Built in 1895, the McKim Building is massive and delicate at the same time. To its right is the 1972 Johnson Building, simplistic and gloomy. Thus we have Boston City Hall (voted the world’s[!] ugliest building by the website virtualtourist.com); the massive, meandering State Health, Education and Welfare Services Center on Staniford Street; the three JFK federal buildings across from City Hall; and the behemoth, view-blocking Congress Street garage.
Sometimes it’s money that keeps them in place; tearing down and rebuilding is expensive. Sometimes ugly seems to become its own virtue (a piece not long ago in the Globe was titled, “In praise of ugly buildings”). Then too, preservationists and others who should know better treat buildings like inviolable artworks.
The difference, of course, is that a bad painting can be put in storage. There’s nowhere to hide a bad building.
If you’re familiar with the buildings in my list, you’re probably aware that most of them are from the 1960s and 1970s. They were designed by some of that era’s best-known names, including Gerhard Kallmann, Michael McKinnell, Paul Rudolph, and Walter Gropius.
Philip Johnson was also one of those talents. A productive designer who lived and worked well into his 90s, he created some great buildings — just not in Boston. To a degree, the BPL project forced some tough constraints on Johnson, including matching up the new building’s height to the much beloved McKim. What we ended up getting with Johnson’s building was a dumbed-down echo of its predecessor (it even uses the same shade of granite). One engages the eye and entrances the mind. The other stupefies.
So what went wrong? Blame the era, perhaps, one of turmoil and change that rejected the past and celebrated a coarse modernism. Blame also the power of government to force its will and a near-disdain for community involvement.
Architects have learned a lot from those days. Current design more consciously cares about users as well as the relationships buildings have to each other and the street. Then too, it’s hard to imagine any of the buildings on my list of uglies getting approved today; the outcry would be too much. That’s a good thing. It means we aren’t necessarily doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. Unfortunately, it does seem our doom that the mistakes of the past are too often part of our present."
A great analysis of the failure of public architecture in some of Boston’s most noted buildings.
I can’t explain, but I won’t complain, I only know that I love trains.
Discuss: Is the state starving the MBTA?
House approves $500m transportation finance bill
Cities that once fell victim to crippling suburban flight are booming, thanks to a surge in residents who value walkable streets and lively neighborhoods over large suburban home lots. Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville are growing more quickly than the state as a whole; they’re also young and getting younger, even as the rest of Massachusetts ages. And employers are following them into the urban core, paying huge markups to operate in Boston and Cambridge, rather than in a low-slung building at the bottom of a highway off-ramp. This shift has come to a head as Massachusetts moves out of recession. Post-recession booms usually start in the suburbs, where builders stalk cheap land and bargain-hunting corporations. But that isn’t the case this time around. Instead, companies are seizing the city center. Biogen has ended its flirtation with the suburbs and is expanding in Cambridge instead. Pfizer, Novartis, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, the Broad Institute, Amazon, and Google are all growing around Kendall Square. Vertex Pharmaceuticals is headlining the buildout of Boston’s Seaport. Converse is swapping its North Andover headquarters for Causeway Street. State Street is giving up a series of suburban properties to construct an expensive new complex along the Fort Point Channel. And as companies chase young talent in the urban core, the region is making moves to grow even younger and denser. Builders are lining up thousands of new housing units for Downtown Crossing and the Fenway. Cambridge’s Central Square, Somerville’s Brickbottom and Union Square, and Boston’s Fairmount corridor are all being up-zoned to accommodate new development. New residences are clustering around Alewife and Wellington Circle. Entirely new neighborhoods are springing up in Quincy Center and Somerville’s Assembly Square. The common element in all of this is mass transit access. Residents and companies crowd into Boston and Cambridge to feed off the cities’ connectivity; continued transit access is at the heart of the business plans allowing these places to grow denser still. It’s not reasonable to expect that all of State Street’s employees are going to rent apartments on A Street. But it is reasonable to expect that if State Street is recruiting young, mobile, urban employees, a decent chunk of them are going to be riding subway cars and buses to Fort Point from the Fenway or Somerville or Charlestown. The MBTA is already straining to keep up with its current users. Its core stations — Kendall, Park Street, Downtown Crossing, and Copley Square — are above capacity now, even before accounting for the tens of millions of square feet currently in the construction pipeline. At the same time that the system is being pushed toward its breaking point, it’s being starved financially. Forget about running the Green Line to Somerville: The Legislature is now poised to advance a $500 million transportation tax plan that would leave basic maintenance for the aging transit system, like new buses and subway cars, unfunded. Just as infrastructure investments enable private investment, so too will public disinvestment put pressure on the huge sums firms are now sinking into the city. The biggest potential drag on the region’s economy isn’t developers’ ability to find customers for all the apartment towers and office buildings they’re erecting; the constraint is their ability to move around town."
A group of more than 50 economists will voice their support Monday for Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to increase Massachusetts’s income tax, saying that chronic underfunding of the state’s education and transportation systems has threatened future prosperity.
“We believe there needs to be a significant increase in investment to make sure we remain economically competitive,” said Barry Bluestone, director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy at Northeastern University, one of the 57 economists who signed the statement backing the governor’s plan.
The governor’s proposal, which would generate an additional $1.9 billion annually, raises the income tax from 5.25 to 6.25 percent, while cutting the sales tax from 6.25 to 4.5 percent.
His plan also would eliminate 44 tax exemptions and deductions and change the corporate tax code to raise $149 million a year.
The additional revenue would be used to finance a broad overhaul of the state’s aging transportation system and launch major education initiatives."
This 116 year old film byAuguste and Louis Lumiere illustrates the hazards of cycling in winter. You might get caught in the crossfire of a snowball fight.
My goodness, someone in the Boston Globe is speaking sense!
My house is somewhere up the hill in the background of this picture (it was only 5-6 years old at the time it was taken).
The Boston.com slideshow contains some great photos and history of the Orange Line. Even Nummy makes an appearance.
Pictured: Forest Hills Station on August 5, 1910.
The train was leaving for Boston. The “S” on the end of the first car indicates that it’s a smoking car, set aside for smokers only.
Oh yes! The fourth tallest building in Boston in the heart of downtown. And with 500 new residences. Please build this and more like this and fulfill my urbanist dream for Boston.
Developer pitches new design for Filene’s site
The proposal would feature a 606-foot glass skyscraper with 500 residences at the former Filene’s department store in Boston.
Yes, the time for this is now.
The case for the $6 parking meter
- Parking in cities is a nightmare. Now, experts are proposing a radical, market-driven solution.
Reblogged for the beautiful photograph.
Mass. braces for winter freeze
- Arctic air is expected to blanket the region starting tonight, with temperatures expected to drop to as low as 5 degrees below zero in some areas.
(Associated Press File Photo by Robert F. Bukaty)
Picked up my tickets for The Christmas Revels today. Can’t wait to see this year’s performance.
Traditional and terrific ‘Revels’ fun
- It would be fun to drag some of the politicians decrying the supposed “war on Christmas” to the Sanders Theatre for this year’s Christmas Revels and watch them try to render a verdict.
Romney staffers wiped out records in ‘06
- Just before Mitt Romney left the Massachusetts governor’s office and first ran for president, 11 of his top aides purchased their state-issued computer hard drives, and the Romney administration’s e-mails were all wiped from a server, according to interviews and records obtained by the Globe.
gcatalan702 asked: You're gorgeous, educated and modest. What does it feel like knowing you're every sapiosexual's dream girl?
It would feel a lot better if there were more sapiosexuals! Where are all of they? Where do I find one??