Boston’s longest serving Mayor, Thomas Menino, will not be seeking a sixth term. Throughout his two decades in office, Menino has ushered in a number of major development projects, most notably the growth of the area around Fenway and the transformation of the once abandoned Seaport into a vibrant mixed-use waterfront neighborhood with offices, residential towers, and retail. This announcement comes on the heels of Menino’s new proposal, the Housing Boston 2020 Plan, aimed at creating 30,000 new units of housing by 2020. (Photo: Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, courtesy Wikipedia)
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Library officials and developers hope to give Boston Public Library’s Philip Johnson-designed branch a facelift, but as the Boston Herald reported, local residents question who these proposed changes will really benefit. Standing besides Charles Follen McKim’s 1895 Beaux Arts masterwork on Copley Square, and across the street from the site of the recent marathon bombings, the mid-century monolith, which was completed in 1971, has been likened by many to a bunker or mausoleum and derided for its “greyness” and “bleakness.” With nearly half of Boston’s library users regularly visiting this branch, some think it’s about time for an upgrade. Officials have set their sights on three areas of improvement for the library: enriching services, improving first impressions of the building, and creating “positive financial impact” on the library. Boston based firm William Rawn Associates have been brought in to find ways to better the building's relationship with its users, like opening it up to the surrounding streets and doing away with the heavy plinths of the building's facade. However, it is the third area of improvement that has the local community questioning the motives of library officials and associated developers, as some have suggested installing a bookstore and café where the children’s reading room now stands. “It means library space will be taken away from library users to support commercial enterprise,” said David Viera, president of Boston’s Friends of the Library to the Herald. Meanwhile, others worry that planned development will take away the best-lit nooks from readers and hand them over to commercial enterprises. Still others are thinking on a different scale. “Is it too late to tear it down?” one man asked. But with so much invested in the sheer material girth of the 10-storie building, and the preservationists surely ready to step in as soon as the project gets underway, that option is out—for now. Until then, and if the local Landmarks Commission gives them the go-ahead, the library is requesting $14 million from the city to get started with the first phases of design and construction.
The Rockefeller Foundation has announced that four cities will receive a combined $1.2 million in grants to foster research, communications, and community outreach efforts in an endeavor to educate local stakeholders about the advantages of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems. The Foundation’s solution to “Transform Cities” and promote fiscal growth and quality of life proposes better mass transit investments. Boston, Chicago, Nashville, and Pittsburgh will participate in the project. The high performance mass transit system, referred to as BRT, offers much of the permanence and speed of a rail system in addition to the flexibility of bus systems for a smaller investment in initial infrastructure costs. BRT systems operate high-capacity vehicles that rely on dedicated lanes and elevated platforms to deliver efficient service. For years, the Rockefeller Foundation has supported Chicago’s attempts to build a city-wide BRT. With the grant, the city could potentially assemble and operate the first gold-standard BRT in the country. Currently, Cleveland operates the nation's highest-ranked BRT system at the ITDP's Silver designation. Pittsburgh’s Allegheny County Port Authority’s Transit Development plan recommends a BRT system to link downtown to its Oakland areas. At least forty stakeholder companies are working together to consider BRT system options for Pittsburgh. A projected BRT system in Nashville would run directly through the city’s downtown hub, although the project remains in the planning stage. In Boston, transportation supporters and state officials are currently considering a BRT system amid alternative transit modernization enterprises. The Rockefeller Foundation selected public affairs firm Global Strategy Group to handle the grant by teaming up with local partner organizations in each city. For the past three years, the Foundation has made over $6 million available to encourage the expansion of BRT.
While rooftop farming has cropped up in a number of cities across the country, it has yet to take root in Boston. But this will soon change when founders Courtney Hennessey and John Stoddard launch operations of their new rooftop farm, aptly called Higher Ground Farm, located atop the Boston Design Center this Spring. According to CoLab Radio at MIT, the duo will start planting on a 40,000-square-feet segment of the expansive 55,000-square-feet roof within the next few months and be ready to sell the fresh produce by summer. The farm is coming at just the right time—the city is making a real push to encourage more urban farming. The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) has introduced Article 89, an urban agriculture zoning initiative that will “establish an environment in which all of our citizens—particularly the most underserved—have direct access to locally produced fresh food, the ability to produce food for themselves, and access to education and knowledge about healthy eating.” Hennessey and Stoddard have made a dent in their fundraising efforts through kickstarter and fundraisers, but still need more money to get the farm completely off the ground. They hope to secure more capital to reach their $300,000 goal with the help of loans and grants.
The Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion roof channels rainwater for irrigation on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.Jump on a ferry in Downtown Boston and in twenty minutes, you’ll arrive at the Boston Harbor Islands, an archipelago of 34 islands dotting Boston Harbor managed by the National Park Service. To entice city-dwellers to make the trip, Boston-based Utile Architecture + Planning has designed a composite steel and concrete pavilion with a digitally fabricated roof for the National Park Service and the Boston Harbor Island Alliance to provide travel information and history about the Islands and a shady respite atop the highway-capping Rose Kennedy Greenway. Two thin overlapping concrete canopy slabs supported by delicate steel beams provide a sculptural shelter. Utile digitally designed the $4.2 million Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion using Rhino to respond to the surrounding cityscape and serve as a playful rainwater-harvesting system to irrigate the Greenway’s landscape. Initially working with a fountain consultant, the design team experimented with the shape of the roof deformation that guides rainwater to a catch basin. The roof’s unique shape was determined using digital models and by rolling BB’s over physical models to gauge how water would eventually behave on the surface. “We realized in modeling the pavilion that the water would ‘prefer’ to follow the same axis through both pavilion roofs,” Tim Love, principal at Utile, said. “Turning the curve would have created unintended consequences in the flow of the water.” The final shape propels water from the symmetric top roof, onto the asymmetrical lower roof, gaining speed as the concrete pinches together and funneling down to what the architects described as a “giant scupper,” finally cascading into a sculptural catch basin on the ground designed to create different splash patterns depending on how hard it's raining. “The roof pinches in as closely as possible to control the flow of the water,” Chris Genter, project architect at Utile, said. The arc of the water had to be precise enough to land in the catch basin, “like water pouring from the spout of a pitcher.” Supporting the two 40-foot by 60-foot roofs, a series of steel beams form a sort of Gothic tracery, splitting in half to reduce the effective span of the concrete and minimizing the overall depth of the slab by requiring less rebar. The roof slabs vary in thickness from three-and-a-half inches at the perimeter to five-and-a-half inches at the center. “We were always interested in making the primary material concrete with as slim a profile as possible,” Love said. “The concrete structure enters into discourse with the heritage of concrete architecture in Boston and responds to the heroic modernism of Boston City Hall.” “The steel beams offered enough repetition that they began to look like contour lines,” Love said. “They allow you to more easily read the curve of the slab.” Each metal band, what Genter described as a sort of steel “fettucini,” was fabricated directly from the digital model, first laser cut and then bent to the correct shape using CAD-CAM technology. “You typically don’t see these kind of geometries in permanent structures,” Love said. “There was a lucky convergence of high ambitions all around.” In generating the digital model for the pavilion, the team had to ensure that the data was clear for the multiple fabricators involved in the process. “The curves had to form a describable surface,” Love said. “The model and its geometries had to be translatable to different fabrication processes. The model for the project literally became the model for fabrication.” Working with two separate materials built from the same digital model presented real world challenges when fitting the two together. “The project required more craft in the field than we initially thought,” Genter said. Each steel beam is made up of four pieces welded together and required more room for error in fabrication. On site, the wooden concrete formwork was subtly changed to adapt to small variations in the shape of the steel. “The answer was to get fabricators on board who can get our model translated into the final product,” Love said, explaining that working with contractors on digitally fabricated projects can be a learning experience for everyone involved. “There were a lot of subspecialties working together.” Concrete contractor S+F Concrete brought millworker C.W. Keller on board to create the elaborate wooden mold for the concrete slab. For most of the surface, deformed plywood was used, but as the curve approached its spout, a custom mold was required. “The curve was beyond the tolerance of plywood,” Love said. “Every single piece of plywood in the formwork was pre-engineered before it arrived.” Once on site, the individual pieces were fit together like a puzzle.
Massachusetts Department of Transportation Secretary Richard Davey announced plans for expanding and maintaining the state's transportation system on Monday. The improvements outlined in the proposal would require an estimated $1.02 billion a year reported Masslive.com, and include everything from adding new tracks at South Station and implementing a commuter rail to South Coast, to major road repairs in Western Massachusetts and a pedestrian and bike program. One critical component remains rather vague, however—how the state intends on funding this costly agenda. MassDOT suggests a number revenue sources in its proposal such as a green fee (a fee assessed by the amount of carbon emissions released), an increase in tolls and fares, and an income tax that would increase the tax rate from 5.25 percent to approximately 5.66 percent. Governor Deval Patrick is expected to address the transportation plan in his State of the Commonwealth speech tonight, and the Boston Globe reports that he will likely come out in support of a raise in income tax.
What’s on today’s lunch menu? Well for Boston residents it may be a library card, a dog license, or even registration to vote. With Boston’s food-truck-inspired “City Hall To Go” municipal services are no longer bound to one location. A menu of seasonal services are now rolling to locations throughout the city to serve residents less able to travel to the actual city hall or navigate their website. Citizens can also report complaints at the truck. The idea to put City Hall on wheels came about from The Bloomberg Mayors Challenge, a competition to generate and share ideas on how to improve the quality of life in cities nationwide. The truck came from the Police Department and the design is meant to catch the eyes of passing Bostonians. And though there is no road map to guide the truck it is very much in motion changing its route and menu based on the public’s needs.
Condos and retail developments aren’t the only changes coming to Boston’s Downtown Crossing. Cambridge-based landscape architecture firm Klopfer Martin Design Group (KMDG) has been selected by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to design the streetscape plan for Boston’s Downtown Crossing Business Improvement District (BID). In response to an RFP to design the Streetscape Design Standards & Wayfaring Program, BRA received 11 proposals and decided to move forward with KMDG’s program. The long-term plan will consist of recommendations for sidewalk and roadway materials, a pedestrian zone, and vending and wayfinding programs. In its proposal, KMDG outlined its main objectives to “recast the crossing as a public, open space” and “connect the connections.” According to the BRA, construction is slated to be completed in late May.
For Bostonians, cranes and scaffolding have become a common fixture in the city’s landscape. In recent years, there’s been a slew of new developments cropping up everywhere from Roxbury to Fenway, with the bulk of construction concentrated in South Boston’s waterfront, and more specifically in a sub-section that Mayor Thomas M. Menino has dubbed the “Innovation District.” AN has compiled a list of some of the most high profile projects happening in the city. South Boston Waterfront Construction of Vertex Pharmaceuticals’ headquarters at Fan Pier is well on its way. Mayor Menino “topped off” the first building this summer, which will be part of a 1.1-million-square-foot development that includes offices, biomedical research laboratories, retail, restaurant spaces, residential units, a hotel, a park, and a marina. Local architecture firms Elkus Manfredi Architects and Tsoi/Kobus & Associates have designed the two towers, slated for completion in 2013 and 2014. Vertex will be leasing the towers for $1.1 billion, which according to Pharmaceutical-Technology.com, is the largest commercial lease in Boston. Across the street from Fan Pier, the $5.5 million Boston Innovation Center, designed by Hacin + Associates, is now under construction. This 12,000-square-foot facility will offer a space for companies to hold meetings and host events, including a restaurant with a test kitchen. The Center is part of Mayor Menino’s vision to turn this part of the city into the Innovation District. There’s been little development on Pier 4 to date, but that's about to change with a new mega complex (aptly called Pier 4) that will kick off with the construction of a 21-story, residential tower. This 9.5-acre mixed-use project, designed by ADD Inc, will consist of a hotel, retail, residential, office, and civic uses. In a story in Boston.com, Casey Ross calls attention to the fate of Anthony’s Pier 4 restaurant—the waterfront institution that will soon be replaced by parkland. The strange plot twist in the story is that Anthony Athanas, the late restaurant owner, had once advocated for a mixed-use development on Pier 4 in the 1980s, but lost the property in a dispute with his former development partner. In an effort to boost Boston’s ranking as one of the top five cities in North America for conventions, the city has approved a $2 billion master plan to expand the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center to accommodate several new hotels, retail and commercial space, and a grass-covered rooftop park. The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) issued an RFP for a developer to build and finance the project. While the development is still in its infancy, the MCCA has taken steps towards the expansion with its purchase of six acres of land adjacent to the Center, which they envision will be used for two mid-priced hotels. A spokesman for the MCCA told AN: "We need to build up the number of hotels before we expand the actual convention center." Another 1,000-room "headquarters" hotel is also in the long-term plan. The Boston firm ADD Inc, along with Atlanta-based firm tvsdesign, have drawn up the renderings of the expansion, but no architect of record has been hired yet for the project. Fenway Just when developer John Rosenthal might have thought he was out of the woods, overcoming recent legal hurdles, and ready to move forward with his $450 million Fenway Center Development, he faces yet another roadblock. But this time, as the Boston Globe reports, the conflict is with the state over a long-term lease for the project. If a deal can't be reached, Rosenthal might lose his investor. The plan is to build a mixed-use complex, designed by Carlos Zapata Studio/DHK Architects, over Massachusetts Turnpike, which includes 500 residences, retail and commercial space, and a commuter rail station. Our friends at Curbed reported that the five buildings are supposed to be powered by solar panels. Downtown Crossing When department store Filene's Basement shut its doors, it left a void in downtown Boston. But, it didn't take long for developers to set their sights on this former department store and the surrounding area. As AN reported on Friday, developer Millennium Partners took over the project and hired Handel Architects to renovate the 1912 building by Daniel Burnham and turn into office and retail space. The next phase of the project will be the Millennium Tower, a 625-foot mixed-use tower, which is expected to be the tallest residential building in Boston once it is complete. More views of projects described above:
It has been five decades since there has been a commuter rail station in Brighton, but this will soon change. MassDOT Secretary Richard A. Davey and New Balance Chairman James S. Davis announced this summer that they will build a new Worcester Line commuter station, and just a few days ago, the sports apparel company gave word that it is slated to open in 2014. The station, New Brighton Landing, will be part of New Balance’s $500 million development complex that will serve as the company’s headquarters and also include a hotel, a sports facility, retail space, and parking. Elkus Manfredi Architects and Howard/Stein Hudson Associates will design the 250,000-sq-ft headquarters. In June, MassDOT said that New Balance has agreed to "fund all permitting, design, and construction costs for the station and fund annual maintenance costs" for the $16 million New Brighton Landing station.
ENfold Pavilion, a new temporary landscape installation designed by Perkins + Will in Boston’s Evans Way Park, utilizes natural reusable materials as its base and steers clear of harmful environmental impacts in both its construction and placement. The installation, which was chosen for Boston Society of Architects Unbuilt Design Award prior to being realized, celebrates the recent designation of Boston’s Fenway as Boston’s first state-wide cultural district The permeable light catching ribbon is made of garden bed-liner fabric and is held in place by an invisible network of stainless steel cables. Its organic free-flowing form mimes the grace and movement of the expanse of tree branches above and is loosely woven between their trunks. ENfold’s spatial layout delineates a natural framework for park-goers and creates a natural "stage" for musical performances and other art happenings. The 500 foot long semi-translucent fabric loops its way throughout the entire park echoing wind and light along its way. The fabric will be recycled and used for the Boston Parks Department’s 2013 growing season.
Rarely do red plastic coffee stirrers conjure notions of Walden Pond, but for architect Brian Ripel and artist Jean Shin, the notion is not that far fetched. The duo's Tea House rooftop installation at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts sits about a mile from Thoreau's retreat. Ripel pointed out that the connection is somewhat difficult to discern in isolation, but the gabled pavilion frames pristine views absent of any evidence that the museum sits a mere twelve miles from downtown Boston. While the project took two years to conceive and engineer, construction took only three months. The thatch-like canopy is made up of 12 by 24 inch shingles of stirrers sewn together with an industrial sewing machine. Approximately 250,000 stirrers make up the shaggy shelter. The aluminum frame mimics the gables of nearby rooftops and re-purposed lumber was used for the tea bar and seating plinth. Visitors will be served free tea and the discarded teabags will be used in the second component of the exhibition that opens in the fall. The teabags will form hanging chain models for an installation called Retreat that will remain on view through the end of the year.