INNOVATIONWhile Boston has a reputation for resisting innovation, technological and architectural breakthroughs have nonetheless defined the city's growth. America'sfirst college, first public park, first free public library, and first subway system were all championed and carried out by Bostonians. The city's ingenuity and rich academic environment inspired inventions like the telephone and the Polaroid camera. Even New Year's Eve found new life in Boston's First Night. Boston's architectural legacy is equally forward thinking. Charles Bulfinch, H.H. Richardson and Frederick Law Olmstead, three seminal American designers, made Boston their home and testing ground. MIT opened the first architectural school in the country. Boston went on to become a haven of the Modernist movement, embracing architects from Walter Gropius to Paul Rudolph. The city's creative muscle continues to be flexed by projects like the John Hancock Tower, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Simmons Hall, and the Harbor Islands Pavilion, all of which keep Boston at the forefront of design and maintain its position as a pillar of innovation.
RENEWALThe word "renewal" has a particular connotation in the city of Boston. Inextricably linked to the destruction of the city center, the infamous urban renewal project that created City Hall Plaza is not the only example of Boston's willingness to remake its urban landscape. Over the last four centuries, renewal has continually pushed Boston into the future. Landmaking literally expanded it's city limits, fostering a new intellectual and cultural center in the Back Bay. The clean up of Boston Harbor and the Charles River has invited the city to it's waterfront, creating an entirely new attraction for residents and tourists to enjoy. Even the scar left by the federal highway projects of the 1960s has become the connective tissue between neighborhoods in the Southwest Corridor. And while the more recent Big Dig has left its own mark running through the heart of the city, the size and the scope of the Rose Kennedy Greenway echoes the city's legacy of revitalization. Despite the contention around the Greenway's nature and goal, only time will reveal the project's ultimate contribution to Boston's public space.
RESPONSIVEIn a city dominated by landmarks and historic buildings, new architecture and public works must respond to the existing fabric of the city. Additions such as the Harvard Science Center and the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum rest on a delicate balance between technology and aesthetic, conservation and augmentation. The result is a reciprocity that benefits new institutions as well as the existing landscape, securing the city's future without debasing it's past.
ADAPTIVE REUSEThe sheer quantity of centuries-old buildings throughout Boston often requires a creative approach to development. Rather than tear down the architecture of the past and alter the city's character, architects and artists in Boston have enthusiastically tackled the problem of obsolescense by re-purposing outdated structures. The Ames Building, the Hayden Building, Faneuil Hall and the Liberty Hotel are just a few examples of Boston's imaginative philosophy toward conservation.
PRESERVATIONThe history of Boston is the history of a new and growing nation. Its buildings are linked to the establishment of independence and the creation of a national consciencem and consequently the brick and mortar of these structures carry the weight of historical significance. Buildings like the Old South Meeting House and Kings Chapel hold this kind of palpable national importance, requiring careful attention and accuracy from the people restoring them.
LANDThe natural shape of land typically defines and constricts a city's limits, but Boston has always defied it's own boundaries. Over the course of four centuries, the city has reshaped itself time and again through the process of landmaking. Using massive resources and cutting edge techniques, new spaces were built for the population to flourish. The Back Bay, one of Boston's most iconic neighborhoods, simply did not exist before it was raised out of the sea and fashioned into the cultural and intellectual heart of the city. Boston's aggressive landmaking has also redefined the relationship between architecture and the city's waterront. Some of Boston's most recognizable buildings - the Custom House, Faneuil Hall, Quincy Market - were all originally built at the water's edge, serving a bustling and ever-expanding port. Over time, that busy port claimed more and more of the sea, eventually landlocking the buildings that once served it. Today, those structures have been forced to adapt, taking on new roles and integrating theselves into a city of constantly evolving edges.
CAMPUSWith more than 250,000 students in the surrounding area, Boston is truly a city of campuses. While the crush of students can seem overwhelming today, the influence exerted by these academic institutions is not new: Harvard and MIT developed alongside the city itself, creating an unprecedented educational environment that shaped the city's growth. These campuses, as well as Boston University, Boston College, and 50 others, have defined the neighborhoods around them, fostering a unique sense of place through their architecture and public art. The community of educators and students fostered by these colleges have made Boston a hive of new ideas and innovative thinking. Universities have capitalized on this intellectual energy, paving the way for the country's leading designers to experiment in form and aesthetic. H.H. Richardson, Eero Saarinen, Joseph Lluis Sert, and Steven Holl are just a few of the many architects who have created in this rich educational environment. It is a relationship that Boston's academic institutions have maintained and cultivated, bringing extraordinary designers and their work to the city via academia.
SCALEIn its early years, Boston was a city of cowpaths. Each improvised road went exactly where it needed, connecting America's first citizens to each other without the rigidity of the street grid many cities favor today. This unique urban fabric has resulted in a tangle of one way streets, odd intersections, bizarrely shaped buildings, and a long list of solutions to fix it. As the city grew and expanded, large infrastructure and urban design projects from the Prudential Tower to the Greenway were superimposed on the original cityscape with varying degrees of success. Each project attempted to work within this unique framework, while addressing the public's needs and desires. City Hall Plaza, for example, provided a necessary hardscape for public events. The advent of the subway system as well as a series of roadways, such as the O'Neill Tunnel, decongested and enlivened the city center. At the city's edge, the Charles River Dam and the Harbor Walk transformed the waterfront into a vital public space. While big urban moves are never without opportunity to reinvest the city's connective fabric should never be overlooked.
Boston, Massachusetts - Landmaking from 1630 - Present Day