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."
Posts tagged with "Boston":
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.
Anita Berrizbeitia has been named as the new chair of the Department of Landscape Architecture at Harvard GSD. Berrizbeitia is already quite familiar with the department as she is currently a Professor of Landscape Architecture at the GSD and the Director of its Master in Landscape Architecture degree programs. "Berrizbeitia is a landscape architect specializing in theory and criticism of 19th and 20th-century public landscapes in the United States and Europe, with particular interests in material culture, design expression, and the productive functions and roles of landscape in processes of urbanization," Harvard GSD said in a press release. "Her research on Latin American cities and landscapes centers on the creative hybridization of local and foreign cultural practices as a response to a centuries-old process of global cultural exchange; the role of large-scale infrastructural projects on territorial organization; and the interface between landscape and emerging urbanization." Berrizbeitia will assume her new role on July 1.
Boston is moving closer to turning an under-utilized part of its financial district into a 24-hour, mixed-used entertainment center. BostInno reported that the Boston Redevelopment Authority held a meeting on the project Monday night, which has been dubbed "Congress Square." The plan, which is being pushed by local developer Related Beal and designed by Arrowstreet, would breathe new life into a sleepy cluster of buildings around Quaker Lane. "The Project will transform existing office buildings into three components with a mix of ground floor and lower level retail/restaurant uses with either office, residential or hotel uses on upper floors, providing appropriate 24-hour activity to the surrounding neighborhood," said Related Beal in its proposal. "The Project includes approximately 458,300 square feet, of which approximately 92,700 sf is new construction." But the focus of the project, at least from an urbanist's point of view, is the new pedestrian passageway that replaces an existing alleyway. Adding to the people-friendly, placemaking spirit of the project, Congress Square includes new bike storage but no new parking spaces for cars. If everything goes according to plan, Related Beal plans to break ground this year and wrap things up in 2017.
While a chandelier is typically a balancing act between its various arms, Boston-based Matter Design has debunked the typology with a 3D-printed, asymmetrical brass chandelier. Founders of the award-winning design studio, Brandon Clifford and Wes McGee, both professors at MIT, based their design on two calculations to reposition the light fixture’s center of gravity and offset the lack of symmetry. The first calculation generated a relaxation of a string bundling, resulting in a 3D branching network comprising nodes of varying lengths that stabilizes the system. “This positions geometry as reactive and non-authorial,” Matter Design claims on its website. Each unique node is 3D-printed and then connected to brass tubing. Craft, sequence, labor and method are the keys to a non-skewing, 3D-printed chandelier. According to the design studio, which aims to re-engage architecture with the nuances of matter in the digital era, the name Knotta is a play on words. “Knot: intersections, nodes and networking. Knotty: a tangled mess that could also be read as ‘naughty.’ When pronounced, it also reads as NADAAA, the location of the exhibition.”
Höweler+Yoon combine cutting-edge tech and age-old craft to complete the Sean Collier Memorial at MIT
On April 18th, 2013, the Boston Marathon bombers went on a crime spree that included the killing of Officer Sean Collier who was shot in the line of duty on the MIT campus. In honor of the slain MIT patrol officer, the university commissioned Boston-based Höweler+Yoon Architecture to design the Sean Collier Memorial—a somber, grey stone structure that marks the site of the tragedy. The heaviness of the unreinforced, fully compressive masonry structure is meant to convey the concept of “Collier Strong,” or strength through unity. Thirty-two solid blocks of granite form a contemporary version of a five-way vault. "Our goal was to not post-tension the structure, to make it compressive and use solid blocks," Höweler + Yoon principle Meejin Yoon told AN, "It could have been built out of concrete or steel, but we wanted solid blocks." The large stone pieces were digitally designed and fabricated to work as a self-supporting structural system. Forces are translated into form via a robust combination of cutting-edge computational processes and ancient techniques for making masonry structural spans. The stones were precisely milled within a .5 millimeter tolerance, so that they fit together perfectly to form a compression ring with a keystone that caps the shallow masonry arches. In the center of the buttressed vaults is a covered space for reflection. The buttresses act as walls that extend out to the surrounding campus context. The novel concept required many moving parts to work in harmony. "It is very pure. It is a simple idea," Yoon said. "It took so much collaboration to make this simple idea have the integrity that it did. There were students from 8 degree programs, including a PhD student, undergraduate architecture, undergrads in building technology, and grads in engineering and architecture." Engineering and design were intricately linked form beginning to end. The whole design process was influenced by a feedback loop of physical, analog, and digital models as well as digital simulation. Massive quarried blocks of stone were cut with a single-axis robotic block saw, then with a multiple axis KUKA 500 robot. Robotic milling processes made the tiny tolerances possible. Some of the blocks took as long as seven days to carve, with machines running 24 hours. Often, the cutting tools would wear down, causing the tolerances to change mid-fabrication. The team compensated by altering the digital model and then the next piece would change to match what had been previously carved IRL. Sensors were placed at each joint as the project was assembled on site. As stonemasons placed the high-tech monoliths into the 32-part final assembly, the structure was a choreographed symphony of new technology and timeless craft. The legible visualization of forces is parallel with the MIT ethos of openness and transparency, while the poetic nature of a dry masonry vault represents togetherness of the community in recovery. The project team also included structural engineer Knippers Helbig- Stuttgart, masonry consultant Ochsendorf DeJong and Block Consulting Engineers, landscape architect Richard Burck Associates, civil engineer Nitsch Engineering, geotechnical engineer McPhail Associates, lighting designer Horton Lees Brogden Lighting Design, and electrical engineer AHA Consulting Engineers.
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."
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.