What you actually do when you move out of a city is move into a car.
Ah – buildings for the Greenway! Thankfully the BSA is on top of things, and trying to push along planning for these empty spaces. Commercial properties? Ground floor retail? A building at Dewey Square? All the buildings ‘don’t have to be museums’? Brilliant – let’s hope we start to see some of these ideas unfold.
Putting an actual building at Dewey Square would be great – holding that space out front of South Station, and improving the streetscape along Summer Street. That, and I was just saying the other night while leaving the Fisherman’s Feast (in the North End) that what the Greenway seems to desperately need is a bar (really, more than one). It’s a strange scene there at night, with most people (it seems) just passing through the space – unless some special event is going on. I say dope little cafe by day, classy bar at night.
One thing I’m tired of hearing about is the scary shadows, blah blah blah. Sure, we need to be careful of blocking out the sun – but people have complained about tall buildings being suggested for the EAST of the Greenway. I’m not going to insult a ninjas intelligence and explain why that’s ridiculous – but c’mon son.
Project Presentation: Natural Fuse
Introduction by Mark Shepard
Recorded: September 18, 2009
Running time: 1:02:07
Presented as part of the public program series organized in conjunction with the Architectural League’s fall 2009 exhibition Toward the Sentient City.
For many of us these days, “home” is an idea constructed from several places – we live in social environments and neighborhoods composed of networked fragments that bridge huge geographical distances. Usman Haque will talk about such architectural issues with specific reference to “Natural Fuse,” his project for the League’s exhibition Toward the Sentient City. “Natural Fuse” is a city-wide network of electronically-assisted plants that act both as energy providers and and as a shared “carbon sink” resource. The project encourages collective cooperation in regulating energy consumption through a network of “circuit breakers” distributed throughout the city.
Usman Haque has created responsive environments, interactive installations, digital interface devices and massparticipation performances. His skills include the design of both physical spaces and the software and systems that bring them to life. As well as directing the work of Haque Design + Research he was until 2005 a teacher in the Interactive Architecture Workshop at the Bartlett School of Architecture, London.
::Video Sundays, or VS, is a weekly feature here on AMNP. For more architecture-related videos, click on any Sunday in the sidebar calendar, or on the ?videos? category in the ?archjutsu?section. And don?t hesitate to submit suggestions for video features to architecture[at]myninjaplease[dot]com::
Really, I love the idea that people are passionate about their city and their surroundings, but let’s get real here – these ninjas live in New York. When people here in the Bean started to freak out about Renzo Piano designing a 1,400 feet-tall skyscraper downtown, I understood where they were coming from – the thing would’ve been about 600 feet taller than Boston’s current tallest structure. But let me say it again – these ninjas live in New York.
Is Nouvel’s proposal tall? Of course – but it’s also SICK. Those shadows they show it casting in the video look like they’ll be pretty lost within all the others – it’s not like this tower will suddenly block the sky. Will some people lose specific views, and some direct sun? Yes, obviously – but that’s been going on for the past century in NYC.
My suggestion: if you don’t want a new skyscraper going in across the street, move to Brooklyn.
The Boston Society of Architects has announced a new design/ideas competition – entitled SHIFTboston – calling on participants to answer a deceivingly simple question: What if this could happen in Boston [‘this’ being your submission]. SHIFT is looking for the most radical ideas that could change Boston for the better, and create a more dynamic city. The winner will receive $1,000.00 – and, along with honored runners-up, will be exhibited across the city and as part of the SHIFTboston forum [which I believe has something to do with an exhibit at Boston’s ICA, which would be cool if true].
Long story short – here’s your chance to put your money design where your mouth is and propose your vision for a better Beantown. Personally, I’m feeling some pressure from my ego to enter – as I talk so much shit around here…
Overview of the Competition Brief
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
THINK PLAY THINK NEW THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX
The SHIFTboston Ideas Competition 2009 is calling on all innovators to submit the most provocative ideas for the City of Boston. SHIFT would like competitors to think: WHAT IF this could happen in Boston?
SHIFT seeks to collect visions that aim to enhance and electrify the urban experience in Boston. Innovative, radical ideas for new city elements such as public art, landscape, architecture, urban intervention and transportation. Competitors could explore topics such as the future city, energy efficiency and ecological urbanism.
YOU TELL US.
Submissions are due on December 11th, and require a $35 entry fee [pretty cheap, if you ask me].
Now, to piggy-back on to this topic of improving the Hub – why isn’t the Rose Kennedy Greenway a runaway success? The Boston Globe raises the question today, to which I’d like to respond with another question: why should it be?
Diagrammatically, the Greenway is little more than a green roof over the now subterranean expressway [as the Globe points out] – and in reality, the park does little to shake this fact. For those of you not familiar with the project, the Greenway is a narrow band of green surrounded by traffic [I’d estimate that if you combined the roads on either side of the Greenway, then they would be wider than the park itself]. There is little protection from the elements, and nearly no ‘privacy’ from passing traffic. Having lunch on many parts [not all] of the Greenway is like eating on a traffic island.
Now, all of this criticism is incredibly unfair. Local firms are still in the process of designing structures for the Greenway, and the trees and other vegetation haven’t had adequate time to fill in and create a sense of ‘place’ and ‘park’. I’m sure in another 5 years or so it will be a much different, and more successful, place.
BUT, with that said – does Boston need another un-programmed park? The Boston Common is less than a 10 minute walk away, with the Public Gardens just past that. Within the Common and Gardens you nearly have the sense of leaving the city amongst the towering trees and hilled landscape – like a mini Central Park. If you’d prefer something along the water, try the Esplanade – where there is a continuous park along the Charles River, reached by pedestrian bridges to avoid getting run-down by a Masshole. If you need more than that, there’s Commonwealth Ave down to the Fens, into Jamaica Pond and eventually the Arboretum – Boston’s ‘Emerald Necklace‘. Then drop on top of all that the unique neighborhood parks – Pope John Paul park is less than a 10 minute walk from my apartment, and provides a number of beautiful spaces along the Neponset River.
Basically, we’ve got parks and open space – ‘more’ isn’t better. Other than providing a place for workers to eat outside on nice days and a brief patch of green for tourists to walk through on their way from the Aquarium to Faneuil Hall, what is the function of the greenway? Who is it meant to attract? What happens there?
For any of you interested in the SHIFTboston competition, I’d suggest looking at the Greenway as a way to transform the city. Open space in Downtown Boston is a rare thing, and the Greenway could be put to better / more interesting + dynamic use.
[images: Chicago 1000011101, by Joe Valerioa of Valerioa Dewalt Train]
Really, who doesn’t like extraordinary visions of the future of our cities? For instance, how about a 22nd century city covered in a transparent, biologically engineered, thermochromatic skin – which traps heat, that then rises through solar towers to power wind turbines [seen in the two images here]. Like a city covered in plastic wrap.
That’s what Joe Valerioa has proposed for Big. Bold. Visionary. – 22nd visions of Chicago, proposed in celebration of the centennial of the Burnham Plan. In considering the next century, contributors envisioned 22nd century big plans for the city, urban catalysts, public spaces, the Lakefront, towers, and transportation projects – all of which are on display through October 11th at 72 East Randolph Street, Chicago.
In 1909, Daniel H. Burnham and Edward Bennett helped Chicagoans look at the rapidly industrializing city with new eyes. Their 165-page Plan of Chicago presented a comprehensive rethinking of the entire region – from Kenosha to Dekalb to Michigan City. It was a vision for Chicago in the 20th century. And it established a precedent of dreaming big and thinking boldly that every generation of Chicagoans since has firmly embraced. This exhibition taps current Chicago architects, planners, and landscape architects for their visions of the city and region in the 21st century and beyond.
Some are comprehensive – proposing radically different forms that might someday make Chicago a place unrecognizable to our contemporary eyes. Some are simply big – tall new towers and vast urban spaces that could transform the skyline and the neighborhoods in which they are proposed. Others are big ideas – seemingly small inventions that if implemented could catalyze the city and region’s way of life for the better.
These proposals represent the best thinking of Chicago today. The ideas are rich and diverse, representative of many cultures and ideas that have made this city the world capital of Architecture. All are fundamentally Big, Bold, and Visionary – in the mold of Daniel Hudson Burnham.
Lots of interesting, thought provoking work that you should definitely go check out – in person, if possible, but at least view the images featured online here.
[Sectional perspective of underground city – click images for larger view]
An underground Venice in the US Southwest? My ninjas, please. This was my second reaction to this project – after my inner sci-fi / dystopian fiction geek and Frank Herbert fan thought, “yeah, this is pretty dope – and I’d probably be down to live there”.
My peculiar willingness to live in a dystopian, water-starved future aside, the Sietch Nevada – designed by MATSYS for “Out of Water: Innovative technologies in arid climates”, exhibited earlier in ’09 at the University of Toronto – attempts to address the very real issue of the future of the increasingly arid American Southwest.
Lured by cheap land and the promise of endless water via the powerful Colorado River, millions have made this area their home. However, the Colorado River has been desiccated by both heavy agricultural use and global warming to the point that it now ends in an intermittent trickle in Baja California. Towns that once relied on the river for water have increasingly begun to create underground water banks for use in emergency drought conditions. However, as droughts are becoming more frequent and severe, these water banks will become more than simply emergency precautions.
Inverting the stereotypical Southwest urban patterns of dispersed programs open to the sky, the Sietch is a dense, underground community. A network of storage canals is covered with undulating residential and commercial structures. These canals connect the city with vast aquifers deep underground and provide transportation as well as agricultural irrigation. The caverns brim with dense, urban life: an underground Venice.
[View of the urban life among the water bank canals]
MATSYS has rooted the concept of this proposal, quite seriously, in the world created in the Dune novels. This fictional universe focuses on an arid planet, where the indigenous people live in ‘sietch‘ communities in the desert – conserving, recycling, and worshiping their water. Applying this concept to the American Southwest, MATSYS has created a subterranean city – taking the idea of waterbanking one step further, creating an underground canal system that both provides water to the inhabitants and allows for necessary irrigation of the proposed garden spaces in the center of each of the sietch’s cells.
This cellular structure, in plan, allows for the large underground structures seen in the rendering above – while creating large open spaces that open both to the sky or to the newly-formed cavernous world below. Those cells that open to the desert are terraced to allow for urban agricultural project, while those below open to create large civic spaces for public use – much like any other city.
[Plan above ground (left) and below ground (right)]
The grim idea that we will need to retreat below-ground due to catastrophe aside, the concept of a subterranean metropolis carries fascinating implications. Would this be ‘greener’ than our current development? Could people really live like this, below ground, without being pushed to do so by some kind of devastating disaster?
Pretty sick, I think – no matter how you look at it.
How can a struggling country break out of poverty if it’s trapped in a system of bad rules? Economist Paul Romer unveils a bold idea: “charter cities,” city-scale administrative zones governed by a coalition of nations. (Could Guantanamo Bay become the next Hong Kong?)
::Video Sundays, or VS, is a weekly feature here on AMNP. For more architecture-related videos, click on any Sunday in the sidebar calendar, or on the ‘videos’ category in the ‘archjutsu’section. And don’t hesitate to submit suggestions for video features to architecture[at]myninjaplease[dot]com::
“They were discriminating towards art. They were discriminating towards a community.”
I’ve always been a big fan of murals in the city, ever since I was a child. First and foremost, let’s be real – they’re pretty awesome looking. Aesthetics aside, tho, they serve a number of other important functions that can’t be overlooked. They’re a great way to get young people feeling involved in their community, and give them an artistic outlet. The murals can also serve a number of historical and cultural purposes – sometimes they depict important historical figures, sometimes they remember musicians we all loved an miss, some capture ethnic/cultural periods of an area, and others attempt to lay out the history of a neighborhood. All are important pieces of the ‘story’ of a particular community – even the paintings of Marley and Big Pun.
Today’s Boston Globe features a story about a group of young artists working on such a mural in Boston’s Dudley Street neighborhood, a part of Roxbury. Now without getting too too deep into the history, [as I am not familiar, admittedly, with all the details], Dudley had a rough go of it in the 80s and 90s. Poverty, violence, depreciating property values – its a familiar, and sad, story of the city. The artists, working as part of Boston’s summer jobs program, planned to tell the history of the area in it’s mural – showing how the community has weathered these adversities, and how it has responded and grown. From Boston.com:
“It gives you like an important feeling,” said Randy Vicente, an 18-year-old from Hyde Park. “You don’t want to put just anything on the wall. It seemed like we had the perfect idea.”
Carlos Santiago, the 25-year-old lead artist, refers to his fellow painters as ‘my crew’, and relishes the speckles of paint on his plaid shorts, T-shirt, and white Nike high-tops. He conceived not only of the first frame, representing the neglect, but also the subsequent frames that showed members of the community picking up trash, turning vacant lots into community gardens, holding signs that say, “Don’t dump on us,” and admiring yellow and purple affordable houses “that are actually nice, that you can live in.”
“But the MBTA, which owns the East Cottage Street wall where the mural is located, told them their depiction of the neighborhood’s roughest days was too negative, that images of fires and words such as disinvestment and arson could not be used, according to the artists, members of Cape Verdean Community Unido. In essence, they said, they were asked to whitewash history.”
Now, I was simply going to link to this article in the sidebar, and say something about how the T should take it’s collective head out of its ass – but there’s more to this than all that. This area of Boston – along with many others – has gone through what can only be described, in my mind, as a fucked-up couple of decades. That’s just the way it is. One might argue the degree to which the area was having problems – and the causes – but we can’t ignore that these problems existed.
And that’s what a whitewashed mural – obviously – is doing.
Let’s not kid ourselves – nobody from the community needs to be reminded of the issues they faced in the past, and perhaps continue to face today. They know the deal, so to speak. But part of the importance of the mural is that it informs young people – and, more importantly in my mind, newcomers – of the area’s past. It’s a reminder of what was. Dudley is undergoing changes, and is one of the latest areas in Boston to see the signs of possible gentrification – it will almost certainly see a huge increase in its “yuppy” population in the future. As the social fabric of the area changes, it should not forget itself – nor should city agencies [like the MBTA] attempt to ‘clean-up’ the neighborhood’s story.
This isn’t an ‘anti-gentrification’ argument – as in, shove some murals in the face of the yuppies to remind them they’re not really from the neighborhood. To the contrary, the influx of some economic diversity into regions of the city can be a great thing – and I hope it works out for Dudley. The issue here, however, is that in ‘forgetting’ – or ‘whitewashing’ – the history of our urban neighborhoods, we leave ourselves open to repeating the past. And, worse than that, we run the risk of pointing ‘blame’ at the wrong people – or of assuming that gentrification itself is what ‘improved’ the area.
I don’t really believe that any newcomer to Dudley, or any other part of the city, will be totally blind to the area’s past – but the mural is a way for the current residents to tell their own story, in their own way. And that story isn’t simply that things are all good and the future is bright – it’s deeply rooted in the area’s past, and how the community got itself to where it is today. To attempt to subdue or erase these memories is to deprive the people who have worked so hard to build and improve this community [and others] of proper credit – and robs the neighborhood of aspects of itself that make it what it is today, and what it will be in the future.
[Oh, AND you’re crushing the artistic vision of our citys youth, you bastards]