Medieval Boston (photos and commentary)

Messages
63
Likes
0
Points
4
#22
thanks for sharing. I've always been interested in the CA/T and its history. Thou I agree in many instances compelte tabula rasa might be un-necessary, i disagree with the statement about "Corbusier’s revenge on the city." and indeed planner's generally negative opinion of him.

As an architect and a planning student, I think his intentions are frequently misunderstood by (esp) american planners (because corbusian-ish projects in the US invariably failed). This failure however, was brought about by the lack of "software" to complement the hardware architecture intentions, as well as blind copying by city planners. If social engineering and more contenxtual thought were given, the result would have been different. There are places that stand testament to this, esp in east and southeast asian cities.

Also, some food for thought: If we didn't build "corbusian slabs", would the tiny and cramped town houses still be relevant? If there were no skyscrapers, what would the city have become? Nothing is permanent except change. To blame the legacy of the BRA is unfair, they did what they thought was best at the time, same as what we all are doingto our cities now. (in less ambitious ways.. to be frank, not that we don't want to - but we can't anymore. I think the big dig is probably the last citywide mega-project we'll ever see in our lifetime.)
 

ablarc

Cyburbian
Messages
713
Likes
1
Points
20
#23
silentvoice said:
As an architect and a planning student, I think his intentions are frequently misunderstood by (esp) american planners (because corbusian-ish projects in the US invariably failed). This failure however, was brought about by the lack of "software" to complement the hardware architecture intentions, as well as blind copying by city planners. If social engineering and more contenxtual thought were given, the result would have been different. There are places that stand testament to this, esp in east and southeast asian cities.
You're right that Ville Radieuse works better elsewhere than here, but not by much, and mostly because until recently we've had more severe social problems than the other places you mention.
 
Messages
285
Likes
0
Points
10
#24
The Old West End and the Sterile Results

I just stumbled onto this website while looking for pics of urban Boston before the Central Artery was put in. This subject is one of endless fascination to me, partly as a history nut and a political junkie. In this town, you sometimes can't have one without the other.

If you look closely at the pics of the West End once all those streets were demolished, you'll see a building (one of the few left) with a wide porch and Corinthian columns. That's the only church to have survived the wrecking ball in the entire neighborhood - St. Joseph's. I got to know a great number of displaced West Enders as a parishioner there, and to hear their stories was heartbreaking. Some of those older folks never recovered. There were lucky ones who were able to move up to the North Slope of Beacon Hill, which itself always had a bad rep, but it wasn't the same.

The problem with this endeavor was that it involved a huge amount of collusion and back-room shenanigans to make it happen. Eminent domain was invoked to assure no slowdowns in the name of 'progress'. And we will be doomed to watch history repeat itself with regard to the proposals for the new space opened up by the Big Dig. Honey Fitz may have gotten an expressway named after him, but his daughter Rose won't get her park. Boston politics has a lot of little Neros and they are running around playing 'keep-away' while Rome decays.

If you walk through the Charles River Park Complex now the first thing you notice is the landscaping. It's beautifully done, always pleasing. But then you notice other things like the small signs admonishing you to keep off the grass, directional signs which take you deeper into the complex without a sense of visual reference and then the most glaring one: no children. No neighborhood. No schools. Perhaps it was coincidence, but wasn't this also around the time when many families started leaving for the burbs? The busing issue hadn't come to a head yet, but I'm sure it had begun to be discussed.

The thing I heard over and over from those former West Enders was that the street - using the environment as the playground - was the thing that kept the neighborhood cohesive. That and being self-contained within one's neighborhood, like the North End. This is what makes the arrondisements of Paris function - everything you need for daily survival is within walking distance. It is rather medieval in some ways, but that's not a bad thing.
 
Messages
1,519
Likes
0
Points
21
#26
Really enjoyed the pictures and comments. I lived in Boston in the early 70s...worked at Mass. General Hospital so I could really see what you were talking about. Thanks.
 

Luca

Cyburbian
Messages
1,146
Likes
0
Points
20
#27
Hey, Abalrc, It's be great if you produced a PDf out of this threatd's initial post, I'd like to keep it... veyr good
 

chukky

Cyburbian
Messages
363
Likes
0
Points
12
#28
talking of which, there's not been An Ablarc Photothread in ages.... not since the Governer's Island hypothetical if memeory serves.

Where in the world is Ablarc?
 
Messages
916
Likes
0
Points
21
#29
Where in the world is Ablarc?
I had been wondering that myself. I speculate he tired of trying to "convert" planners about the mess euclidean zoning has made or he has more than enough real work now to keep himself busy and satisfied. Maybe we'll get to see some of it in the future.
 
Messages
1
Likes
0
Points
0
#30
ablarc said:
And yet this building won every prize there was to win at the time. For a decade or two it was the most imitated building in the U.S. Virtually every city or town has one or two watered-down replicas.

Sic transit gloria mundi.
Semper Uberae Uberibum
It was designed by a team from Haavaad, and the "prizes" came from associations/organizations that included, you guessed it, Haavaad alumni. One more example of the old boy network congratulating itself.
Government Center is a monstrosity and while the concept of "infinite" space might have been the pretentious flavor of the day, the plaza is an enormous amount of wasted, yes wasted, underutilized, and poorly planned space for such a small city like Boston.
 

jeff007

     
Messages
2
Likes
0
Points
0
#31
Ugly and Stupid Monstrosity but thats what happens

I won't debate with those of you whowere born in Boston, as I ahve only lived here now for four years. I can understand the disappointment and resentment towards the city for demolishing amazing historical structures. And as a former BU student I really do empathize with you on the structures that replaced the old neighborhoods. As I was forced to endure the look of the Student Union building and the Law School Building, both of which you can tell were part of a modern builders dream. Of course time has shown that the style is awful, and the design physically has been sub par.
Regardless, as I grew up just out side of NY, and grew up in a New England town on the coast, I can say that this has and will always occur. As I have viewed hundreds and thousands of pictures, and heard stories from relatives of where and what they grew up around. Therefore it is with great conviction that I say that statement that it must happen, for only cities with growth and wealth opportunities make those decisions. If the neighborhoods and buildings remain the same and growth is stagnant, then there is no need to change the citys layout.
It is a natural consequence, the only option although sad is to save the buildings with the greatest significance and history.
 
Messages
1
Likes
0
Points
0
#32
Interesting how they claimed vandalism to be "urban renewal". Maybe "urban renewal" should join the words to ban thread. And Government Center really looks like a candidate for ugliest building ever.

City Hall certainly is a candidate, but without a doubt the ugliest building in the world goes to the Campus Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. I can't post a link since this is only my first post, but man, it is an eye sore. People like to joke that you get the best view of campus from that building because you don't have to see it!

Oh well, once I hit 5 posts, I'll put up a picture of it.
 
Messages
3,866
Likes
0
Points
23
#33
Semper Uberae Uberibum
It was designed by a team from Haavaad, and the "prizes" came from associations/organizations that included, you guessed it, Haavaad alumni. One more example of the old boy network congratulating itself.
Government Center is a monstrosity and while the concept of "infinite" space might have been the pretentious flavor of the day, the plaza is an enormous amount of wasted, yes wasted, underutilized, and poorly planned space for such a small city like Boston.
Given the number of concerts and special events held there (including Patriots Super Bowl championship celebrations) I wouldn't conclude that the space is wasted. There aren't many useful gathering place downtown so I think it serves that purpose well. Plus, I like all the stairs because you can get a great view of that section of the city from all angles.
 

BKM

Cyburbian
Messages
6,465
Likes
0
Points
29
#34
Given the number of concerts and special events held there (including Patriots Super Bowl championship celebrations) I wouldn't conclude that the space is wasted. There aren't many useful gathering place downtown so I think it serves that purpose well. Plus, I like all the stairs because you can get a great view of that section of the city from all angles.

Wow. This is the first post or paragraph I've read (outside the Fortress of Modern Architectural Theory (tm)) defending the Boston Civic Center. It's cool to see a different opinion. Haven't experienced the place myself, so...
 
Messages
43
Likes
0
Points
2
#35
It may not be wasted, but it sure is hideous. There are occasional events that happen there, but most of the year, and most hours of the day (outside of morning and afternoon rush hours), the place is a desolate and cold expanse that is like a void in the middle of a vibrant urban district.
 
Messages
3,866
Likes
0
Points
23
#36
It may not be wasted, but it sure is hideous. There are occasional events that happen there, but most of the year, and most hours of the day (outside of morning and afternoon rush hours), the place is a desolate and cold expanse that is like a void in the middle of a vibrant urban district.
It is surrounded by major activity centers so I don't think it needs to be a vibrant place. And while it is wide open it is certainly not desolate; there is even a T stop there. It is an unusual place but I don't think this is neccessarily a bad thing. Not every place in the city needs to function in the clockwork urban pattern.
 
Messages
68
Likes
0
Points
4
#37
It is surrounded by major activity centers so I don't think it needs to be a vibrant place. And while it is wide open it is certainly not desolate; there is even a T stop there. It is an unusual place but I don't think this is neccessarily a bad thing. Not every place in the city needs to function in the clockwork urban pattern.
What should be a major center of civic engagement is instead a monument to the hubris of failed modernist planning and architectural theory.

Fortunately Boston was vibrant enough to survive I.M. Pei's architectural death star, but raze enough of your traditional urbanism to build those "unusual spaces" and you end up with incoherent, cancerous mass like Houston or Atlanta.
 

mendelman

Unfrozen Caveman Planner
Moderator
Messages
12,048
Likes
22
Points
33
#39
I don't understand why these buildings are referred to as "medieval". Doesn't that imply the period between the 10th century and the 13th, roughly?
The term applies less to the actual buildings, and more about the urban form (ie street pattern(s), extensive mixed uses, etc.)
 

KSharpe

Cyburbian
Messages
744
Likes
0
Points
18
#40
Medieval?

I don't understand why these buildings are referred to as "medieval". Doesn't that imply the period between the 10th century and the 13th, roughly?
 
Top