Boston launches a sustainable housing initiative with net-zero energy townhomes.As anyone who has come into contact with Red Sox Nation knows, Bostonians tend not to believe in half measures. A case in point is the city's E+ Green Building Program, a joint initiative of the Office of Environment & Energy Services, the Department of Neighborhood Development, and the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Designed to demonstrate the feasibility of building net-zero energy, multi-unit housing in an urban context, the program made its built debut in 2013 with 226-232 Highland Street, a development consisting of four three-bedroom townhomes in Boston's Roxbury neighborhood. The building achieved substantial energy savings on a tight budget in part through a highly insulated facade constructed from conventional materials. "The envelope is key," explained Interface Studio Architects (ISA) principal Brian Phillips. "We design many super high performance projects and we believe strongly in the quality of the envelope as the starting point." ISA became involved in the project at the invitation of developer Urbanica, who had seen their 100K Houses, a high performance housing prototype designed to be constructed at less than $100 per square foot. One of three winners of the E+ Green Building Program's developer design competition, the Urbanica-ISA team crafted the townhomes with a dual awareness of the project's immediate surroundings and efficiency goals. "We're always interested in observing and measuring the context in order to create our design approach," said Phillips. "The materials and shapes of the Roxbury neighborhood inspired our design—as well as the requirements of creating a super high performance building." For instance, he describes the facade's most distinctive feature, a recessed vertical stack of windows, as "a riff on the prevailing bay window typology." The architects' material choices "were motivated by aesthetics, affordability, and recycled content," said Phillips. The primary facade material, prefinished fiber cement lap siding, is common to the neighborhood's existing residential fabric. Each attached house features an interlocking pattern of grey-blue and cedar-textured siding, for contrast, while the reverse bay windows are wrapped in dark grey metal panels. Double-stud walls, blown in insulation, and super tight doors and windows reduce thermal gain to a bare minimum. Thanks to its high performance envelope, energy-generating rooftop photovoltaic panels, and integrated user-feedback system, 226-232 Highland met the E+ Green Building Program's concrete goals, earning LEED Platinum for Homes certification and HERS Index scores between -11 and -15. Even during the unusually cold winter of 2013-2014, the Boston Redevelopment Authority reported, the project recorded energy positive days. But the townhomes also fulfilled the less tangible component of the city's mission, as a demonstration that sustainable housing can be built simply and for a reasonable price. "Green development is no longer just the big high-rises and large projects downtown," said Boston Redevelopment Authority deputy director Prataap Patrose at an event celebrating the building's LEED Platinum certification. "It's happening here. It's happening in our neighborhoods."
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Harvard's Graduate School of Design has named John Peterson, founder of the non-profit Public Architecture, as the new curator of the Loeb Fellowship. The fellowship consists of architects, landscape architects, journalists, and more studying the built environment. Peterson will step into the role in January, succeeding James Stockard who served in the position for 16 years and is an alumnus of the fellowship. "John has built an impressive organization and impactful career focusing on societal engagement through the agency of design,” said Charles Waldheim, Chair of Harvard GSD’s Department of Landscape Architecture and head of the Loeb Curator search committee, in a statement. “His capacity to articulate and enable design to play a role in the service of broader publics, often in very challenging conditions, promises to renew the Loeb program’s longstanding commitments in this area." Peterson founded Public Architecture in 2002 and led his own practice, Peterson Architects, from 1993 to 2010. He holds degrees from RISD, taught at the California College of the Arts as well as the University of Texas at Austin, and was a Loeb Fellow in 2006. In a statement, the GSD said, "Peterson has played an important part in defining the concept of “public interest design,” which has evolved in recent years into a significant field of practice."
Innovation center's corrugated metal envelope evokes Boston's seagoing past.Commissioned to design District Hall, the centerpiece of Boston's emerging Innovation District, Hacin + Associates found themselves in a unique situation. "There was no context," recalled design team member Matthew Arnold. "We were one of the first buildings down there; we had to build our own story." To fill the gap, the architects looked to the site's history. "In the old days, goods came from around the world to the Boston seaport, then were distributed throughout the United States," said founding principal David Hacin. "We were thinking that this is analogous to an innovation center: ideas are born in this place, then distributed around the world." Wrapped in corrugated metal punctuated by strategic glazing, its two volumes informed by nautical and railroad architecture, District Hall captures both the glory of Boston's seagoing past and the promise of its high-tech future. "The big idea behind District Hall was this two-part building," explained Arnold. A bifurcated design served several purposes simultaneously. First, it allowed the architects to bring a different architectural expression to each side of the program. The larger, more sculptural volume, angled to define the edge of a planned park, acts more like a public space, housing an auditorium and restaurant. The lower, rectangular wing of the building, which is oriented to the existing street grid, contains the innovation center. Second, the two-part form complemented the project's tight budget. "The lower portion of the building didn't require the same level of ceiling heights" as did the auditorium/restaurant space, said Hacin. "We were trying to build volume where we needed it, and not where we didn't need it." On a conceptual level, the bifurcation taps into two elements of the city's past. The taller volume's swooping profile was inspired by nautical architecture, while the lower wing evokes the boxy order of a train yard. District Hall's corrugated metal facade further emphasizes the building's dual identity. "We found this corrugated material to be very intriguing," said Arnold. "It's related to nautical sheds and train cars." Other corrugated facades have begun popping up around Boston, noted Hacin. "But they've used it for the industrial aesthetic, with no real idea behind it. It was kind of cheap, industrial, and cool, but that's as far as it went." Hacin + Associates instead deployed the material as a storytelling device, choosing two different patterns and colors to continue the narrative embodied in the building's form. A shimmering silver metal extruded in a sine wave pattern encloses District Hall's multipurpose wing, while the innovation center is wrapped in matte black with a more squared-off profile. In addition, the architects used flat white trim material to suggest three-dimensionality. "We developed a rationale for how to treat the facade details," explained design team member Scott Thompson. "Where we cut into [the corrugated metal], we treated it as if it was a solid with a different center." The architects minimized glazing in part for budget reasons. "Rather than having lots of windows scattered around, we decided to concentrate them in key locations: at the restaurant, on the corner," said Hacin. "It really is a showcase of the facade material. Sometimes it's about the windows, but in this case the facade material is sculptural—you can see this especially on the silvery volume." The conservative approach to glazing also helps reduce thermal gain. The architects primarily relied on tried and true methods, such as placing few windows on the south-facing facade, and setting the west-side windows back several feet, to meet efficiency goals. "We were really just trying to get the most out of conventional technologies," said Thompson. Ultimately, said Hacin, the true environmental test for District Hall will be whether it is razed in a decade, as planned, or whether it proves its usefulness as a long-term fixture of Boston's Innovation District. "It was built to be a ten-year building," he said. "But my hope is that it will continue to be successful, and that it will become part of the character of this neighborhood—part of what people love about it—in which case there will be no reason to remove it. That would be the most sustainable outcome of all."
[beforeafter][/beforeafter] In recent years, the proliferation of parks, pedestrian plazas, greenways, and bike share programs in cities around the world have signaled an important change in the culture of city-dwellers, one that values walkability, integrated and congestion-free neighborhoods, open space, and environmental health. The major thoroughfares, however, that slice through metropolises are not always conducive with this desired urban experience, and take up space that could otherwise be used for housing, office and commercial uses, and parkland. That's why London Mayor Boris Johnson is proposing to relocate portions of key road networks underground. And where better to make this announcement than in and around Boston's infamous "Big Dig" project? "Rebuilding some of our complex and aging road network underneath our city would not only provide additional capacity for traffic, but it would also unlock surface space and reduce the impact of noise and pollution. I am inspired by what the ambitious people of Boston have achieved here at the Big Dig, both in terms of reducing congestion and how they have dramatically improved the quality of life on the surface. In London we face similar challenges on our roads, but this could also be a fantastic opportunity to better shape our city and support economic growth,” said Johnson in a statement. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] After taking a look at more than 70 locations around the city, the mayor identified five areas where "the introduction of tunnels, fly-unders and decking could deliver benefits that are in line with the Mayor’s 2050 Infrastructure Plan." These areas include a mini tunnel at the A13 in Barking Riverside, decking of the A3 in Tolworth, a fly-under at the A316 at Chalkers Corner, a fly-under at the A4 in Hammersmith, and decking or a mini-tunnel at the A406 in New Southgate. In addition, the mayor says that London's Inner Ring Road is "facing increasing pressure for change" and is ready to be replaced by a new inner orbital tunnel or two cross city tunnels to ease traffic. [beforeafter][/beforeafter] Beyond seeking a more livable city for Londoners, the plan is also designed to address and provide a solution for the city's significant population growth, which is anticipated to reach 10 million by the early 2030s. The "Big Dig" is a tenuous paradigm as the megaproject took 20 years to complete and was plagued with mounting costs, structural problems, criminal arrests, and a fatal accident. Even still, many have deemed it a success in terms of mitigating congestion, decreasing travel time and thus overall fuel costs, and freeing up land for a new greenway.
If Boston City Hall were a celebrity, it might be a fixture on tabloid “Worst Dressed” lists. The Brutalist building elicits strong sentiments from architectural observers and everyday citizens alike, but most agree the City Hall Plaza could use some sprucing up. In his inaugural State of the City address Mayor Marty Walsh called on residents to help him reimagine the barren, 11-acre brick expanse. Boston City Hall Plaza is an inductee into Project for Public Spaces’ "Hall of Shame" and rated on par with Barbie’s Dream House by California Home and Design. But perhaps the city can help elevate the windswept space. Even in a city replete with 18th-century Georgian-style churches, the plaza, built in the 1960s, has long been an architectural bane. Walsh’s administration has spruced up the interior somewhat, revamping the 3rd floor mezzanine and installing the Stairs of Fabulousness by artist Liz Lamanche to inject a sorely needed pop of color, but the Brutalist face of the building belies these improvements. The administration has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to gather the data required to take concepts from the drawing board to actualization. Last year, AN reported the municipality’s master plan for revitalization designed by Utile Architecture + Planning with Reed Hilderbrand Landscape Architecture, but other than the replacement of the bunker-like Government Center subway station with a sleek steel-and-glass exterior, little else has been done, notes local news site Bostinno. Other plans announced last year involved replacing a labyrinth of staircases with sloped walkways to ease access to City Hall from the subway station, installing seating, and resolving frequent flooding by planting trees in an open-joint permeable brick paving system to simultaneously green the concrete expanse. Big players the likes of landscape architecture firm Halvorson Design and architecture and engineering firm HDR had signed on. This year, Mayor Walsh’s administration is sizing up plans for a city-sponsored seasonal skating rink to be named “Frozen Harbor” as well as a 20,000-square-foot, glass-enclosed restaurant called “Polar Bar”, according to Boston Herald. Officials have not made headway with securing permits and no project costs or plans have been put forward yet.
The Architectural League's Emerging Voices lecture series, now in its 30th year, has reliably identified important new talent through a juried selection process. This year's group reflects a number of important currents in contemporary practice in North America. In recent years, a number of young Mexican firms have been showcased, and this year's group includes three practices, Ambrosi Etchegaray, Atelier ARS, and CC Arquitectos, which represent that country's proud tradition of stark and rooted modernism. Boston, long seen as conservative place to work, is represented by two young firms, Merge Architects, and Neri Oxman. A can-do pragmatism and urbanistic grit informs Philadelphia's ISA, and the pioneering digital designers Aranda/Lasch, based in New York and Tucson, are rapidly moving from installations and furniture to significant freestanding buildings. The emergence of landscape architecture and landscape urbanism is reflected in the design and research of Miami's Studio Roberto Rovira. For a full schedule of the Emerging Voices lecture series, visit the League's website. Full profiles of each firm will be available in the March East Coast edition of AN.
As you’ve probably heard by now, Boston blew past the likes of Los Angeles and San Francisco to be selected as the United States' bid city for the 2024 Summer Olympics. With the announcement official, Boston 2024, the private nonprofit spearheading the bid, has publicly released the presentation it gave to the Olympic Committee back in December. Boston public radio station WBUR reported that David Manfredi, of the Boston-based Elkus Manfredi, is co-chairing the bid’s planning committee and walked through the team's presentation last week. Manfredi reportedly said that Boston 2024’s planning goal is to make the games the most walkable Olympics of all time. To that end, 28 out of 33 venues are within about a six mile radius. There is also the “Olympic Boulevard” which serves as the “pedestrian spine” between many of the facilities. The overall plan has two main clusters of facilities, one near the water and the other around some of Boston’s most famous universities including Boston University, MIT, and Harvard. Take a look at the conceptual renderings below to get a sense of what could be coming to Boston in 2024. That is, if Boston can fend off its international competitors.
Alas, despite being hailed as the favorite to represent the United States in the race for the 2024 Olympics, Los Angeles has lost out to its much older competitor, Boston. LA had pitched what Mayor Eric Garcetti hailed as the “most affordable” proposal, using mostly existing facilities, including the LA Memorial Coliseum, the Staples Center, and even Frank Gehry's Disney Hall, Griffith Observatory, and the Queen Mary. Maybe the USOC isn’t as into a bargain as we thought? Or maybe after giving LA two games they’re just not that into us anymore. San Francisco, by the way, lost out on its bid, which also banked on affordability. Damn, the Olympic Village could have been the only cheap place to live there outside of Oakland!
Stereotype: New directions in typography The Boston Society of Architects 290 Congress Street, Suite 200 Boston, MA Through May 25 The Boston Society of Architects (BSA) is currently exploring the boundaries and possibilities of traditional typography with an exhibition called Stereotype: New directions in typography. To delve into the future of the form—and to raise questions about what is next for it—the BSA is presenting works from 14 up-and-coming and established designers from around the world. “By exploring the opportunities at the intersection of technology and design, this new breed of artists is expanding the boundaries of traditional typography and integrating elements from the fields of animation, craft, performance, nanoscience, and graffiti into their work,” said the BSA in a statement. To push past a conventional understanding of typography as purely two-dimensional, the exhibition incorporates “time, movement, and the third dimension.”
After hosting the Olympic Games in 1932 and 1984, Los Angeles is in the hunt to be the Unites States' candidate to host them again in 2024. Earlier this week the city made a presentation to the U.S. Olympic Committee, followed by pitches from Boston, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. According to Inside The Games, a website dedicated to Olympic news, LA's proposal would be heavy on existing facilities, cutting down on costs so much that Mayor Eric Garcetti called it the "most affordable" of any U.S. proposal. The games would once again focus on the LA Memorial Coliseum (which would be substantially renovated), and surrounding Exposition Park, both just south of USC. Other significant venues would include Staples Center, the Nokia Theater, Griffith Observatory, the Queen Mary, and even Walt Disney Concert Hall. According to Inside The Games, the bid shows off LA's ongoing transit expansion, with officials claiming that 80 per cent of spectators will be connected to venues by public transport. San Francisco proposed a $4.5 billion, privately financed plan that would also focus on existing, or already-planned facilities. According to the SF Chronicle they would include newly-completed Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, several waterfront piers, and the Golden State Warriors' upcoming arena in Mission Bay. A temporary stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies in Brisbane, south of San Francisco, would be removed after the games, and the Olympic Village would be contained in 2,000 units of housing already approved as the fourth phase of development at the Hunters Point shipyard. “We’re not going to be building white elephants in our city or anyplace in our region,” San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee told the Chronicle. The USOC is expected to decide on an entry city by early next year, and the International Olympic Committee is expected to choose the 2024 host city in 2017. The U.S. has not hosted a Summer Olympics since the 1996 Games in Atlanta. The last U.S. city to host the Winter Olympics was Salt Lake City, in 2002.
Behnisch Architekten has big, green aspirations for its latest project, the EpiCenter, fittingly located in Boston’s Innovation District, the burgeoning neighborhood designed for such far-reaching goals. The firm just unveiled plans for a new expanded headquarters for the non-profit, Artists for Humanity (AFH), an organization dedicated to helping underserved youth through paid employment opportunities in the arts. According to Behnisch, the addition will make the existing LEED Platinum certified building—the city’s first—designed by local firm Arrrowstreet, even greener, with the hope of becoming the largest energy positive commercial building on the East Coast. The building already was an AIA COTE Top Ten winner. The expansion will add 63,500 square feet of space to the original building to accommodate more areas for the young artists as well as larger galleries and new studios. A retail store and café will overlook a new 1.5-acre park. The firm will employ a number of tactics to minimize the building’s carbon footprint, including the use of recycled and locally sourced materials, passive solar strategies to maximize daylight, specific type of glass to mitigate solar heat gain, a heat recovery system, and storm water management. To send energy back to the grid, and achieve its energy positive target, the firm will implement different solutions to generate its own electricity such as mounting photovoltaic arrays and utilizing geothermal production. While the design is still in its preliminary stage, the building is slated to open in November 2016.
The Rockefeller Foundation has announced a second batch of cities in its 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. The foundation launched the challenge last year as a way to support resiliency measures in cities around the world. This includes support to hire a Chief Resiliency Officer. One year after the first 32 cities were selected, another 35 have been added to the list, including six in the United States—Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, and Tulsa. To see the full list, visit the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge website.