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Old 08-23-2009, 04:43 PM   #1
vanshnookenraggen
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The Best of Boston 2000-2009

The last 10 years have been good for the nation and Boston in particular. I moved to Boston in the summer of 1999 and have watched the city change since. It is amazing how long 10 years really is; In 1999 there was a highway, today there are parks. So many new buildings have gone up that I feel it is appropriate to reflect on what we have been given.

This is a list, and there are always lists, that I have compiled independently of what I feel are the best new buildings constructed and opened in the last 10 years. I didn't run this by anyone and I want this thread to be full of other people's lists as well. The point of making a list like this, after all, is to get people talking about it. So with out further ado, here are the 12 best, judged on scale, quality of design, quality of materials, and how well a building enhances the urban landscape.

12. Blackfan Life Science Center


Photo from SkyscraperPage

http://www.tka-architects.com/

The Blackfan Boston Center for Life Science stands out both in design excellence and in importance to the economy of Boston by helping to further cement Boston's place in the Health Sciences. Design wise the Center is tops off the Longwood Medical Area nicely and fits into a very tight plot of land with grace.

11. State Street Financial Center


Photo by Garrett A. Wollman

http://www.elkus-manfredi.com/

The State Street Financial Center (formerly One Lincoln) stands out as one of the finest skyscrapers in all of downtown with a commanding positing at the edge of the Financial District that creates a dramatic gateway to the city from the south. The design of the building is Postmodern Neo-Art Deco with a beautiful transition from stone to glass topped off with geometric details that a lesser firm would have overlooked.

10. Richard E. Griffin Academic Center


Rendering by Perkins+Will

http://www.perkinswill.com/

In an area that has seen many new buildings in the last 10 years, the Griffin Academic Center on Huntington Ave dramatically makes it's presence known. The sharp triangular building perfectly balances the more traditional elements of the older apartment buildings with a more modern style that isn't overdone (or more usually underdone).

9. Boston Children's Museum Expansion


Photo by Robert Benson

http://www.c7a.com/

One of the most unique and treasured museums in Boston, the expansion of the Children's Museum gave the Fort Point neighborhood a bridge between the stately warehouses of the early 20th century and the new environmental needs of the early 21st by being Boston's first Gold LEED certified museum. The landscaping and quality materials used are a refreshing change to the more banal office and hotel towers going up further out in the South Boston Waterfront.

8. 111 Huntington


Photo by marc krutiak

http://www.cbtarchitects.com/

There was always a feud of sorts playing out in the Back Bay between the John Hancock Tower and the Prudential. So for being able to hold it's own in the eternal urban stalemate, 111 Huntington will forever be a part of the image of Boston, even if it does have a funny hat.

7. Macallen South Boston


Photo from Boston Real Estate Observer

http://www.landworks-studio.com/

Boston isn't known for being a city with particularly contemporary architecture so the Sandcrawler which hangs out by the Southeast Expressway seems like a breath of fresh air. There really isn't anything quite like it almost anywhere and if you were to show an architect a picture of it without telling them where it was they would probably guess Rotterdam or Berlin. For finding a slick way to fit into a very tight spot, Macallen easily ranks as one of the best of the decade.

6. UMass Boston Campus Center


Photo from MassGov

http://www.kmwarch.com/

The campus for UMass Boston is notorious for resembling a fortress jutting out into the harbor; imposing on the horizon, dark and foreboding inside. In a wonderful reversal the new campus center brings in the light and air it's harborside perch affords it and makes college life actually enjoyable. The building is as dramatic as it is practical and is a powerful face lift for an important institution.

5. 45 Province St


Photo by James Sinclair aka jass

http://www.45province.com/

45 Province could have gone down as just another nameless condo tower in any-city-USA. Replacing a parking garage in a forgotten street downtown, 45 Province put Downtown Crossing on the map like no other building could (in a positive way, let's try and forget One Franklin). The tower soars skyward with a simple but effective use of balconies that would seem messy on a fatter building, but grace the slender tower like a dress on a 1920's flapper (naked back and all). Even more importantly is how the tower addresses the street; most new condo buildings stick a bank in and leave a cold blank streetwall to intimidate pedestrians but 45 Province actually improved the streetscape with plantings and an appropriate scale.

4. FP3


Photo from Hacin+Associates

http://www.hacin.com/

In an area that is equally known for bland office parks and cutting edge architecture, FP3 sets the bar very high for quality of design, not just in Boston but nationwide. The building incorporates two former Boston Wharf Co. buildings and balances old and new with a quality that few have matched. The passer by might not even notice the new building but from the stunning roof you can see that FP3 has some of the most cutting edge residential architecture in the city. It is the brightest spot in an area that has largely disappointed.


3. ICA


Photo from Diller+Scofidio

http://www.dillerscofidio.com/

The new ICA is a building of it's time like no other. The first new museum in Boston in 100 years, the Institute needed something to set them apart and no one can deny that Diller and Scofidio's innovative design achieves more than the Institute could have dreamed. Situated on one of the most dramatic plots of land in the city, the ICA speaks to the history of Boston while continuing it's drive to always be moving forward. It will be interesting to see how newer development treats the ICA; will it continue to stand out or be drowned out by a chorus of imitators?

2. Honan-Allston Branch Library


Photo from Architecture Page

http://www.machado-silvetti.com/

The quiet elegance of the Honan-Allston Branch Library is proof that you don't need to be flashy and you don't need to be big to be noticed. Modernism is often derided, in part, because of the many small sterile boxes that have littered the landscape over the past 50 years. If this library was built 20 years ago there is no doubt you would never notice it apart from in a sea of other boring boxes. The Honan-Allston Branch Library is what Modernism was supposed to be, a new way of doing old things that addresses the needs of the future so to actually improve the lives of the people using the building.

1. Millennium Place


Photo from World Architects

http://www.handelarchitects.com

Good architecture isn't about what's hip right now, it's not about being the loudest in the room or hiding away in the corner, it's not about ego, it's not about drama. It's about creating a space that improves the lives of the people who interact with the building, inside or out. Millennium Place achieves this better than any other development in the last 10 years and accomplishes something damn near impossible to pull off; it stands out and it fits in.

Situated at the southeastern corner of the Common and bridging two neighborhoods, Millennium Place could have easily been another glass tower complex, sitting alone trying to stand out in a room full of glass towers sitting along, trying to stand out. You experience this building in so many different ways that most people aren't even aware of it. The entrance on Tremont St speaks to the old theater district and is so perfectly scaled to the streetwall that you could easily mistake it as 2 different buildings. The second floor walk to the movie theater has always made me feel like I was walking through the city like something out of Metropolis; fitting for the occasion.

The towers, too, stand out better than all the boxes in the Financial District could ever hope. The sloping roofs and many shades of green and gray create a visual effect not seen anywhere else in the city. Visible from many vantage points, the towers act as a landmark, a gateway into downtown. They don't try to throw in brick to make friends; they are modern and they are proud.

Good architecture knows that it will be around for a while and takes this into account. Unlike many new buildings built in the last 10 years, Millennium Place will easily adapt and improve as the neighborhoods around it change. As good as the other buildings are on this list, I have a feeling that in 10, 20, 40 years, Millennium Place will be the one that people haven't fallen out of favor with.
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Old 08-23-2009, 04:47 PM   #2
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

nice job Van....

Is the academic center not yet built?
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Old 08-23-2009, 05:08 PM   #3
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

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Originally Posted by Bubbybu View Post
nice job Van....

Is the academic center not yet built?
Which one? Everything on that list is built and open.
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Old 08-23-2009, 05:37 PM   #4
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

#10
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:00 PM   #5
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

That's built but that is the only picture I could find.
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:10 PM   #6
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

Snubbed:
Manulife Building
Liberty Hotel
Puma City
Trinity Place?
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:33 PM   #7
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

Good to see some praise for the UMB campus center.
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:33 PM   #8
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

Liberty Hotel: would have made the list but some of the building materials were a little cheap in my eyes. Let's say that makes the bakers dozen.

Puma City: temporary installation

Manulife: glorified office park

Trinity Place: seriously?
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:36 PM   #9
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

I would have considered the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center.

Battery Wharf was developed during this time frame, but it's too early to tell whether the development is a success.

If the list encompassed Cambridge as well, you'd have to include the Stata Center.
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Old 08-23-2009, 06:40 PM   #10
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

Blackfan is spectacular, wish we could get something like that along the greenway instead of all that office park crap.

I love most of your picks, especially millenium place [spelling], which stands out so well against all those hideous brown buildings.
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Old 08-23-2009, 07:51 PM   #11
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

good call with the convention center...I think that has to be on there....


My list wouldnt count Stata cuz I'd feel guilty appropriating a Cambridge building....especially one so private.

Also I'll add that it was a good call putting the library #2...it really is a terrific building.

It's amazing to me how good pure modernism can be on a small scale in comparison to the well deserved poor reputation of the movement's much larger outputs.

For the #1 slot I would have put 111 Huntington...I love it's gimmicky elegance...

To me, what's great about the Millenium Towers is their positioning....moreso than the design...from Washington St. they almost appear to be touching. I love that...


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Old 08-23-2009, 08:59 PM   #12
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

Great stuff here! I'd add Atelier 505 on Tremont Street to the list. Sure there's a fair share of pre-cast red brick, and they tried to pay some South End establishments to move or close, but there's lot's of good things here too. It truly is 'mixed use'.

1) The first new theater space in Boston in a long time at the Calderwood Pavilion.

2) New shops and restaurants adding life to Tremont St., and utilizing the space around the BCA Cyclorama.

3) The massing isn't just a dumb box, but has the tower at the corner of Berkeley, and lower portion along Tremont. It's a big building, but the massing dosn't overwhelm the neighborhood. There's lots of little details to break up the space, and the tower acts as a gateway to the South End. There's lot's of interesting lighting at night too.

So there's my 2 cents. Although not quite done, I suspect that the Emerson Paramount Center will be added to the list very soon.
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:00 PM   #13
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

Excellent list Van. Really well done.

I would have added Atelier 505. A real mix of uses (residential, commercail, retail and civic). Nice interaction at the street level. A modernist development that fits into a neighborhood of brick row houses. Nice gateway to the South End.
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Old 08-23-2009, 09:25 PM   #14
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

Since someone mentioned Emerson, their Tufte Performance and Production Center opened in 2003 and is worthy of consideration for this list. It's 11 stories tall, but nearly hidden away behind the Majestic, the Colonial, and the State Transportation Building. The best time to view it is at night, when it presents a constantly changing light show to the small alley adjoining the Majestic.

Some rare exterior photos from Elkus Manfredi. "The site identified for the Tufte ? a small footprint of hidden, unused property with no address, street frontage, visibility, or direct pedestrian access ? presented the ultimate urban infill design challenge. "
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Old 08-23-2009, 10:16 PM   #15
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

The bottom of Atelier 505 works but I don't think the upper (residential) part does. Uggggly. Boring. Uninspired. Plain. Gulag.



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Old 08-23-2009, 10:41 PM   #16
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

maybe you should spend some time in a gulag for that hyperbole
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Old 08-24-2009, 05:49 AM   #17
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

Nice work putting this together. There are three of these that I have yet to see in person but will be sure to pass by next time I am in town. Bostonians should be proud of these fine developments and their context in the city's urban fabric.
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Old 08-24-2009, 06:50 AM   #18
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

I like the Nine Zero hotel. I dont think it makes the top 12 but it deserves honorable mention:

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Old 08-24-2009, 10:47 AM   #19
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

Great list - the Allston library is wonderful & deserving of recognition.

How about the Suffolk Law building? It's a slightly cheesey with the columns, but I find it's aging well and really fits it's location.
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Old 08-24-2009, 11:37 AM   #20
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Re: The Best of Boston 2000-2009

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I like the Nine Zero hotel. I dont think it makes the top 12 but it deserves honorable mention:

I had heard about that but I didn't know where it was. Looks nice.
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