From Los Angeles to Chicago, city governments across the nation have been following San Francisco’s early lead and popping up parklets on their streets, mini sidewalk-side public parks for rest, small group gatherings, and people watching. This summer, Boston joined in on the trend, installing its first parklet in Mission Hill in September and another in Jamaica Plain at Hyde Square. While these spaces have seen success in other cities, the Boston Globe reported that the Boston parklets have shown disappointing usage during what should have been their prime season. Although no scientific surveys have been collected, observations from nearby business owners, community members, and the Globe staff have indicated that these new whimsical spaces in Boston are not seeing much traffic. Boston Transportation Department planning director Vineet Gupta admitted that the city government was expecting a lot more of a parklet embrace from the community, but assured that the low usage during this fall’s debut is only a side effect of the newness of the streetscape change. Each parklet cost around $15,000 to $25,000. “This is true for parklets; it’s true for bike lanes; it’s true for bus lanes—it’s true for any innovation in the transportation world,” Gupta told the Globe. “Initially, you don’t see the kind of use that one would hope, but things pick up.” However, Boston officials are now wondering whether they should go back to the drawing board on the design and placement of these small public spaces. In San Francisco, a parklet’s success often depends on the community’s need for public seating and the site’s distance from a full-scale park or public plaza. In Chicago, some parklets have been planted with water retaining vegetation and installed in flood zones, creating a dual community benefit. Even elsewhere in Massachusetts, a Lexington parklet was first created as a bike corral to gauge public opinion. Gupta commented that the Transportation Department plans to conduct official public surveys next year for solutions to increase Boston parklet popularity. “In many instances from around the country, it’s a little bit of a learning process, and each location is unique,” he said. “We’re learning and we’re going to make modifications if necessary.”
Posts tagged with "Boston":
Harvard’s Holyoke Center, designed by renowned Catalan architect and former Dean on the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Josep Lluís Sert, will soon be undergoing major renovations, university President Drew Faust announced last Thursday. London-based Hopkins Architects, the designers of Princeton’s Frick Chemistry Laboratory and Yale’s Kroon Hall, have signed on to transform the 50-year-old, cast-in-place administrative building into multifaceted campus center by 2018. The 360,000-square-foot, H-shaped structure, completed in 1966, represents both the first high-rise building in the area as well as the beginning of Harvard’s adoption of Modern architecture. Behind its complex, Corbusian facade of concrete fins, colored bands, and seemingly randomly placed windows, Holyoke Center has housed the university’s health services, infirmary, and the majority of its administrative offices, as well as ground-floor retail. As part of Harvard's ongoing efforts to improve common spaces across its campus, the building will undergo extensive interior remodeling and exterior renovations in order to provide students, faculty, and staff with an expansive cultural and social center. Once complete, the rechristened Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center will contain a flexible indoor gathering space, lounges, and study areas, as well as exhibition, performance and event spaces. The building’s ground floor, renovated over a decade ago to enclose Sert’s original open-air arcade with glass walls, will remain open to the public with a variety of retail and food service outlets. “The Smith Campus Center will draw members of the University community together and serve as an important common space for everyone to enjoy and use,” said Harvard President Drew Faust last Thursday during the unveiling of the building’s new identity. “We are very pleased to be moving forward with planning, and we are eager to engage students, faculty, and staff in the important work of creating a flexible and welcoming campus hub.” Construction is scheduled to begin in 2016 following an extensive planning process that will include considerable student and community participation.
Will you be in Boston between November 19 - 21, 2013? Are you in the architecture and construction industry? You're in luck! AN readers can take advantage of free access to the exposition floor at ABX, the Architecture Boston Expo. Simply use promo code ANP13 when registering. ABX is produced by the Boston Society of Architects and bills itself as "one of the largest events for the design and construction industry in the country, and the largest regional conference and tradeshow." Don't miss out! Check out an interactive floor plan of the exposition floor here or get more information on the ABX website.
Calling all landscape architects and urban designers. Are you heading to Boston for the 2013 American Society of Landscape Architects Conference? I am. On Saturday, November 16, I'll be reviewing projects and portfolios during a "Meet the Editors" event, alongside colleagues from a variety of shelter, design, and garden publications. There are still a few open spots, so sign-up or just drop by and introduce yourself. I hope to see you there. Also, check out this year's ASLA award winners designed by students and professionals. Great work!
Navigating Boston's subway system, known as "The T," will soon be a cinch with the help of a new map designed by Mikheil Kvrivishvili. The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) named the Moscow-based interactive/graphic designer the winner of its "New Perspectives Map Re-design Competition" after receiving 6,837 out of the 17,045 votes cast by the public. A panel of experts—composed of MBTA officials, academics, urban planners, and cartographers—selected six finalists from a pool of dozens of applicants. Members of the public then voted online for their favorite design. The contest called for ideas that fit within the "Classic Tier" or the "Open Tier." The former required a more traditional approach to the MBTA rapid transit or "spider" map, whereas the latter welcomed interpretations leaning on the creative side. Kvrivishvili's map, according to the MBTA, fulfilled a four point criteria: "creativity, aesthetic quality, readability/visual clarity, and informative quality." This redesign comes at a critical time when the city is planning on allocating $13 billion in infrastructure, and while MassDOT is undergoing a rapid expansion with several new stations and a new rail line on the docket. The winning map will be updated to include the changes in the system as they are made. “We are entering an exciting period of growth and change in our system and I’m pleased that we were able to work with the public to help usher in some exciting new developments,” said MBTA General Manager Dr. Beverly Scott in a statement. “As we continue to grow and improve our system, the new map will be a great symbol of the changes and updates were working on as a whole.” The maps will start popping up in new stations as soon as early 2014.
Construction has commenced on a new $500 million Elkus Manfredi–designed headquarters for New Balance Athletic Shoes, called New Brighton Landing, located on 14 acres in the Allston Brighton neighborhood of Boston. Besides the 250,000-square-foot world headquarters, the campus will also include additional office space, a sports complex, 175-room hotel, three office buildings, retail space, parking, and a new stop on the Worcester Line commuter rail. The new station will be fully subsidized by the athletics brand. Overall, the new facility will encompass nearly 1.5 million square feet.
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority is dedicating millions in funding to revive an inactive rail line, known as Track 61, to shuttle Bostonians between the bustling neighborhoods of Back Bay and the Seaport District. In the last decade, Mayor Menino has helped to transform Boston’s waterfront into a tech hub—accompanied by an influx of mixed-use developments—dubbed the Innovation District, which is now in need of better transit options to support this surge in activity. The city anticipates that the rail line will be up and running in roughly two years.
Reprogramming the City Boston Society of Architects Space 290 Congress Street, Suite 200 Boston, MA Through September 29 BSA Space presents a mixed-media exhibition, Reprogramming the City, curated by urban designer Scott Burnham. The works on display—videos, photographs, media stations, renderings, models—explore how the built environments of cities around the world are being retrofitted to accommodate new urban inhabitants and visitors. The exhibit also includes examples of urban infrastructure and systems that are being reimagined to reinvent a more functional urban landscape. There are 40 innovative examples from London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, and Boston that seek to develop new ways of urban design from within the city.
The city of Boston is laying the ground work to grow and simplify the process for urban farming throughout the city. Mayor Thomas Menino and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) are introducing an amendment, Article 89, to the current zoning that would create opportunity for expanded urban agriculture activities such as rooftop farming and opening farm stands and markets. Beginning in May, the Mayor's office along with BRA launched a series of 11 neighborhood meetings to discuss Draft Article 89 with the public. This amendment change is part of the city's larger Pilot Urban Agriculture Rezoning Project that was initially started in 2010: A group of farming experts and advocates were selected to participate in the Mayor's Urban Agriculture Working Group to provide insight that helped inform a number of the recommendations included in Draft Article 89. This amendment tackles a range of urban agriculture issues from soil safety and rooftop and vertical agriculture to hydroponics and the care of animals and bees. Boston.com reported that the new zoning would allow for 1-acre ground-level farms in any neighborhood throughout the city, and then permit farms larger than one-acre in areas specifically zoned for industrial use. The amendment would also make it significantly easier for Bostonians to start a ground-level farm by requiring a special permit instead of mandating a public review process. According to the BRA's website, the Mayor's Office and collaborating partners are hoping that this ambitious initiative will "increase access to affordable and healthy food, particularly for underserved communities" and "promote economic opportunity and greater self-sufficiency for people in need, including increasing the capacity of Boston residents and business and grow and distribute local and healthy food."
It was several years in the making, but plans for the massive $500 million Fenway Center project in Boston are finally coming to fruition. According to the Boston Globe the development would bring housing, office space, retail, parking, and a new commuter rail station to the neighborhood. Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick’s administration sketched out a preliminary 99-year lease with John Rosenthal, President of Meredith Management Corp., which enables the developer to move forward with his plans for a sprawling 4.5-acre complex near the ballpark. Once the state board green lights the project, Rosenthal could break ground by the end of this year.
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)
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.