community as Georgetown? Again, the Bloomberg article provides some interesting clues:
It’s not the first time Cupertino, California-based Apple was asked to revamp the design of one of its stores. Three years ago, a Boston architectural commission reviewing the glass façade that Apple proposed for a local store said the design “didn’t have a sense of place” in the neighborhood. Apple amended the design and worked with the Boston Redevelopment Authority to make sure the store--noteworthy for a giant wall of glass--fit in with the area. The Boston shop opened last year.You can see the Boston store here, in The Wall Street Journal's brief account of the Apple Georgetown affair. Just looking at it, the Boston store is a far more modern proposal than its historical cousins in New York. Back in Georgetown, the local board that has so far denied the designs is obviously not opposed to a store being located on the premises. Not only is that section of Wisconsin Avenue essentially an outdoor mall, but the building was previously occupied by a French Connection boutique. The only explanation, then, is the old preservationist saw that the developer and architect have put forward an outlandish proposal they have no intention of actually building so that when the actual design comes up for review, it looks rosy by comparison. Now where have we heard that before?