31 in 31 of your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #31 Grand Finale – with a Plea to Mayor Menino

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

Grand Finale – These two buildings were written in by people who visited my blog during the open poll. Because people feel an emotional connection with these buildings, it is only natural that I include them in the 31 in 31 of your Favorite Buildings in Boston Series.

About these two buildings: 

Ferdinand Building, Dudley Square, Roxbury, MA 02119

I’ve blogged about this building in Dudley Square before, and if you like you can read my post here.  The Ferdinand Building obviously means the world to the people of Roxbury and it is no surprise to see it in this list. Anyone who has taken a bus out of or into Dudley Square, has witnessed the sad state of decay that this sector of Roxbury has been going through. The last time I blogged about the state of decay in Downtown Crossing, I managed to upset some people, and to this day, that post is one of the most viewed on The Evolving Critic.

Mayor Menino, can we do something about the Ferdinand Building and Dudley Square in general? Can we revitalize the area and inject capital the same way you’re planning on doing with Downtown Crossing? Broken promises, always lead to broken dreams and I do hope that if you plan on getting re-elected, look back to your “Moving Boston Forward” slogan and reconsider the degree to which you have applied it, in particular to many of Boston’s decaying neighborhoods.

Stuff Magazine featured the Ferdinand Building on the cover of their “One Night in Boston” edition. You think that would have been enough to get the ball rolling with Dudley Square?

Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA 02115

Guy Lowell, 1907-1909, Additions: Hugh Stubbins and Associates, 1966-1970; The Architects Collaborative, 1976; I.M Pei, 1981, Foster & Partners with Childs Bertman Tseckares, 2008; Tenshin-En Japanese Garden: Kinsaku Nakane with Halvorson Design Group Partnership, 1988.

I think it’s safe to assume that people are referring to the main building of the Museum of Fine Arts, since I doubt that the Art of the Americas wing opening in a few weeks has already carved out a space among the most favorite or beloved buildings in Boston. I love the Museum of Fine Arts and do visit as much as I can, I’m excited for this new wing which promises to transform the way American art has been looked at for centuries.

Photo: Museum of Fine Arts

31 in 31 of your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #30

Harrison Gray Otis House, 141 Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114

Charles Bulfinch, 1795-1796

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About the Harrison Gray Otis House:

Designed by Charles Bulfinch for Harrison Gray Otis, a Massachusetts senator and third mayor of Boston, the first Harrison Gray Otis House is one of the finest and grandest Federalist houses in the city. The interior was restored to its original state using computer based paint analysis which revealed bright colors in the Adamesque tradition. The house is owned by Historic New England and is open to the public for viewing.

Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey

31 in 31 of your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #29

The Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences, 32 Vassar Stree, Cambridge, MA

Gehry Partners LLP with Cannon Design, 2004, Landscape: Olin Partnership, 2004

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About the Ray and Maria Stata Center:

The Stata Center was also considered by the Boston Herald as one of the buildings designed in the last decade that placed Boston on the architectural world map. Designed by Gehry Partners with Cannon Design, the building’s warped metallic surfaces, irregular angles and multicolored façade are all typical Frank Gehry traits.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stata Center

31 in 31 of your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #28

Old South Meeting House, Washington Street at Milk Street, Boston, MA 02108

Joshua Blanchard, builder, 1729

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About the Old South Meeting Church:

The Old South Meeting House in Downtown Crossing is Boston’s second oldest church after Old North Church in the North End. The Old South Meeting House is said to be one of the first buildings in the city to be saved from the wrecking ball, prior to being saved by ardent preservationists, the Meeting House narrowly escaped the Boston fire of 1872 which burned to the ground many of Downtown Boston’s commercial buildings. It is one of the most historically significant buildings in Boston based on Christopher Wren’s designs.

Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey

31 in 31 of your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #27

King’s Chapel, 58 Tremont Street, Boston, MA 02108

Peter Harrison, 1749-1754

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About King’s Chapel:

King’s Chapel is another building that everyone who goes on the Freedom Trail stops in to see its stark white interior. Based on James Gibbs’ St. Martin in the Fields in London, King’s Chapel is one of the city’s finest Georgian Style buildings.

Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey

31 in 31 of your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #26

Kresge Auditorium, Building W 16, West of Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

Eero Saarinen, 1954-1955

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series. 

About Kresge Auditorium:

Another Saarinen structure makes the list! Kresge auditorium is a masterpiece of Modern architecture and the state could not have a more elegant structure than Saarinen’s auditorium. The entire weight of the building rests of three points, not only making it an engineering marvel, but also one of the city’s most futuristic looking buildings. The building is situated across from the MIT Chapel also by Saarinen, both are worth a visit.

Truly spectacular.

31 in 31 of your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #25

The Opera House, 539 Washington Street, Boston, MA  02108

Thomas Lamb, 1928

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About The Opera House:

The Opera House is considered to be one of Boston’s grandest theaters and recently underwent a massive restoration which brought it back to its most glorious nights. The Theatre District in Boston has been the focus of massive revitalization efforts over the years, re-injecting life into this once dilapidated neighborhood of Boston. Most of the theatres are in the process of being restored to their original grandeur thanks in part to investors like Suffolk University and Emerson College.

Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey

31 in 31 of your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #24

United Shoe Machinery Building, High Street at 138 – 164 Federal Street, Boston, MA

Parker, Thomas, and Rice, 1928-1930

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About the United Shoe Machinery Building:

Here is an interesting connection between the United Shoe Machinery Building and Trinity Church which I was not aware of. The site that this fine art deco skyscraper sits on was the site of the home of Phillips Brooks, the charismatic preacher at Trinity Church who oversaw its construction.

I’m not surprised that this building made the list as it is one of the city’s well known art deco buildings recognized for its pyramidal shape. An interesting fact taken straight out of Susan and Michael Southworth’s AIA Guide to Boston Architecture: [United Shoe Machinery Building] was the first art deco skyscraper in Boston and influenced the design of subsequent buildings in both Boston and New York City.

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #23

Simmons Hall, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 229 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA

Steven Holl with Perry Dean Rogers Partners, 2005

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About Simmons Hall:

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is one of those institutions in the state that boasts of a campus rich in innovative architectural experiements, and Simmons Hall is truly one of those.  This is not only a dormitory for students, but a work of sculpture for the rest of us to ponder its beauty. The play of light as the day ages on the surfaces of Simmons Hall is a feast for the senses. I’ve walked by it at different times of the day and the colors never cease to amaze me. Can you sense how much I like this building? You can take a self-guided Modern architecture tour of the MIT campus and stop by Simmons Halls on your way to Baker House. (There are books on the architecture of Cambridge with a tour for the MIT campus, or stop by the List Visual Art Center and pick up one of their brochures on the great public art collection on the campus).

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Simmons Hall, Cambridge. Architect: Steven Holl

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #22

Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University, 21 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

Le Corbusier with Sert, Jackson, and Gourley, 1961-1963

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts:

I love that the only building by master architect Le Corbusier in North America made this Favorite Buildings in Boston Series.  The building is dramatic and celebrates the dynamism of concrete and the rounded forms typical of Le Corbusian architecture. One great building to see, admire and learn from.

Photo: Scott Norsworthy on Flickr

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #21

New Old South Church, 645 Boylston Street, Boston, MA 02116 (Copley Square)

Cummings and Sears, 1874-1875, Tower Rebult 1941, Restoration:  Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About the New Old South Church:

The “Ruskinian Gothic” New Old South Church is another architectural masterpiece claiming a corner of Boston’s Copley Square. Heavily influenced by the English critic John Ruskin, the architectural ornamentation at New Old South Church is as exquisite as the building itself. Its interiors are well executed with stained glass windows designed by the English firm of Clayton and Bell, which were considered to be one of the most prolific and successful stained glass firms in the 19th century.

Photo: Garden Club of Back Bay

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #20 with Guest Blog Entry

John Hancock Building

Henry Cobb & I.M Pei of Pei, Cobb, Freed & Partners, 1976

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

It so happens that I was going to schedule a guest blog post by Todd Larson on the John Hancock Bulding in November, but instead of writing this entry on the building, as I have done with the last 19 entries, I’ve decided to include his post on the John Hancock as part of the 31 in 31 series . This is Todd’s entry:

Hancock on the Block and Off Again…

Hancock by wallyg Flickr

…but far from a chip off the old one, being one of the few glass skyscrapers to defy the norm of its contemporary peers as well as its historical forefathers, both financially and architecturally.

Yes, Boston’s beloved (at first bedeviled) John Hancock Tower is up for sale again, following a 2009 foreclosure that forced Broadway Partners to auction it off for $660 million ($640 million going to their defaulted loan) to Normandy Real Estate Partners and Five Mile Capital Partners. Now they’re getting bids from Boston Properties, owners of the Hancock’s architectural/actuarial rival, the Prudential Tower (below, left) down the block; Beacon Capital Partners, who had unloaded the Hancock in Broadway’s lap in late ’06 for a whopping $1.3 billion; and Vornado Realty Trust, owner-uppers to the $700 million Filene’s rehab debacle (below, right) in Downtown Crossing, The Boston Globe reported on Aug. 26, 2010.

Guess who won out? None other than the Pru’s owners, for a record-breaking $930 million, which includes $289.5 million in cash,  $640.5 million in assumed debt, and about $2 million in acquisition costs, Craig M. Douglas of the Boston Business Journal reported on October 4, 2010.

Hard to believe those rivals are now siblings!

Filene's by jonmike12 on photobucket

As the Filene’s fiasco goes to show, the recession has cooled new construction in Boston, so its existing buildings from recessions and recoveries past are the hot property now. The cool blue glass giant’s front-and-centeredness in this market isn’t surprising, given its Miesian masterwork, its photogenic familiarity, and its stalwart status as New England’s tallest building (thanks to the recession), yet is, given its shaky foundations.

Hancock’s harrowing history

The 1968-1972 excavation of 500 million pounds of earth for the building’s steel-pile down-to-bedrock foundations certainly shook those of its Copley Square neighborhood. The foundation dig’s temporary steel retaining walls warped, the Back Bay’s soft mud and blue clay landfill gushed in, streets and sidewalks cracked, utility lines ruptured, and the wood-and-granite transept foundations of next-door neighbor Trinity Church nearly collapsed, resulting in Trinity’s victorious multi-million-dollar lawsuit of John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company.

Photo by Ernst Halberstadt, courtesy of US National Archive

An eye-popping sight the tower hardly was at first. Upon its topping off in August 1972 (beating its rival Pru — then Boston’s biggest, boxiest and boringest — by 41 feet and 8 stories), its 500-pound, 4-by-11-foot glass panes began popping out, causing a maelstrom of glass showers and Boston Police street closures (but, deo gratias, no injuries). The plywood infill of the window voids earned the building the sobriquets “Plywood Palace” and “Plywood Ranch” (the moniker of a suburban lumber-yard chain at the time) and the visual distinction of a grain elevator. Lab research concluded that oscillating expansions and contractions of the air between each window’s inner and outer panels caused the pop-outs of the windows, hence their total replacement with half-inch-thick heat-treated single panes by manufacturer Libbey-Owens-Ford, who bore the redo’s entire $7 million price tag.

John Hancock Center by Jovianeye

Citigroup Center

To top it all off, the tower began to sway in the high winds it caused, and Swiss Engineer Bruno Thurlimann determined these winds could topple it eventually. Thus it was reinformed with 1,500 tons of diagonal steel bracing like that of its 1970 predecessor, Chicago’s John Hancock Center (left), and Le Messurier Consultants retrofit its 58th floor with a $3 million “tuned mass damper” like the one they installed in New York’s 1978 Citicorp (now Citigroup) Tower (right). The tuned mass damper was best described by architecture critic Robert Campbell in The Boston Globe (“Builders faced bigger crisis than falling windows,” March 3, 1995):

Two 300-ton weights sit at opposite ends of the 58th floor of the Hancock. Each weight is a box of steel, filled with lead, 17 feet (5.2 m) square by 3 feet (0.9 m) high. Each weight rests on a steel plate. The plate is covered with lubricant so the weight is free to slide. But the weight is attached to the steel frame of the building by means of springs and shock absorbers. When the Hancock sways, the weight tends to remain still… allowing the floor to slide underneath it. Then, as the springs and shocks take hold, they begin to tug the building back. The effect is like that of a gyroscope, stabilizing the tower. The reason there are two weights, instead of one, is so they can tug in opposite directions when the building twists. The cost of the damper was $3 million. The dampers are free to move a few feet relative to the floor.

Naturally, all those repairs, reparations, replacements and retrofits soared the Hancock’s construction costs from $75 million to $175 million.

But by the time the dust, glass and oil had settled upon its five-years-in-arrears dedication on September 29, 1976, its liquid-blue glass facade, its geometric angularity, and its sheer skyscraper stature over a historically low-scale, tradition-bound city was already attracting the iconic awe it continues to capture today. The following year, the American Institute of Architects gave it a National Honor Award.

In 1983, it received the Boston Society of Architects’ annual Harleston Parker Medal (the third Hancock building to do so) — a far cry from the BSA crying foul in 1967 over its alleged “relationship, or lack of it, to Trinity Church and Copley Square, [so] one has to assume that it will be the bellwether of all contemporary urban design problems” (which it was, for a few years and many million$). A mid-1990s Boston Globe poll of architects rated it Boston’s third best work of architecture. Even New Yorker architecture critic Paul Goldberger, according to a Sept. 23, 2010 Globe editorial, called the Hancock Tower “one of the most beautiful skyscrapers ever built.”

Here’s why.

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Hancock by RhythmicQuietude

Hancock by Tomtheman5

The fairest weather of all is magically mirrored on the Hancock’s 10,344-pane glass curtain wall by a pure-blue hue. When the clouds roll by, their reflection rolls with them. When skies are gray, so is the Hancock. At night, its interior light pierces through its panes in a majestic moonlighting of midnight oil. 

But most of all, architect Henry Cobb of I.M. Pei & Partners (now Pei Cobb Fried & Partners) designed the tower to reflect its neighbors as opposed to crowding or overbearing them — that is, to defer to Copley Square history as well as to make it.

And here’s where “complexity and contradiction in architecture,” in Robert Venturi’s phraseology, comes into play in the Hancock. Its glass skin, its 60-story height and its amalgam of trapezoidal, parallelogram and triangular shapes are decidedly a radical departure from Boston’s boxy, low-scale, historically derivative masonry building tradition. But at the same time it appears to “disappear” from our consciousness as its one-way mirror-glass walls mirror-image their historical environs, depending on where we’re standing or walking or which way the sun is shining. In this way it showcases a panoply of architectural styles while being ever-so-humble about its own.

In the crystal glass we see…

...H.H. Richardson's Richardsonian Romanesque Trinity Church (1877)...

...Cummings & Sears' Northern Italian Gothic New Old South Church (1874), McKim, Mead & White's Renaissance Revival Boston Public Library (1895)...

...Hardenbergh & Blackall's Italian Renaissance Fairmont Copley Plaza Hotel (1912) (note how the glass refracts sunlight onto the old facade, bringing it to our attention even more)...

...the 1920s Georgian Revival Hotel 140 (a former YMCA)...

John Hancock Building, backed up by Cram & Ferguson's Art Deco 1947 expansion (themselves Harleston Parker laureates: the former in 1924, the latter in 1950), visually charting the course of the insurer's growth from tiny acorn to tall oak to towering redwood, but lately overgrown by a competitor, New England Life's Anglo-Italianate Postmodern 500 Boylston Street (1988, Johnson & Burgee).

Just like a good neighbor
In further observation of John Hancock Life’s “good neighbor” policy, the tower also defers to its surroundings by setting itself back enough from them on all sides to bring them into clear view as we round the corners of the tower. In this way the tower serves as a visual orientation point for tourists and sightseers by directing their attention toward landmarks that signify where they are in the city: Copley Square.

Around the corner we see… 

...Trinity (and Old South, reflected in the glass as we pass)...

...the Boston Public Library (and, again, Old South)...

...the 1930s Art Deco New England Power Building, where a trompe-l'oeil is created with its reflection, giving the illusion of a full building extending beyond the Hancock's wall...

...and likewise with The Clarendon, Robert A.M. Stern's new high-rise hulk, liberating it from its boxy boredom with a whimsical wingspread like that of the Hancock itself.

Mr. Sleight-of-Hancock also plays tricks with Trinity, doubling it up to give it more of the preacherly preeminence Richardson intended it to have in Copley Square, as a gracious way to preserve Richardson's favorite view of the church.

Mr. Hancock is just as buddy-buddy with Mr. Fairmont, condescending to match the height of the older building's roofline with a lower-level Trinity Place face. This reinforces the horizontality of its neighbor's stringcourse rustication as a lowly counterpoint to the tower's predominant verticality, which itself accentuates the upwardness of the church spires and high-rises it reflects.

To accomplish both of these accommodations to its elders, the tower’s main frame had to be skewed into a parallelogram, which put it perpendicular with Copley’s original bisecting vector, Huntington Avenue:

Hancock by Bobak Ha'Eri

And this twist of fate does the Hancock’s occupants a neighborly favor: it yields a spacious entrance plaza with a protective canopy and a prominent view of the tower’s ancestors. However, wind tunnels come with the territory, but picturesque plantings mitigate this misstep.

In all of these ways, the John Hancock Tower confirms an architect’s observation of it from 1975: “It really is an excellent [neighbor], because it looks like it isn’t there” — at least, from this angle:

Where’s Johnny?

Hancock Aerial Wikimedia Commons

For a clue, observe the shadow slashing diagonally across the Back Bay landscape, meeting head-on with the Massachusetts Avenue bridge to MIT so as to form a near-right angle with the bridge (all 364.4 Smoots + 1 Ear of it) from this perspective. Then take a ruler and connect the bridge’s MIT end with the shadow’s foot, and the ruler’s edge will scribe Johnny’s vertical notch, yielding a near-right triangle. Another mathemagical marvel from Mr. Hancock!

In reality, virtual or otherwise, Johnny’s not going anywhere. With a bidding war heating up over him, he’s still Johnny-on-the-spot, whether he’s in the spotlight or not. And that’s something to get Hancocky about.

Mr. Hancock is just as buddy-buddy with Mr. Fairmont, condescending  to match the height of the older building’s roofline with a lower-level  Trinity Place face. This reinforces the horizontality of its neighbor’s stringcourse rustication as a lowly counterpoint to the tower’s predominant verticality, which itself accentuates the upwardness of the church spires and high-rises it reflects.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Todd Larson has been professional writer for 20 years, and has demonstrated a flair for words when it comes to architectural, real estate and financial topics. Mr. Larson has published in the Boston Business Journal, Victorian Homes, The Improper Bostonian, the Boston Herald, Banker & Tradesman, Boston Homes and the Cambridge Chronicle. His word-wonder has also helped real estate brokers sell their homes and helped TAB Newspapers’ Service Directory advertisers present their services and products with class. The design/build firm of Dakota Partners, Inc. of Waltham (formerly Architectural Partners, Inc., of Watertown) benefited from his professional newsletters, project descriptions and press releases, one of which was published on a section front of the New England Real Estate journal. You can check out Todd’s blog by clicking here.

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #19

Fenway Park, 4 Yawkey Way Boston, MA 02215

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About Fenway Park:

Who doesn’t love Fenway Park? Actually, I’m not crazy about it.  While many cities have demolished their Major League Baseball facitlities to build new and bigger ones, Boston’s has adhered to its strong preservation values and now claims the oldest facility in the MLB.  Fenway Park has gone through many additions and alterations in its almost 100 years of existence, just recently a multi-million dollar upgrade was completed which added more seating and amenities for those die hard Red Sox fans.

Photo: The Hudson Group Gallery

 

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #18

Suffolk County Jail (The Charles Street Jail), Charles Street at Cambridge Street, Boston, MA 02114

Gridley J. Fox Bryant, 1851

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About the Suffolk County Jail (The Charles Street Jail):

If you’ve never been to jail, not to worry because the Suffolk County Jail (Charles Street Jail) has been beautifully rehabilitated into a world class hotel by Cambridge Seven Associates with Ann Beha Architects. “Be Captivated” by the Charles Street Jail; an architectural icon in the city of Boston designed by Gridley J. Fox Bryant which became significant for many reasons, including its cruciform plan which served as the model for other prisons across the country.

There have been many articles written on the prison and its conversion into a hotel, you can read them on the Liberty Hotel’s website.

Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #17

Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House, 105 Brattle Street, Cambridge, MA

1759

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House:

The Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House is as important to Cambridge as is the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (who lived in the house). The house is a fine Georgian style mansion with a distant view of the Charles River. I visited the house three summers ago, and one room that I seem to not forget is the one filled with Chinese and Japanese art treasures (maybe it’s because I love Asian art). The house is owned by the National Park Service and is open to the public.

Have you visited the home of an author recently or as a child? If so, which author’s house did you visit?

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #16

Old City Hall, 45 School Street, Boston, MA 02108

Gridley J. Fox Bryant and Arthur Gilman, 1862-1865, Renovations: Anderson, Notter and Associates, 1969-1970

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About Old City Hall:

If you’ve ever been on the Freedom Trail, you probably have a photograph of this building. Old City Hall is Boston’s finest French Second Empire structure and everyone who walks by stops to admire its beauty. Although the façade looks very much the same as it did when it first opened in the late 1860′s, its interiors have been dramatically altered. Most of the Boston area preservation non for profit organizations are located in this building which is very fitting, considered that this building was saved from demolition and re-used as modern office spaces. While looking at images of Old City Hall in the Historic American Buildings Survey catalog, I was astonished to see how opulent and decadent its interiors were. These images made me want to “turn back time” and experience the grandeur interiors that was once part of this building.

photo: Historic American Buildings Survey

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #15

First Church, Roxbury (John Eliot Square)

1803-1804

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About  First Church in Roxbury:

To be honest with all of you, I know nothing about this building, but thanks to the latest volume of the Society of Architectural Historians Buildings of the United States Series: Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, I was able to read up on this beauty of a building.

The author of the entry on First Church considers this building to be an architecturally outstanding Federal-style church which was built according to church records by William Blaney, a carpenter and member of the Roxbury building committee. The church is based on one of Asher Benjamin’s pattern book designs.

First Church in Roxbury. Photo: Brian Corr

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #14

Baker House, Building W 7, Memorial Drive

Alvar Aalto with Perry Dean Shaw and Hepburn, 1947-1949

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About Baker House:

The first time I ever stepped foot inside Baker House at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, I was blown away. I couldn’t contain my enthusiasm for the building, especially since I knew that everything in it is ergonomically designed, from the furniture to the handrails. Everything about Baker House is perfect, from its undulating façade which mimics the flow of the Charles River to the interior lighting. I’ve heard from many people that this is one of the most coveted dormitories at MIT and those who live there choose to live there year after year until they graduate. Now THAT says alot about a building.

Have you ever been inside a building which makes you feel “human” or that speaks to everyone of your senses? If so, which building (it doesn’t matter if it is not in Boston)?

Baker House

Baker House Model, photo: libraries.mit.edu/archives

MIT seniors in Baker House dormitory room, ca. 1949. Photo: libraries.mit.edu/archives

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #13

The Gropius House, 68 Baker Bridge Road, Lincoln, MA 01773

Walter Gropius, 1938

I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series.

About the Gropius House:

A Modernism gem in New England, the Gropius House is owned by Historic New England and open to the public for viewing. Designed by Walter Gropius, founder and director of the Bauhaus, one of the most influential design schools in the world, the house is also furnished with furniture designed by Marcel Breuer, Saarinen, Aalto and Marianne Brandt among others. I visited the house last fall and blogged about it, you can read my post here.

I think it was because of my interaction with the Gropius House, I have developed a passion for Modernist buildings worldwide. Is there a building or a house out there that has inspired you or changed your life? If so, which one? I’d love to see it and learn more about it!

Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey

Photo: Historic American Buildings Survey

31 in 31 of Your Favorite Buildings in Boston: #12

The Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Avenue, Boston, MA 02110

Diller Scofidio + Renfro with Perry Dean Rogers Partners, 2006

 I was inspired to highlight 31 buildings in Boston in 31 days after the architecture blog A Daily Dose of Architecture . Not only was I going to highlight 31 buildings, but 31 of Bostonian’s favorite buildings. This is the series. 

About the Institute of Contemporary Art:

In December of 2009, the Boston Herald selected the new ICA building as one of the top ten buildings that placed Boston in the same architectural league as New York City (at least, that is what they were suggesting) within the last decade. The building is a box with a small slit on one of its sides to allow for a breathtaking view of Boston Harbor. Other than the view, the ICA building is not welcoming and has nothing special going on for it besides the excellent contemporary art exhibitions which are transforming the way Boston looks at contemporary art. Susan and Michael Southworth, authors of the AIA Guide to Boston think that “[the] building is a surprise in the era of sustainable architecture. South American hardwood, overindulgence in glass, an inefficient shape, and massive elevator-cab dimensions contrast starkly with other major art institutions in the neighborhood, the ultra-green Artists for Humanity EpiCenter” (95).

What do you think of the ICA’s new building? Do you love it or hate it? Comments please!