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Old 06-17-2012, 11:53 PM   #135
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Lexington
Posts: 6,519
Re: New residential mid-tower set for Pier 4

Originally Posted by itchy View Post
Most of what characterizes the Back Bay is short, no? The Hancock and Pru and a cast of lesser buildings are in the Back Bay, but this probably isn't what most people think of when they talk about the Back Bay, is it?

Regardless of height, the pre-war characteristics of the Back Bay -- small plots, diversified architecture, good mix of residential, retail and office -- could have been applied here. But they weren't ... and when you have a neighborhood where every block is a building and every building is a block, the most you can hope for is that some of those buildings be eye-catching or interesting as you've got bad bones from the get-go.
Itch -- the Back Bay and the South End had and have plenty of 19th Century Cookie Cutter buildings --its just not on the major streets where the rich folk built and could hire the best in architects.

It's not necessary or necessarily even desireable that each building be a direct competitor with its neighbors -- its much more important that to a large extent necessary that it be a good neighbor to its neighbors. The reason the Back Bay is successful is that as you go along block by block the architecture slowly evolved in time and the buildings reflect that process. The other thing that works in the Back Bay is that there are some very nice buildings that stand out from the others in style and finish -- but don't overpower them (with a few exceptions).

When calling for small blocks, like the Back Bay -- you've got to remember that the plan for filling assumed that all of the lots were laid-out for single family houses with the only exception being the churches. When the Back Bay was being constructed no one imagined Newbury Street or Boylston Street to be today's continuous strips of commerce - -and of course no one could imagine a JH tower (old or new).

Today - essentially all that you can afford to build in a valuable downtown area such as the SPID are steel or concrete frame structures with whatever type of cladding strikes your fancy hung on the frame. These kinds of buildings are much larger than the Back Bay single family houses (even if the families were quite large and wealthy) which were built out of masonry and wood -- no structural frame buildings. They perforce end up being sited on much larger plots and so there will be a lot fewer of these kinds of buildings.

However, while a challenge -- these larger buildings can still work-out well if they are neighborly to:
a) the pedestrian on the near sidewalk -- ground level activity and some interesting things at or slighly above walking eye field of view
b) the driver or rider on the street -- mostly how one building related to its neighbors shoulder to shoulder and across the street
c) pedestrian approaching from some distance -- say exiting from the T Station -- the overall view of the building from the ground up at least a few floors

Howerever, except for the view from a downtown highrise, a harbor ferry or landing at Logan - -the tops of the buildings in the SPID aren't all that important.
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