Boston-area drivers spend too much time stuck in traffic. To combat congestion in the city center, Boston city officials may follow San Francisco's move to improve traffic flow by charging more for parking at peak times. Donald Shoup, former professor of planning at UCLA, is famous for arguing that, at any given time, about one-third of drivers on city streets are looking for parking. His disciples at the San Francisco Municipal Transit Authority created SFpark, a congestion control model that puts Shoup's ideas into practice in the form of surge pricing for on-street parking (see the full report here). Shoupistas in Boston may follow suit. Inexpensive parking makes it easier for drivers to leave their cars parked for longer periods of time. Other drivers hunting for parking cause gridlock and delays. Following SFpark, Boston will introduce parking prices tied to peak traffic in select downtown locations. Mayor Walsh commented that, in addition to applying market logic to parking, the move may spur more drivers to opt instead for mass transit. Currently, $0.25 buys you 12 minutes of parking at most meters in Boston, regardless of the day or time. Officials haven't decided on how high the meters will go, but in San Francisco, peak parking costs up to $7.00 per hour. To prepare for a pilot program, Boston officials will study the proposal's impact on Fenway, Back Bay, and other downtown neighborhoods. The peak pricing initiative is part of an overall effort to modernize parking infrastructure and reduce gridlock downtown. Approximately 8,000 older meters are being replaced with new meters that accept credit cards and can be programmed to accommodate surge pricing. In turn, the city can create "parking zones" where certain blocks in high demand zones are priced higher than less desirable blocks. To fight gridlock, Mayor Walsh pointed to surveillance at intersections that will identify motorists who "block the box," as well as those who double park. When reprogramming traffic, it is often a challenge to balance the needs of motorists with the needs of everyone else. In addition to Boston, Cleveland, DC, and Denver are working on innovate ways to alleviate congestion to make healthier streets for all.
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Here's your chance to own a piece—a very small piece—of the actual White House. No large lobbyist pockets required. A relic from the presidential mansion will go up for auction at a live event later this month. The piece is an architectural ornament from the main hall of 1817 that President Madison rebuild after an 1814 fire. The wooden ornamental plinth was actually removed from the White House in 1902 during Theodore Roosevelt's renovation. It's part of an architectural ensemble forming the trim around a doorway and was used as a base, sitting at the bottom of the frame. Measuring approximately 14 x 30 x 4 inches, it was constructed using a pine base with pine moldings, cast composition ornaments, and hand-forged nails. In addition, it has 17 layers of paint of which three are gold leaf. From this evidence one can assume the that White House was repainted for each president, thus allowing the plinth to be representative of 17 terms of U.S. presidency. The auction will be hosted by RR in Boston later this month on Monday, September 28 at 1:00 PM EST.
Four Boston design firms fill the Rose Kennedy Greenway with art at the intersection of architecture
Through September 25th, emerging architects and designers are being celebrated in Boston's 4th Design Biennial. The program features installations, created by four, jury-chosen design firms, exhibited along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway Conservancy. “This fourth installment of the Biennial highlights emerging designers who reflect the diversity and vitality of Boston’s academic and professional architectural scenes,” explained Chris Grimley, one of the exhibition’s curators. “At a time when the mayor has brought forth much-needed questions about the quality of buildings being produced in the city, the Biennial demonstrates how Boston’s new design talent can be drawn on for its innovative thinking and ability to respond to the challenges we will face in the future.” Over the years, 23 winners have had the privilege of showcasing their work in the event, which represents Boston's finest up-and-coming designers and architects. Among the winners from this year's Biennial are GLD Architecture, MASS Design Group, Cristina Parreño Architecture, and Landing Studio. Each design firm created site specific installations that are sure to make a typical walk along the highway-topping park an atypical one. Made from eight Boston Harbor shipyard recycled oak pilings, Marginal by Landing Studio (pictured at top) calls on a nautical New England from its industrial shipping era. This 18-figured installation was sliced into more than a thousand 2-inch thick cross-section pieces. Each piece is divided into three types—Rounds, Chewies (ends slightly chipped and chomped away), and oblongs—then stacked to form this totem pole–styled installation. GLD created a softer, almost dreamlike piece. What appears to be a cross-pollination between a mushroom and a massive jellyfish, the Grove is a fused resin and fiberglass shell that is said to create a "strangely intimate new enclosure in an open public landscape," as stated on the Boston Biennial's website. Other installations include Cristina Parreño's Tectonics of Transparency: The Tower, a 17 foot installation composed of 350 compressed glass blocks resembling a mini skyscraper and MASS Design Group's Lo-Fab, which is made of more than a thousand wood and metal components that transform into a geodesic hemisphere serving as an impressive gathering space. Learn more about the Design Biennial Boston on its website.
As Boston continues to ponder its Brutalist city hall, professor suggests covering the behemoth with a glass veil
Like so many Brutalist buildings around the word, Boston's iconic City Hall has not necessarily endeared itself to the public. Since it opened in the 1960s, there have been calls to update the building, completely overhaul it, and to demolish it outright and start over. There have, of course, also been calls to preserve it. The latest idea to revamp City Hall comes from Harry Bartnick, a Suffolk University professor, who wants to cover the structure with a tinted glass curtain structure. In an op-ed in the Boston Globe, he called the idea "simple, obvious, and cost-effective." "The generally outward sloping angle of the glass would impart a feeling of greater stability, and redistribute the visual mass toward the ground," Bartnick argued. "Translucent glass would allow the original wall-surface variations to still be seen, but now softened by filtration through the glass 'veil.'" He continued that the intervention would help the building's efficiency by establishing a "climate-controlled, passive solar interior environment." There are no plans to actually move forward with this project, but, as Bartnick noted, his idea comes as the area undergoes major changes including a new residential tower by César Pelli. Boston Business Journal also recently reported that Center Plaza, a 720,000-square-foot, mixed-us complex nearby, is set to receive a $25 million facelift. Along with new retail tenants, the CBT Architects–led transformation will update exterior walkways, street-level lobbies, and the existing rooftop.
A young developer hopes to shake up the Boston development scene with this 38-foot-wide, 30-story tower
Rafi Properties is not your typical millennial-led startup. It's not peddling some iPhone app or trying to become the Uber of [insert industry here]. Instead, Rafi is attempting to build a 30-story residential tower in Boston's Downtown Crossing. No small undertaking. The real estate startup is led by 25-year-old Collin Yip who holds a business degree from Boston University. The Boston Globe reported that Yip, who has renovated multiple buildings in the Boston area, has submitted a letter of intent to the Boston Redevelopment Authority to build a 305-foot-tall tower with the millennial-friendly name of “Canvas.” With the development site only 38-feet wide, the Globe has compared Canvas to Manhattan's many “pencil towers." But that comparison likely won't fly with New Yorkers as the building is more elongated than the super-thin supertalls rising in Midtown. Pencil tower or not, Canvas has 94 residences, restaurants, and co-working office space. The glass and zinc tower was designed by the Boston-based ADD which has since been acquired by Stantec. As part of the project, Rafi will also be restoring the facade of the existing four-story building that the new tower will rise above.
"We are still refining the program on the first four floors but we are envisioning it being a center for the collaboration and appreciation of art, technology, unique food, and ideas," said Yip in an email to AN. "Being able to design, build, and manage the property ourselves gives us the flexibility to build and run an integrated project that truly represents what it means to live and work in Boston." Perhaps wanting to reassure skeptical parties that his young company can handle such a significant project, Yip added that Rafi is getting guidance from "veteran real estate development mentors/advisors, investors, and neighbors."Yip reportedly expects to fund the project with overseas investors including some of his family members. Rafi is confident that it can complete the tower by summer 2017. [Editor's Note: An earlier version of this piece misstated information about the building's facade. It is glass and zinc, not glass and limestone.]
Boston's plans to build the most walkable Olympic Games in history will not come to fruition. On Monday, the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) and Boston 2024 jointly announced that they were dropping the city's bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The surprising news came hours after Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced that he would not sign a host city contract that could have left taxpayers on the hook for the the games' cost overruns. "I refuse to mortgage the future of the city away," said the mayor at a press conference. "I refuse to commit to signing a guarantee that uses taxpayer dollars to pay for the Olympics." With Boston out, the USOC is in a tight spot as it only has seven weeks to officially nominate another American city. The organization's CEO is now looking pretty closely at Los Angeles.
Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is apparently getting a little too big for its Diller Scofidio + Renfro–designed home along the Boston Harbor. In May, the Boston Globe reported that nine years after moving into the DSR building, the ICA is considering taking over two floors of a 17-story office tower rising across the street for gallery space. The new glass tower is designed by Brennan Beer Gorman and part of a larger mixed-use development taking shape on Fan Pier. The ICA's new space would be connected to the existing building through a skybridge and allow the ICA to increase its gallery space by 19,000 square feet. The institute's director Jill Medvedow thinks the project would cost between $10–12 million. The existing museum, and its new space, would also fit within Boston's growing Innovation District, a 1,000-acre community with tech startups, art galleries, restaurants, and the like. "Building a beautiful new museum on Boston's waterfront was a catalytic moment, and over the past nine years we have welcomed over 2 million people to our museum," the ICA SAID in a statement. "In pursuing this vision, we strive to build on this success and provide our growing audiences with more, broader, and deeper experiences with the art and artists or our time." A representative from the ICA recently told AN the plan hasn't changed since the May Globe story, but we'll let you know as soon we get any more details.
Inflatable medallion by landscape architect Ken Smith deters evil spirits from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
An unmissable flower-power medallion on a gold chain now fronts the otherwise plain-though-historic facade of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum facing the Boston Fens. Featuring a whorl of psychedelic colors spiraling dizzyingly, the pop art–style inflatable installation riffs on the museum’s large wheel window, which forms a transect line between the museum and the installation. The work of internationally acclaimed landscape architect and designer Ken Smith, the piece is allegedly rife with symbolic meaning of deities as protectors of the physical and spiritual realm, inspired by the intermingling of East and West. The artist’s Asian forays and visits to Buddhist temples formed the artwork’s muse. Its symbolic/iconographic gestalt purportedly protects the museum from evil spirits and promotes environmental renewal, health and happiness. “What I really like about the Gardner collection is the eclectic mix of East and West in the selection of art. It’s that mixing of East and West that is at the heart of what the deity is about,” Smith said in a statement. “The deity is an Eastern idea that we are using in a Western way.” Smith’s installation is part of a larger landscaping scheme on the museum’s part to rejuvenate underutilized or overlooked venues within its grounds. “Ken Smith’s Fenway Deity promises to reanimate discussion of museum’s relationship to the public realm of the Back Bay Fens by installing a work of conceptual public art from the Gardner Museum’s historic facade,” said Charles Wadheim, the Garder Museum’s Ruettger Curator of Landscape.
Curving brick and glass facade heralds Roxbury's resurgence.By locating their new administrative building in beleaguered Roxbury, Boston Public Schools [BPS] made a powerful statement of faith in the area's resurgence."Bringing the BPS right into the heart of Roxbury anchors the redevelopment of the neighborhood," explained Friso van der Steen, manager of international projects at Mecanoo. The Dutch architects collaborated with local firm Sasaki Associates on the project—their first built in the United States—which involved renovating the facades of three historic buildings and weaving them into a coherent whole with a new volume. Described by Mecanoo as "a Bostonian building with a Dutch touch," the structure's curving brick and glass envelope projects a hopeful future for Dudley Square. When Mecanoo and Sasaki won the competition to design the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in 2009, the largely vacant site in Dudley Square, Roxbury's commercial and transportation hub, "contained a number of derelict buildings," recalled van der Steen. These included the 1895 Ferdinand building, which was to be integrated into the project. The architects convinced Mayor Thomas Menino to add two other historic structures to their portfolio: the 1888 Curtis building, and the 1890 Waterman building. "This allowed a design inclusive of the three corners of the triangular plot," said van der Steen. In cooperation with preservation consultants Building Conservation Associates, Mecanoo and Sasaki completely restored the facades of the three existing buildings, each of which was built in a different style. The five-story Ferdinand was constructed of limestone, terra cotta, brick, and granite, and is characterized by large oval windows at the corners and ends of the building, plus a large copper ornamental cornice adorned with cast lions' heads. The red brick Curtis was built in the Queen Anne style, while the Boston Granite Waterman features copper bay windows brought up to snuff by the renovation team. For the new volume, the architects looked both to the surrounding urban fabric and to their own strengths. "Boston has a very rich tradition of using brick," said van der Steen. "Coming from 'the clay country,' The Netherlands, we have used brick in many projects, and we really wanted to use it here to show off the craftsmanship that goes into bricklaying." Working with Iron Spot brick in three different finishes—smooth, velour, and artisan—the design team deployed a variety of bonds—running, stack, and soldier—to create delicate reliefs and shadow effects. "Mecanoo and Sasaki spent a lot of time and effort to design an inviting, permeable public space," said van der Steen. Vertical punch windows render the curving brick facades of the new volume permeable, while the transparent entry invites residents to take advantage of the community resources (including a neighborhood gathering space and facilities for obtaining informal business guidance). A sixth-floor roof deck overlooking downtown Boston makes a visual connection to the city center, and the illuminated mechanical penthouse serves as an orientation point after dark. From the beginning, said van der Steen "we wanted to make one building that united the three old facades. While the historic buildings maintain the feel and scale of Dudley Square, the central volume injects a powerful, tacit modern aesthetic." The word "tacit" is key, he explained, as the discreet character of the undulating brick and glass envelope introduces the new while remaining deferential to the old. "Together, these elements create a rich texture both physically and conceptually, a stepped form which respects the historic volumes of the original buildings."
Recognizing architects’ increased use of installations for experimentation and prototyping, the "Bigger than a Breadbox, Smaller than a Building" competition awards project proposals that use the medium for spatial exploration. This year’s selected winner is The Pulp Canopy by Katie Donahue and Mason Limke of MYKA, who explore architectural applications of cellulose fiber (paper pulp), considered the “most abundant raw material on the planet.” The architects collected discarded paper products, transformed them into pulp and reshaped the pliable mulch into modules of varying thinness, transparency, and texture. Originally conceptualized as The Pulp Wall, Donahue and Limke reimagined it as a canopy for the competition, which requires entrants to re-envision a previous installation in the context of the competition brief rather than produce an original proposal. The work of art will hang from the ceiling in the lobby of the Boston Society of Architects headquarters at 290 Congress Street. In the meantime, the honorable mention teams such as Beta-Field, Alibi Studio, Justin Diles, and Studio Modo, are also preparing their projects for exhibition in Bigger than a Breadbox, opening June 17. The exhibition as a whole examines the “appropriation” of installation in contemporary architectural practice as an investigative tool for experimenting with new materials and technologies. Space constraints are part of the challenge: the double-height lobby of the building allows for an installation covering 150 square feet of floor space and extending up to 8 feet high. A further stipulation is that the installation must actively engage building occupants and visitors to the gallery. Winning designs for "Bigger than a Breadbox, Smaller than a Building 2015" were selected by the following jury members:
- Benjamin Ball, Ball-Nogues Studio (Los Angeles, CA)
- Shauna Gilles-Smith, Ground (Boston, MA)
- Monica Ponce de Leon, MPdL Studio (Ann Arbor, MI; New York, NY; Boston, MA)
- Jenny Sabin, Jenny Sabin Studio (Philadelphia, PA)
- J. Frano Violich, Kennedy Violich Architecture, Ltd. (Boston, MA)
Sasaki Associates proposes a community-friendly Boston City Hall Plaza buzzing with cultural activities
Requests, complaints, and even full-fledged proposals came flooding in after Mayor Marty Walsh issued a Request for Information (RFI) in January for the redesign of Boston City Hall Plaza. Four months and nearly 1000 tweets later, plans to launch a complete assail on the eight-acre eyesore of red brick and concrete are beginning to consolidate. One firm, Sasaki Associates, took to Twitter to solicit ideas from Boston residents on what to change, what to axe, and what to add. The design firm then compiled the responses on cards and shared them on social media using the hashtags #PlazaPlus and #CityHallPlaza. Mayor Walsh couched his call-to-action in broad terms in his State of the Address early this year, invoking a redesign which would be “an inviting and attractive public forum that is robustly used by residents and visitors.” While one brazen submission suggested privatizing the entire plaza, Sasaki Associates zeros in on public programming and community engagement by incorporating benches, Hubway bike share stations, pop-up cafés, music festivals, food truck gatherings and public art installations. Surprisingly, the renderings do not propose any alterations to the foreboding Brutalist building itself, focusing instead on activating the exterior space. Bike lanes, an outdoor market, and lounge seating encourage passersby to convene, while a stormwater collector planter and micro wind turbines address environmental concerns. "The team is firm on its stance that while the plaza is in need of major renovations of its physical infrastructure—the underground parking roof, new pavements, fountain renovation, and tree planting, among other things—the form and circulation patterns do not need an overhaul." The Massachusetts-based practice proposed the following four guidelines for its design:
- Extend plaza into the city + leverage cultural capital
- Design for civic and human scale + populate with variety
- Preserve City Hall’s character + activate underused space
- Enhance infrastructure and natural systems + showcase Boston’s innovation
This netted, aerial sculpture above Boston's Rose Kennedy Greenway looks like lace but is stronger than steel
A multicolored aerial sculpture lords over the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston in spiderweb fashion, casting rippling shadows over the pedestrian-friendly highway topper. While it appears to be as delicate as lace, the contraption, comprising over 100 miles of knotted fibers, is 15 times stronger than steel and weighs in excess of one ton. Artist Janet Echelman hand-spliced and knotted the colored rope into half a million nodes, with the entire structure suspended from three adjacent skyscrapers like a hammock 600 feet above the traffic below. Mystically titled As If It Were Already Here, the mid-air spectacle symbolizes the history of its location. The three voids in the sculpture are a nod to the three hills of Boston, which earned the city its “Tri Mountain” appellation before the mountains were razed in the 18th century to extend the land into the harbor. “It is a physical manifestation of interconnectedness and strength through resiliency,” Echelman wrote on her website. Meanwhile, the bands of color in the netting refer to the former six-lane highway that once dichotomized downtown and the waterfront. In 2008, it was converted into the Rose Kennedy Greenway. By day, the sculpture blends almost entirely with the sky, so that the striated colors appear as a misty, mirage-like sheen that shifts according to wind speed changes detected by sensors that register fiber movement and tension. This data also determines the color of the light projected onto the sculpture, so that when any one element moves, the entire sculpture is affected. By night, the sculpture illuminates in various colors. The intricate feat of engineering was first modeled on a software program developed in connection with Studio Echelman and Autodesk, featuring a custom plug-in for exploring net densities, shape, and scale while simulating gravity and wind. The sculpture will be on view from May through October 2015 as part of the Greenway Conservancy's Public Art Program.