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Old 04-29-2015, 11:29 AM   #21
JohnAKeith
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

I'M NOT ANSWERING THOSE QUESTIONS
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Old 04-29-2015, 02:04 PM   #22
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

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He and a handful of city officials, including the chief planner, Kairos Shen, toured New York City to check out its architecture. In that metropolis to the south, Walsh saw a city that consistently kicks our architectural asses: exciting building everywhere, much of it speculative—created by developers who relish taking financial and creative risks.
This is what makes me laugh. NYC is full of architecture more banal than what's going up in Boston. I can point out every single cheaply built condo/rental/hotel in the 5 boroughs that make what's going up in the SBW look downright magnificent. Even large scale projects here just end up being glass towers with a little flair to differentiate themselves. Look at the WTC, the towers aren't really interesting at all. Hudson Yards will be the same thing.

Sure there are a few interesting things going up but they are either small scale infill that can afford a competent architect or landmark buildings that pass the costs onto their rich residents (or shitty buildings that still charge unheard of prices... 432 Park Ave).

I've been saying it for years but the issue is one of scale. Anything built in Boston stands out because it's a small city. Do we need better designs, hell yes. But this article is just a continuation of the historical chip on the shoulder Boston has always had.
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Old 04-29-2015, 03:28 PM   #23
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

I don't find Boston so ugly. It is ridiculously expensive to live in, though!
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Old 04-29-2015, 05:38 PM   #24
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

When I talk to people from NYC who have visited Boston they all comment on how pretty a city it is. It's one thing I really miss. NYC has pretty parts but most of the city is a boring drosscape.
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Old 04-29-2015, 10:51 PM   #25
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

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When I talk to people from NYC who have visited Boston they all comment on how pretty a city it is. It's one thing I really miss. NYC has pretty parts but most of the city is a boring drosscape.
Boston is beautiful, especially in the late spring, summer and early fall. I don't think anyone debates that. You could even argue it's pretty in the winter too in a different way. It's tiny and walk-able in ways other large cities in the USA will never be outside of a specific district or two in one of those cities. It's quite unique among major American cities and special for that reason from an architecture and urban planning perspective.

All that said, NYC is vast but not a drosscape. Worcester is a drosscape. Rochester is a drossscape.
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Old 04-30-2015, 12:11 AM   #26
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

God, what I wouldn't give for one or two La Defense buildings... Calling it a 'miserable office park' pretty much reveals that Ms. Slade either a) is trying to be provocative in the way that 5 year-olds are provocative, b) really needs to see an office park, or c) nuts.
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Old 04-30-2015, 08:16 AM   #27
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

I still don't get the reaction to this article.

Are people not still upset about going from this:

To this: ?

The former wasn't some avant garde, starchitecture building.

Architecture isn't binary. We have a choice beside some shiny, deconstructionist Gehry monstrosity or the boring banal cheap-as-hell glass and/or pre-cast boxes that are currently littering the city.

Do you really walk around the Seaport and think, "Yes. This is perfect. This the best we could possibly hope for."?

I just don't see the harm in asking the powers that be to put a little thought, effort and capital into our built environment.
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Old 04-30-2015, 08:25 AM   #28
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

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I still don't get the reaction to this article.

[...]

Architecture isn't binary. We have a choice beside some shiny, deconstructionist Gehry monstrosity or the boring banal cheap-as-hell glass and/or pre-cast boxes that are currently littering the city.

Do you really walk around the Seaport and think, "Yes. This is perfect. This the best we could possibly hope for."?

I just don't see the harm in asking the powers that be to put a little thought, effort and capital into our built environment.
I don't think it's the sentiment itself people are taking issue with, it's the snobbish, abrasive, needlessly provocative tone of the writer. I get that it's probably more of an intellectual exercise to get people talking, but she just comes across badly.
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Old 04-30-2015, 08:33 AM   #29
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

Well, it's Boston Magazine. I guess I always expect that attitude going in.

But seriously, I get that. I think I was more focused on the meat rather than the presentation.
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Old 04-30-2015, 11:01 AM   #30
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

While I think the article is pretty dead on, her examples of "good" architecture are downright terrible.

How about some good Boston examples?

315 on A
Frankly, my favorite residential mid-rise in the city
Liberty Mutual Headquarters
Street level is meh, but that's a fault of the programming. The building itself is wonderfully contextual to the neighborhood
NB Headquarters
Yeah it's a boat, but it's sure as hell unique. And the street level is going to kill.

The Fenway developments may not be outstanding architecture, but as a full product it's really, really impressive. In scale I compare it to the 30s development along Comm Ave in Allston, and frankly it's worlds better than those buildings. They were also built during the last comparable building boom.

I also think Avalon Exeter came out very well. I think it's the best residential tower of the Pru complex.



Does Boston need more inspired designs for it's high-rises, and especially the Seaport? Yes. HOWEVER, what I think really needs to be pointed out are Boston's really amazing, consistent successes.
-Small infill. By and large, the best design happening are on our small lots. Half of the stuff in Southie is beautiful, the South End and Back Bay infill are also by and large very high quality.
-Urban Design. So many cities are either towers in the park, or at-grade parking with residential on top. While Boston does have a decent chunk of this, it is also fashioning entirely new, dense, mixed-use neighborhoods out of nothing. Fenway, NY Streets, Barry's Corner, New Balance, parts of Southie. I could keep going.
-Historic Reuse. Boston's always been pretty good about this, but it still needs to be noted. Innovative reuse of many industrial and commercial structures is pretty unique, and it happens with amazing consistency around here. Besides the myriad warehouse conversions to loft space, Converse, Dudley Square, even Filenes are pretty stellar examples, and there are many, many more.

What the article touched on but should have really hammered home is that the Seaport isn't so much an architectural disaster as a planning disaster. Those blocks should have been divided up into 6-12 parcels, with the inability to combine more than two parcels together. Then add in the arterial street grid plus the FAA height provisions, and it's as if the Seaport was designed for for boring, super-block failure. You can't blame a developer for being a developer. You can, however, blame the planning department for NOT PLANNING.

Terrible zoning and planning standards on "new" parcels (the greenway, Seaport, etc) are why the architecture there sucks. Not holding developers to their initial proposals and allowing value-engineering to turn an approved exciting building into a banal box is the second reason. The vast majority of the blame really is on the BRA not doing their job.
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Old 04-30-2015, 11:51 AM   #31
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

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Originally Posted by davem View Post
While I think the article is pretty dead on, her examples of "good" architecture are downright terrible.

How about some good Boston examples?

315 on A
Frankly, my favorite residential mid-rise in the city
Liberty Mutual Headquarters
Street level is meh, but that's a fault of the programming. The building itself is wonderfully contextual to the neighborhood
NB Headquarters
Yeah it's a boat, but it's sure as hell unique. And the street level is going to kill.

The Fenway developments may not be outstanding architecture, but as a full product it's really, really impressive. In scale I compare it to the 30s development along Comm Ave in Allston, and frankly it's worlds better than those buildings. They were also built during the last comparable building boom.
It's the lack of any mention of the good that gets me in that piece. Everything you've mentioned counts, along with the Pelli proposal at One Congress, The Boston Garden, the Tree House (which is the only one of those buildings that' I'd really put down as "adventurous"). Her only Boston-area "good" building is Novartis (not in Central Square, btw), which I'll admit is interesting, but I personally don't care for it.

Actually, she bases the whole piece on 30 Dalton without ever once mentioning that the much taller and more visible tower across the street IS a striking building, glass or no.

I'd also have liked to see her run with the discussion of Winthrop Square. She pans the proposals, so she's clearly looked them over, but this could have been a platform to applaud Accordia and call for the other developers to step up their game.
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Old 04-30-2015, 12:03 PM   #32
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

Meh. The gyst of the article is fine, although reading her thoughts on what is good or better, makes it clear her own understanding of urban design is severely lacking. Hammered home by her choices of good designs.

The presentation is poor and dangerous. There are some blanket statements and generalizations of local firms that are given without any backup or fear of repercussions. Saying all Boston firms low ball and bid super low blah blah is stupid and unbased. We all understand the tight margins in Boston. We also understand the competitive nature of bidding. You bid at a number you can get it done, make money, and not be the high bidder. Will construction costs in Boston being what they are, the cost of the land (particularly after being flipped upwards 2 or 3 times) drives the final product much more than the architectural firm.

The developer has much more control over this. The architecture firm can hold it's ground, and probably should somewhat more. But, they also don't want to get canned after hiring 6 or 7 people to support the new work load for the next 3 years.

It's an outside looking in approach and expression of point of view and opinion. Some of it is on point, just delivered with the smoothness of 60 grit sandpaper.

I won't call that journalism, but an op-ed piece of sensationalism.
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Old 05-01-2015, 07:35 AM   #33
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

This is such a poorly written article that it is hard to read. It is full of too much hyperbole that the points will likely be dismissed. However, I have to agree with the author on many of the points, especially the main one ... developers place very little value on true design quality. They build the equivalent of the granite counter top and stainless appliances. The kitchen still does not work but it is shiny.

Having said that. It is their prerogative. They only have to build what we will buy. And we buy it all the time. We all hate Wallmart, but shit-tons of people shop there because it makes financial sense to almost everyone. Does someone need to control this?

Boston has said that the city of Boston has to control this. Thus the BRA and thus the BCDC (who does an honorable job in my opinion). But the BRA has many masters, and the BCDC has no power. And should they? I dont know the answer to that question.

What is the truth (or my version of it)? I believe that the urban expression of any city is a direct representation of our values. Nothing can stop that. If we care more about reasonable rent, we will care less about the cladding of a building and care more about cost per square foot. If we care more about transit oriented development than a crown, we will build buildings that incorporate the existing transit system and V.E. the bric a brack at the top of the building. If we care more about getting to the airport in 15minutes(do not under value this) than we will accept shorter building.

Its organic folks. It happens. No-one controls any of it. Boston look the way it does because we as a whole CHOOSE for it to be so.

My advise to people that do not like it? Do some research, call a moving company, and find your urban Utopia for yourself.

cca

Ps. I am starting a new service that matches up people with their perfect cities. I charge a reasonable fee. <grin>
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Old 05-01-2015, 11:17 AM   #34
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

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This article is a polemic. It was clearly intended to be written as a polemic. I'm not sure why people are attacking it as such.
I know Rachel quite well. You need not read the tea leaves on what was going on in her head. Statler has already expressed it. The article is a great conversation-starter, meant to get us rushing to defend our respective tribal lines. And she's from Philly, hence its praise very early in the piece.

I will confess to being a victim of "at least it ain't a parking lot anymore" as much as anyone. She's right: a lot of our buildings are lame. I think we need to finish building a lame city before we can build a beautiful one. The difference between Boston and all the cities she compares us to is that we never finished Manhattanizing the core. Now that we are, we *need* to apparently do it wrong first before we can get it right.
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Old 05-01-2015, 11:25 AM   #35
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

Also, I haven't read everyone's comments... Did anyone else notice she says 30 Dalton will rise "26 stories?" I thought this board would appreciate that little slip up. Not entirely her fault, of course. The web editor at Cambridge Seven Associates must suffer from dyslexia: http://www.c7a.com/work/26967

I haven't found anything say the tower is 62 stories, though some places say 61.
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Old 05-01-2015, 11:34 AM   #36
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

As a point of reference...I spend a lot of time in DC and they have really terrible buildings sprouting all over, especially just outside city limits.

IMO, if Boston wants good architecture, the formula is relatively straight forward...but hard to implement politically.

BRA requires good city planning of itself

BRA asks developers for good architecture and materials

City allows developers to make money (height) so they can afford good architecture and materials

Upzone the city or parts of it so every project doesn't need a variance - lower risk and uncertainty for developers

Give NIMBYS a smaller voice
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Old 05-01-2015, 11:37 AM   #37
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

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Originally Posted by kjdonovan View Post
Also, I haven't read everyone's comments... Did anyone else notice she says 30 Dalton will rise "26 stories?" I thought this board would appreciate that little slip up. Not entirely her fault, of course. The web editor at Cambridge Seven Associates must suffer from dyslexia: http://www.c7a.com/work/26967

I haven't found anything say the tower is 62 stories, though some places say 61.
She also got TAT's name wrong it is The Architectural Team.
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Old 05-01-2015, 11:48 AM   #38
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

She wasn't talking about 1 Dalton the Four Seasons skyscraper she was talking about 30 Dalton which is the shorter second building so she actually was correct on that. She didn't say much at all about the largest projects being built in Boston in fact.

30 Dalton St.

Just curious to get people thoughts on this, but do a lot of people on here think that other cities for example San Francisco are building better buildings than Boston?

For Example a lot of what they are building doesn't seem that different to me... Same for most cities actually.
Examples:


or these


personally I like the Rincon Hill towers a lot but other than height and being thinner it doesn't seem all that different.
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Old 05-01-2015, 05:47 PM   #39
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?


Barcode Project by The Globetrotting Photographer


e-Architecture

Barcode Project in Oslo, a new midrise business district. All around the Sea Port's 250 foot height limit as well. We are getting royally screwed, at least on the Waterfront IMO.
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Old 05-01-2015, 07:11 PM   #40
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Re: Why is Boston So Ugly?

Wow thanks for the pictures. I will admit I looked mostly at SF and other US cities because the way development happens in Europe is so different but that is what the waterfront should be aiming for.

The building lots really needed to be made smaller that alone would have helped a lot. This is so frustrating to see.
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