Where is the Love? The Building Bostonians Love to Hate

Boston City Hall, Rear facing Faneuil Hall, Photo Credit: Historic American Building Survey

Yelp has become quite the platform for not only reviewing restaurants, hotels, stores and everything in between, but also architecture and public spaces. Who knew? 

 Curious to see what people had to say about some of Boston’s most beautiful “ugly” buildings, I conducted a search on Yelp.

It turns out, people love the Christian Science Monitor Complex in Boston, a complex with an excellent collection of concrete buildings from around the 1970′s, but hate Boston City Hall. Who knew?  Bostonians love to hate it, while those reviewers from other states like it.

Did you know that in 1976, on a national survey conducted by the American Institute of Architects and taken by architects, critics and historians in the United States, Boston City Hall was voted as one of the ten greatest works in American architectural history? I have been saying that for years, but read it from our very own architecture critic Robert Campbell

I think Boston City Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in the City of Boston. Let’s agree to disagree.

Yelp Reviews of City Hall:

Jeremy G. from Humble, TX – writes “THIS is the building Le Corbusier **WISHED** he had designed.”

Beans B. from Brighton, MA:  “From the wind-swept brick wasteland outside to the ridiculously narrow and uncomfortable spectator seats in the city council chamber to the lack of sufficient restrooms this building is a disaster.”

Alexandra S. from Hingham, MA: “There’s no avoiding the area for me since I walk through Boston City Hall plaza twice a day during the week. Ultimately, the sad reality is that no matter how much I’ve looked for something to appreciate, I don’t like this building.  

I’ll even go a step further and say that there is in fact nothing redeeming at all about Boston CIty Hall and the red brick environs. I finally just have to admit to myself that this is just one ugly and off-putting building and plaza.”

Sebastian Y. from Boston, MA: “A monstrosity apparently designed by angry communists, which would look more at home on the outskirts of Moscow or Minsk.” 

Hans W. from Brooklyn, NY writes:  “City Hall is a badass spaceship space palace, and it’s sitting downtown because in 1962 someone had an original idea and someone else took a chance on it.  And that’s what life’s all about.”-  Right on Sir! Right on!

K G. from Boston, MA: “I don’t despise the building itself as much as many people seem to.  I have not seen another building like it, so you can call it unique at least.”

Jack M. from Boston, MA: “As a friend of mine once said, “Boston City Hall is the ugliest piece of architecture on the planet”.  Well said, dear sir!  Well said.”

Dan B. from Newton, MA: “The Boston City Hall looks like a good design for a maximum security prison in the Soviet Union.  Except even the Soviets would never have come up with the giant concrete stilts, which causes the building’s underside to loom over congress street and the unfortunate security guards who work there.”

Courtney P. from Boston, MA: “This building is just ugly.  With architecture being one of my favorite parts of Boston, it’s so disappointing that this building is City Hall.  Please consider building something else!” – Say it ain’t so, Courtney!

What do you think of Boston City Hall? Let’s hear your thoughts.

A Psychotic State of Mind: Laurie Anderson’s “Delusion”

Before attending last night’s performance of Laurie Anderson’s Delusion, I knew very little of Anderson’s craft. However, because most of the time I am surrounded by artists and other creative types, it only took one friend to get me beyond excited for what I was about to experience at the Paramount Theater.

Laurie Anderson is considered a legend in the performing art world. Known for her multimedia presentations and innovative use of technology in art, theater and experimental music, Anderson’s latest solo performance Delusion allows for one beautiful and mesmerizing journey that sticks with you hours after experiencing it.

If you’re wondering what Delusion is, “Delusion is a mediation on life and language,” a meditation enhanced by the violin, electronic puppetry, music and on screen visuals.

The performance lasts 90 minutes which may be among the best 90 minutes of your life. There were moments that took my breath away and moments that made place many things into perspective. There was a moment in the performance that reminded me of the visuals of Terrence Malick, in particular his shots of grass and wheat. Re-visiting familiar territory (which for me was the moment Malick’s stunning grass visuals were referenced by Anderson) is part of Delusion.

Delusion is only playing until Sunday October 2, 2011. If you can make it, I highly recommend it for its beautiful visuals and music. Click this link for more information.

In Pursuit of Urban Nature: Hiking Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace

I’m lucky to live in Boston. With its small town feel and international appeal, Boston is an amazing place to take in the arts, culture and architecture. This spring I posted a blog listing the things every Bostonian must add to their bucket list and although I had experienced everything on the list, there was one exception:  hiking the Emerald Necklace in an entire day.

Earlier this summer, my friend Cristy and I went on an expedition to explore the beauty of Boston’s Emerald Necklace, a string of interconnected parks stretching through many of the city’s neighborhoods and cultural institutions.  As any urban planner, architect, or city enthusiast would tell you, the best way to get to know and experience a city is by walking its streets. This is exactly what Cristy and I did. We started our hike across Park Street Church on Boston Common at around 11:15AM on a Sunday and finished around 5:00PM at the entrance of Franklin Park Zoo in Dorchester.

In the nineteenth century, nature and parks were idealized and venerated, an idea reflected in the landscapes of many cities across the country.  Parks provided city dwellers and factory workers with leisure activities that involved fishing, swimming and many other past times. They provided a relief from the long work day hours and living conditions.

 The power of parks and green open spaces in bringing people from all walks of life together has always fascinated me. I love walking through a park and listening to the many different languages spoken by users. No one understood this better than Frederick Law Olmsted, the genius behind this incredible cultural resource in Boston.

The father of the modern landscape architecture movement, Frederick Law Olmsted’s story is as inspiring and moving as was his vision in transforming the landscapes of America. Along with his son Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., his adopted stepson John C. Olmsted and the rest of the partners in the firm, Olmsted dominated the landscape architecture profession in America for nearly a century. Transforming people’s lives through the beauty of nature was at the core of his pursuit in improving and “civilizing American society.”

Boston Common, 1634, National Historic Landmark; Boston Landmark

Considered the most historic park in Boston, Boston Common was mentioned in town records as early as 1634. The Common was not designed by Olmsted, but it played a pivotal role in the planning of his Emerald Necklace. It was only logical we start our hike at Boston Common, after all, every visitor strolls down the Common on the way to the Freedom Trail.

The Public Garden, 1839. George Meachum, 1859, National Historic Landmark; Boston Landmark

The Public Garden was born out of the filling of the Back Bay in the nineteenth century. It is a botanical garden with formal flower beds laid out in the French Manner and artificial pond which provides for pleasant Swan Boat rides during the warmer months of the year. On its Arlington Street corner stands Arthur Gilman’s Arlington Street Church, a building worthy of looking at. It has sixteen Tiffany stained glass windows which date from 1898 to 1933.

The Esplanade, 1931, National Register of Historic Places

Once part of the smelly Back Bay, this chunk of land was transformed into a spacious park offering many activities including picnicking, kayaking, sailing, outdoor concerts and movies at the Hatch Shell. The Esplanade Association is in charge of restoring, maintaining and preserving this wonderful park.

Commonwealth Avenue Mall, begun in 1858 and continued as the Back Bay was filled in, Boston Landmark

Commonwealth Avenue Mall was America’s answer to the grand boulevards of Paris. The Mall is lined with American and English elms as well as magnolias and dotted with sculptures of noted public figures including Alexander Hamilton, William Lloyd Garrison, Phyllis Wheatley and others.

Charlesgate, Frederick Law Olmsted, 1870’s

Olmsted had intended for a grand picturesque landscape here, but as Michael and Susan Southworth of the AIA Guide to Boston write “Charlesgate is the tragedy of the Emerald Necklace.” I hope to see this landscape restore to Olmsted’s original vision in my lifetime.

Apologies for the lack of images of Charlesgate, I will take some the next time I am at the Museum of Fine Arts, but the landscape does not reflect what Olmsted intended.

Back Bay Fens, Frederick Law Olmsted, 1879, National Register of Historic Places; Boston Landmark

A fine example of the English nineteenth century romantic landscape movement.  To some extent, Olmsted original vision has been altered and rose gardens were added along with a baseball field and a war memorial, but the Emerald Necklace Conservancy has been diligently working to restore the plantings and conserve this magical park for centuries to come. Among the architectural and cultural gems along the Back Bay Fens are H.H. Richardson’s “muscular” bridge, Holy Trinity Orthodox Church, the Forsyth Dental Infirmary for Children, the Museum of Fine Arts, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and galleries at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and the Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

The Riverway and Olmsted Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, 1881, National Register of Historic Places; Boston Landmark

This park is currently undergoing major restoration by the Conservancy. The Riverway originally linked Olmsted Park to Jamaica Pond, but a segment was destroyed for commercial purposes thereby interrupting the “flow” of Olmsted’s interconnecting system of parks.

Jamaica Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, 1892, National Register of Historic Places, National Historic Landmark, Boston Landmark

Jamaica Park will always hold a special place in my heart because on our hike along the Emerald Necklace, my friend Cristy and I stopped to catch our breath, admire the beauty of the lake and watch people fish and jog. We were so taken aback by the park’s beauty that I left my camera on a bench only to realize that I had done so 45 minutes later. In short, I did not find my camera but frantically asked everyone I came across at the park if they had seen it. I left my business card with a few people and continued our hike as if nothing had ever happened. Later that night, I received an email from the Jamaica Pond Boat House letting me know that my camera had been found! Joy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Stickney and Austin’s Boathouse is a National Historic Landmark and you may read more about these two architects by following these links: here and here (sorry, I don’t remember if I corrected the posts after getting my paper back from the professor). I had the pleasure of conducting extensive research on these two architects for a seminar on Boston Architecture and Planning at Boston University with the wonderful Professor Keith Morgan.

Arnold Arboretum, Charles Sprague Sargent and Frederick Law Olmsted, 1872, National Historic Landmark

One of the most beautiful parks in the city, the Arnold Arboretum is also one of the country’s oldest and most prestigious arboreta. Its collection includes more than 15,000 trees, shrubs, and vines collected from around the world and is one of the best preserved of Olmsted’s landscapes. Every Spring the Arboretum hosts Lilac Sunday, andevent that celebrates the more than 377 lilac bushes in its collection. THE FOLLOWING IMAGES HAVE NOT BEEN PHOTOSHOPPED! YES IT GETS THIS BRIGHT IN THE FALL.

Franklin Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, 1885, National Register of Historic Places, Boston Landmark

The crowning jewel of the Emerald Necklace, Franklin Park is a 520-acre masterpiece that combined “vast rustic scenery with H. H. Richardson’s architecture, Daniel Chester French sculpture, sheep to trim the grass, and a dairy for healthful refreshments.” Its design was influenced by Joseph Paxton’s “People’s Park” at Birkenhead in England. Today, most of the architecture at Franklin Park is now ruins and parts of it have been altered and replaced with a golf course, tennis courts, baseball fields and Franklin Park Zoo. I love the micro environments that Olmsted created at Franklin Park. They make me feel as if I’ve stepped from one landscape into a completely different one. I love going for jogs in and around Franklin Park, it feels as if the city is hundreds of miles away.

Walking the Emerald Necklace, I learned that the best way to continue preserving this inspiring landscape is to nominate it as a World Heritage Site. Why isn’t this system of parks already a World Heritage Site? I’m not sure of an answer, but I believe it should be!

Review: Close Distance

Raul Gonzalez, Wake up Call (On My Last Nerve), 2011 | Ink and Bic pen, 45 by 65 inches acrylic. Courtesy the artist and Carroll & Sons Gallery, Boston.

I may be too young to remember when was the last time Boston experienced an exhibition that featured the work of Latino artists living in this city or its surrounding towns. I may also be too young to remember Grupo Ñ, an experimental but now dissolved Latino art collective from the 1980′s that became an instrumental force in Boston’s underground art scene.

“Close Distance,” at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Mills Gallery is the first exhibition in nearly thirty years featuring the works of six emerging Boston area Latino artists “practicing across diverse media and national borders.” Curated by Liz Munsell, a local curator with DiscordiaFilms and a Curatorial Research Associate at the Museum of Fine Arts, “Close Distance” is engaging, provoking and riveting.

The exhibition is as culturally diverse and distinct as are the artistic vocabularies presented. From the site specific work of Daniela Rivera, a 2010 Foster Prize finalist to Raul Gonzalez III and others; religion, identity, pop culture, politics, and institutional oppression are all explored, commented upon and richly juxtaposed throughout the gallery and within individual works.

Vela Phelan, Witch Doctor Wrestlers, 2011. Courtesy of the artist.

Vela Phelan’s site specific performance-installation Deviant Idols in the Black Divine, a work  modeled after a temple and composed of “spiritual idols for a modern world” struck a chord with me. A performance artist, Mr. Phelan’s installation opened up a world of memories growing up in the Dominican Republic. Having experienced the mysticism and the commodization of Santeria and Voodoo practices on a personal level, this installation moved me in ways only the pulsating beats of African drums at a palo ceremony have.

Because of the spiritual relationship that evolves between the viewer and the artist, Mr. Phelan has decided to carry out a 5-part performance that will take place almost every Thursday at Mills Gallery. “What will happen is a bit unknown to me (and to him),” says curator Liz Munsell “but it will be a journey that takes us outside the gallery walls – physically and metaphysically.”

Referencing minimalism and the literal collapse of institutional spaces, Daniela Rivera’s Fatiga material allows for an exhilirating experience as juxtaposed with the dexterous, signature “self-taught” style drawings of Raul Gonzalez.

Anabel Vazquez Rodriguez, Visión Doble, Super 8. 2011. Film. Courtesy of the artist.

In the film Visión Doble (Double Vision), multimedia artist Anabel Vazquez Rodriguez juxtaposes paradise-like images of Puerto Rico with political demonstrations held in and around Boston’s Copley Square. The film is an autobiographical journey that transcends borders and cultural boundaries.

While Boston may not have a tightly knit Latino arts collective like New York, Los Angeles and Miami do, “Close Distance” gathers together local Boston artists who for the most part had known each other prior to this exhibition at Mills Gallery. “Because these artists are all floating in the same “alternative” spaces or artist institutions as other Bostonians,” says Ms. Munsell, “I would say that they have much common, including language and culture, that brings them together.”

With “Close Distance, I hoped to bring them together a bit more” says Ms. Munsell, whose approach to curating is not solely interesting on a formal or aesthetic level – but has social context or a theoretical framework as its backdrop. “I can already see that has happened in a major way, but the show has just begun!” she added. “Close Distance” is rich in talent and abundant in excellent work.

****

Artist and Curator Talk Wednesday, August 3 | 6 – 9pm
Performance with Artists Yassy Goldie and Bru Jø Wednesday, August 17 | 6 – 8pm
These artists’ work touches on the construction of cultural identity. Their guerrilla tactics have been known to simultaneously intrigue and disorient audiences.

Vela Phelan explores the duality “ego/spirituality” through objects and actions found in his performance-installation Deviant Idols of The Black Devine. In his words “a Quest to expand the Shadow my EGO CASTS,” this five-part performance will take place at Mills Gallery Thursdays July 21 & 28, August 11 & 25 at 7pm, and as part of the Artist/Curator talk on Wednesday, Aug 3rd.

Review: River Street

Saturday May 1st, Daniel Phillips preparing for the installation of River Street (center)

A site specific installation in Hyde Park by Daniel Phillips, River Street fosters an enriching cross-cultural and multi-generational dialogue between people whose memories are encapsulated in the built environment and “outsiders” like me who might be interested in learning about the architectural, industrial, social and natural history of the site in its present state.

According to Dolores Hayden in The Power of Place, historic places help citizens define their public pasts and trigger social memory through the urban landscape. Hayden investigates the concept of “place memory” through philosopher Edward S. Casey’s formulation, in that place memory “encapsulates the human ability to connect with both the built and natural environments that are entwined in the cultural landscape.”

River Street is installed on the former site of what was until 2004, the oldest operating paper mill in North America. Built on the Hyde Park side of the heavily polluted Neponset River, the history of the Tileston-Hollingsworth Paper Company extends as far back as 1733.

Besides its social and industrial history, the site of the mill complex was architecturally significant until recent years when it succumbed to demolition’s wrecking ball. The firm of W. Cornell Appleton and Frank A. Stearns (Appleton & Stearns), and later members of the illustrious Boston architectural firm of Peabody & Stearns, designed an 1890 “handsome” Georgian Revival office building which is no longer extant. In its present state, the remaining scars resulting from the demolition of the site evoke a sense of loss and nostalgia of an era gone-by.

River Street is a multi channel video projection composed of thousands of photographic stills shot on site by Daniel Phillips. For every one and a half minutes of video, it is estimated that approximately 900 photographs are used to create a time lapse moving image. Each photograph captures the passage of time, the crumbling death of the last remaining buildings on site and the slowly renewing life of the Neponset River Reservation. Projected on the loading bays of a dilapidated water pumping station, River Street triggers our memory by capturing those moments that vanish before our eyes. Moments like ice melting from the branches of trees or the rhythmic flow of the river or the transient life of the graffiti in the area, allow us to visually connect the past with the present.

A collaboration between the artist Daniel Phillips and Finnard Properties; the current owners and developers of the site, this one night installation of River Street was presented in conjunction withthe Boston Cyberarts Festival. The installation on Saturday April 30 attracted many members from the Hyde Park and Dorchester communities. “It was wonderful, breathtaking, unbelievable” says Adrian of Hyde Park, “This is my community, of course I had to be here tonight.”

River Street Tower Still #16, Daniel Phillips, 2010

River Street Tower Still #16, Daniel Phillips, 2010

The Bucket List: Boston Edition

Boston’s Channel 5 recently asked their “fans” on Facebook to come up with a bucket list of things and places every Bostonian must do and see before they die. Most of the things on the list are boring, overplayed and are for the most part, tourists traps. Looking at the slide show on the WCBV website, I was extremely disappointed that people in Boston do not consider Trinity Church to be one of those places they MUST see before they die. I will not rant here, I’ve already done that on Twitter and I’ve already blogged or mentioned Trinity Church here, here, here, here, here, and I’m sure there are least two or three more mentions through out The Evolving Critic.

Here’s a list of things and places EVERY Bostonian should do and see before they die. Venture out into the city and stop following the Freedom Trail (assuming every Bostonian has already done it, right?).

Trinity Church – the interior will blow you away. Please. Do. Go. See. This. American. Architectural. Masterpiece.

Boston Harbor Islands - There are 34, many open to the public. One of the best summer experiences you’ll have.

I cannot find ANY of my images I shot at the Islands a few years back. This is one is taken from http://www.boston.com

Lantern Festival-Forest Hills CemeteryTruly magical. Whether you’ve lost a loved one or not, it’s a powerful experience. I’m uncertain whether the Education Trust will host the event this year, but everyone must attend this event before they die.
Highland Park Stand Pipe – Roxbury. Roxbury is beautiful in the spring and summer. The Stand Pipe is a must see.

The Cochituate Standpipe, built in 1869. Im proud of taking this picture!

Rembrandt’s Self Portrait at the Gardner Museum. It’s in Boston, why not see it? Rembrandt painted it at age 23! AMAZING!
Walk the entire Emerald Necklace. I have NOT done this all in one day, but I have visited all of the parks individually, will complete this summer though. I have completed the entire Emerald Necklace in one day (someday I’ll write about it, for now head over to Boston Urban Safari and check out Cristy’s perspective).
Chapel at MIT. Eero Saarinen. Sculpture by Harry Bertoia. Just beautiful, oh so beautiful. So so so so beautiful. I like sacred places. I really do.

Saarinens Chapel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Drink – Have a cocktail at Drink. Have “The Last Word” for me. Or anything with Chartreuse. ONLY 21+.

Drink. Photo: http://www.boston.com. This guy is always the one that makes my drinks. Hes excellent. They all are. I havent been in a while though.

Kayak/Canoe the Charles River. Do it.

Im the one on the back. I stole this from my friends FB page; the one in the front. Ill keep looking for my OWN photos.

What else would you recommend to Bostonians to add to their Bucket List. TRINITY CHURCH is a MUST!

Suffocating Boston’s Public Art

Source: generationsafterboston.org

The Boston Phoenix loves to frown upon EVERYTHING that is good. They blamed The Decemberists for the death of indie rock music and they referred the New England Holocaust Memorial as “a breathtaking banality.” Every year, the Phoenix publishes its “Best of Boston” issue, highlighting the best in everything that is OVERRATED in the city. With the help of Bostonians who vote for the best, I meant “most” (OVERRATED) burger joint, political blog, clothing store, favorite place to get a haircut for men and/or women and so on, Boston’s “alternative” newspaper is anything BUT alternative.

Highlighting everything that is overrated in Boston isn’t enough for The Boston Phoenix of course; they also invite anyone who doesn’t have a single clue about art and architecture to vote in the category for bad public art work. If a newspaper or magazine highlights the “Best of Boston” why not have a category for “Best Public Art Work?” and not the “Best of Bad Public Art?” Why not name the edition “Worst of Boston 2011” instead?

This year, the Best Bad Public Art Work category features, in the words of Chris Millis, works that exude “a breathtaking banality” like the boring, uninspiring and most literal representation of the Irish Famine memorials I have ever seen. The list also features Boston City Hall (a “brutalist” building as public art work, I think the listing instigates more hatred towards a building that is already much maligned among Bostonians) as well as other, once again, uninteresting public art works in Boston. Why not nominate EVERY single public work of art in the city (with the exception of the public art collection at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which is truly spectacular)?

The New England Holocaust Memorial is Boston’s most eloquent and powerful monument. Regardless of one’s race, nationality or creed, one cannot deny all the emotions and thoughts this memorial allows us to experience. Designed by Stanley Saitowitz and dedicated in 1995, the memorial features a long black granite path with six glass towers, allowing visitors to pass through each tower. Each square tower represents the major Nazi concentration camps and six million numbers in total are etched on all four sides of the columns, one for every person killed in the concentration camps. If this wasn’t emotional enough, one walks through each tower surrounded by steam, yes, steam, to further emphasize the horrors of the gas chambers and incinerators during the Holocaust.

The Boston Globe’s architecture critic Robert Campbell considered the memorial a mix bag, “the good news is that the memorial is pretty successful urban design” but it was “…caught between a rock and a hard place:
the huge Boston City Hall on one side and the delicate old Blackstone Block –Boston’s last surviving chunk of 18th-century streetscape – on the other.” Overall, Campbell’s critique referred to the memorial as being over symbolic. This is true, but there are dozens of public art works in Boston that should be also on the list because let’s face it, why are we judging bad public art works in Boston when in the words of Mr. Campbell himself, “we lack a common visual language of public symbols”?

For as long as Boston continues to embrace its puritanical roots and ideals, its architecture and art will continue to suffocate.

Campbell’s quotes are taken from “A Matter of Design: Evaluating Boston’s Holocaust Memorial,” published on November 26, 1995 in The Boston Globe.

Photo Credit: Alice Chan, http://www.pbase.com/aichan/boston

Guest Contributor – Light Dancing on Water: The Charles River Esplanade

It was a visit to the Charles River Esplanade over fifteen years ago that convinced me to stay in Boston. Back then and even now, I write friends and family of that moment, describing how the sunlight danced on the surface of the silky blue waters. Over time, strolling the park’s various walkways and paths, I was motivated to pick up a camera so that I could show people the beauty before me and not just tell them about it.

I walk the Esplanade’s course at different times of the same day, as well as at different times of the year. Each instance always provides unexpected visual pleasures for me, from leaves on the ground to fish in the water. Only recently have I learned of the park’s origins: how the three mile stretch was created from landfill, and how the different pieces of the park, from the walkways and bridges to the playgrounds and boathouses, have evolved over the decades. It continues to evolve as caretakers balance environmental stewardship and cultural preservation with meeting the recreational needs of Boston’s residents.

I did not grow up in a big city. With its concrete and asphalt, albeit beautifully designed and executed concrete and asphalt, Boston can sometimes become overwhelming. In those moments, when I do feel the need for a respite, I make my way to the river and to the Esplanade. I have not left the city behind but I certainly feel closer to nature. And, I think that is the unique beauty of the Esplanade, enabling people to be both connected to their city life and to nature in a meaningful way.

 

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Cynthia Staples is a writer and photographer. Her work has appeared in several online and print publications including African Voices, Creativity Portal, Flashquake, F-Stop, the Seattle Times and more. Follow her musings at www.wordsandimagesbycynthia.wordpress.com and view more of her photography at www.photosbycynthia.smugmug.com.

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: #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: #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: #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: #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