Posts tagged with "Boston":

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The Green Schools Are Coming, The Green Schools. . .

So we've got schools with green roofs sprouting in D.C., Manhattan, the Bronx, and who knows where else across this fine country of ours. (If you've got more, email us, we'd love to hear about them.) Not content simply with the mantle of "country's oldest public school," Boston Latin has decided to add a green roof as well. Designed by Studio G Architects, this one's a whopper, covering 50,000 square feet with areas dedicated to growing crops for the cafeteria and providing lab space for science classes. At that size, maybe they could even find some room up there for some mini golf or a tennis court. More renderings and details after the jump. From the school:
The oldest public school in the nation, Boston Latin’s green roof is significant in that it was conceived by a group of students who, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, formed BLS YouthCAN (Climate Action Network), lobbied BLS administration to implement the green roof concept idea, participated in the development of designs, and are spearheading fundraising efforts for the $5 million project. Studio G Architects of Boston was so impressed by the energy and commitment of the students that they donated design services for the project. The roof’s numerous program areas will create a variety of new learning opportunities for BLS students and schools across Massachusetts. State-of-the-art STEM (science, technology, math & engineering) labs form the backbone of the design, enabling students to observe and measure data related to the school’s environmental technology, like calculating the amount of energy being generated by the PVs or the wind velocity of the turbines. A cafeteria garden, greenhouse and orchard demonstrate the accessibility of fresh local produce and help encourage healthy eating habits. A contemplative garden offers a space for repose or for language, art and music classes. Besides the inherent sustainability of training urban kids to be good stewards of the environment, the green roof will lower BLS’ carbon emissions through its planted microclimates, while PVs and turbines will offset its energy consumption. These diverse programming opportunities have inspired an entirely new sustainability curriculum, which is being piloted at BLS this fall and will be available to the other 17 YouthCAN chapters throughout Massachusetts, thereby extending the impact of this revolutionary program space to students beyond BLS.
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Could Low-E Windows Melt Your Neighbors?

Every rose has its thorn, including those supposed holy grails of sustainable products. CFLs contain mercury. Biofuel competes with farmers for topsoil. Now high performance windows, particularly those of the double-pane, Low-E variety, have become the bane of suburbia, as they can apparently melt your neighbors home—or at least their vinyl siding. That was the news from a surprising report on Boston's Channel 5 news, sent to us by Infared New England, who tests for these sorts of things. It turns out that under the right circumstances, the windows work as magnifiers, focusing light on nearby buildings like a rascally child picking off ants. At least two area women have suffered the consequences, and there are plenty of similar videos on YouTube. So let this be a warning to you about the risks of vinyl siding next time you consider using it on a project. (Okay, let's be honest, if you're reading this, god forbid such a thought ever crossed your mind. Still, it's pretty crazy, the unintended consequences of this business of ours. Eh, Frank?)
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Boston Arch Taking Off?

UPDATE: Yanni Tsipis, a Chiofaro critic, counters: "In addition to the 625 foot limit on the Harbor Garage site, which was to be expected, note that [Massport flight paths] would also allow a 900 foot building in the middle of the Boston Common or a 1,000 foot building in the middle of the historic Back Bay brownstone district... certainly doesn't mean any of these would be a good idea!" Ever since the Boston Redevelopment Authority finalized its study setting heights along the post-Big Dig Rose Kennedy Greenway, the fate of developer Don Chiofaro's Boston Arch has been very much in question. The city is recommending no more than two towers rising to 200 feet on the site, saying it will cast shadows on the politically sensitive park. This did not prevent Chiofaro from presenting his own claims earlier in the month that the 40-story office and 59-story residential towers designed by KPF that he wants to build will have no negative impacts, that the claims are overblown. Now, Massport, which oversees Logan airport, certified its earlier pronouncement that the project could not exceed 625 feet, a concession Chiofaro has already made by excising a skyframe—the nominal Arch—from the project. While flight paths and shadows have nothing to do with each other, the hard charging developer will no doubt use this latest vote as one in his favor.

Last Stand for Chiofaro?

Last Monday, we published a story on Boston finalizing its plans for the future development of the Greenway. In it, we made small mention of developer Don Chiofaro and his Boston Arch project. This was for a few reasons. First, we wanted to focus on the Greenway study as a whole, and its dozens of development sites, and not just one of them. Second, Chiofaro, as the video above shows, is a story unto himself. Or many stories. Most, in fact, as he has turned the study into a referendum on his project and not one about the future of Boston's newest, if still slightly bedraggled park. That said, allow us to make up for our previous paucity with a lengthy look at where Chiofaro's project stands, or, uh, doesn't. As we mentioned, this is pretty much become the focus of the Greenway study, what happens on this one tiny lot, though what happens there is very important. As it was explained to us by Tim Love, one of the study's creators, this is the marquee spot on the Greenway—a prime location next to the water, a delicate one that could easily block out the sun, a garage no one wants, but two very tall towers no one is necessarily in love with, either. On Sunday, the Globe gave a very thorough accounting of the problems facing his project, why he's been duped, why this is personal. Chiofaro questions the study as a hit job, and some people seem to believe him. This creates a bad situation for everyone because it has actually managed to call the study's validity into question, something that we heard time in again in reporting our story was not the case. By making this personal, Chiofaro could unbalance the entire Greenway, and not simply with his own building. Which creates an ever-greater quandary for the BRA because the more it relents, the more it invalidates its hard work. Development is all about precedents. Today, the Herald sheds some new light on what may really be the problem here, as is often the case in development and politics, the matter of a simple misunderstanding. Chiofaro's colleauge Ted Oatis tells the tabloid, “We presented conceptual tower designs from 400 to north of 700 feet and they were very well received.” It's a line not unlike one from a Globe editorial on May 1:
After all, Chiofaro bought the Boston Harbor Garage for $153 million in 2007, while it carried an official height restriction of 150 feet. He hoped to build a skyscraper more than four times that height, and believed he had received some encouragement from Menino’s Boston Redevelopment Authority. But the BRA is, indeed, a labyrinth, and Chiofaro’s request for a large variance got clogged up in the system — perhaps, Chiofaro suspects, because of Menino’s personal objection.
And yet Oatis is telling the Herald they'd gotten tentative approval two years earlier. This was around the time the mayor was kicking around ideas for an 80-story tower by Renzo Piano, an icon he was very much in support of (even if it did demolish a notable building by Paul Rudolph). The fact of the matter remains, times change, as do circumstances, but Chiofaro refuses to accept that. One local observer recently told us that Chiofaro wants to give the mayor the icon he seems to desire, though that also happens to be the exact opposite goal of the highly contextual planning study that has been developed for the Greenway. Having learned the lessons of the small-by-comparison 120 Kingston, a 300-story project that caught a lot of flack on the way to being approved, the city has realized that the stakes are simply too high along the greenway to allow much in the way of tall buildings to be built where they don't, as at least some see it, belong. It appears, then, that Don Chiofaro, like so many others during the recession, may be forced to take a hair cut—if not to his pocket book than at least to his building.

That Settles It

MIT reached a settlement with Frank Gehry last month for what had been called a flawed, leaky design for his Ray and Maria Stata Center that led to a 2007 lawsuit, which also named construction manager Skanska as responsible. Blair Kamin revealed the news Tuesday on his Cityscapes blog, but he didn't reveal much as the settlement remains private. Drawing on an MIT student newspaper story from March 19, Kamin notes,
"MIT retained outside consultants to examine the construction for defects, and those consultants produced reports which are not publicly available." The account does not say whether any money changed hands in the settlement. [...] In an email Tuesday, Gehry said no money was involved in the settlement. On March 30, the university's news office issued a joint statement from MIT, Gehry's firm (Gehry Partners) and Skanska saying that the lawsuit had been "amicably resolved."
So there you have it. Legacy preserved.
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Swallowed by the Green Monster

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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Chiofaro Chopped

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.
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A Double Feature at pinkcomma

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.
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A Final Lesson From Max Bond

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
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Two Strikes for Chiofaro

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.
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Trouble for Chiofaro?

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.
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Straight and Narrow at the Globe

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?