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Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston
Calendar: Boston Architecture/Urbanism Related Events
Beton Brut
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08-17-2009 05:30 PM to 07:00 PM
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Event: Walking Tour
Location: Meet @ corner of Staniford & Cambbridge

Half a century after it was originally conceived, Boston?s Government
Center is poised for reconsideration. Despite its noted urban design
challenges, the complex is eliciting calls for new interventions that could
help it achieve?or perhaps exceed?the intent of its original visionaries.
This tour will be led by David Fixler, FAIA, Gary Wolf, AIA and Henry
Moss, AIA, LEED of Docomomo/New England-US, and Sarah D. Kelly,
executive director of the Boston Preservation Alliance. It will begin at the
Lindemann Center in Government Center, and will include a broad range
of works showcasing the variety and quality of modern buildings in
Government Center, as well as their challenges.

This event is free for Alliance and Docomomo members and $15 for non-members.
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Old 08-04-2009, 02:38 PM   #2
unterbau
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

Any idea if they'll actually be going inside the buildings?
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Old 08-04-2009, 03:46 PM   #3
Beton Brut
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

I don't imagine so, given the time of day, but who knows...?

I'll be returning to town that afternoon and have every intention of being at this event. And after, cocktails.
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Old 08-05-2009, 09:34 AM   #4
GMACK24
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

can anyone attend Beton ?
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Old 08-05-2009, 11:16 AM   #5
Beton Brut
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

It appears to be an open event, sponsored by the Boston Preservation Alliance.

And as it happens, I can't attend -- I have a community meeting in my own neighborhood that night. Shit!
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Old 08-10-2009, 10:07 AM   #6
adam wylie
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

Who do we contact to register and pay for this event?
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Old 08-10-2009, 02:49 PM   #7
Beton Brut
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

I don't know the answer to that, but the New England Chapter of DoCoMoMo may be able to shed some light on this.
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Old 08-12-2009, 11:02 AM   #8
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

You can contact the Boston Preservation Alliance at 617-367-2458 for more info or to RSVP to the walking tour. You can also reach us at admin@bostonpreservation.org
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Old 08-18-2009, 03:04 PM   #9
Beton Brut
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

If anyone attended, how was it?
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Old 08-18-2009, 03:57 PM   #10
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

Oh Beton, There was a person there who I was quite sure was you. But this person did not live in orient heights! So I couldn't call him out as Mr. Brut. Was I the only ABer there?

A synopsis and review:

While I wouldn't go so far as to say that I have a newfound affection for mid-century Boston urban renewal, it was nonetheless very interesting to walk down some of the lesser-traveled paths around GC and simply appreciate the buildings for what they are. It was also interesting and somewhat moving to hear some high-ranking local architects sing the praises of the aesthetic qualities while bemoaning and lamenting their decay, lack of urbanity and dwindling animation - in a sense, asserting that some (not by any means all) of GC's buildings have the inherent potential for urbanity and street-level interaction.

Interesting facts about Congress Street: the terracing and grading of City Hall Plaza was a result of the specific competition to design City Hall and Plaza. Pei's initial plan called for no grade differences, with a steep cliff-face the entire length of Congress Street representating the entire difference in grade between Congress and Cambridge Streets. Strange enough. However, this cliff was to be on the other side of Congress Street... Meaning that the plaza was meant to have extended above a tunnel-like Congress Street, with a brick cliff right in front of Faneuil Hall.

Some future-oriented topics included improving GC by introducing mixed uses, possibly hotels for example... also, optimism surrounding Raymond's GC garage proposal and ways it could animate new walking paths around City Hall Plaza (apparently the preservationist argument for saving the GC garage is diminished by the addition of the top floor office space, which marred the initial design of the building as a 20th century "harbor" for automobiles, to rival 19th century train depots...)

Overall, fantastic event -thank you to the organizers and the guides.
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:11 PM   #11
Ron Newman
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

In that original design, how would pedestrians have travelled from Faneuil Hall to City Hall? Would there have been an even steeper stairway than the current one, or an elevator?
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:19 PM   #12
Beton Brut
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

I'm really bummed that I missed this event. Instead, I attended a noisy and largely unproductive neighborhood council meeting, where my neighbors shouted at each other over bar closing times, code enforcement, and a growing rodent problem that appears to be caused by ongoing work in the MBTA yard. A shitty capstone to an otherwise great weekend...

Was Tim Rohan at this event? He's a noted authority on Paul Rudolph's work, and was among a large contingent of DoCoMoMo people interested in the preservation of Rudolph's Blue Cross Building. I first connected with him at this event last year.
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Old 08-18-2009, 04:41 PM   #13
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

@Beton, see PM

@Ron: Another part of this puzzle is that the initial scheme included another curved landscaper on the east side of Congress to echo Center Place, with the two landscrapers bracketing the development and hiding its grade changes (consider how Center Place completely obscures the fact that across from Cambridge Street is the steep slope of Beacon Hill). I'm guessing this second landscraper would have served a similar purpose.

Anyway, it's unclear if the initial design actually wanted to encourage paths to anywhere beyond Congress. So anyone who says the ultimate design of CHP is uncontextual should think about the development away from Pei's plan: City Hall itself was actualy moved north to make way for the staircase that now leads directly to Quincy Market (also keep in mind that there was no Quincy Market tourist trap back then); the brick cliff along Congress was reduced, and the street was left open to the air (well, except for that pesky garage). So, the ultimate scheme WAS contextual... as opposed to Pei's initial plan, at least.
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Old 08-18-2009, 05:57 PM   #14
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

The Green Line level of the Government Center T station still has an old map showing that other never-built landscraper, where Curley Park and the Holocaust Memorial are today. However, it does not show the 'cliff' plan at all.
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Old 08-18-2009, 06:37 PM   #15
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

I'm not sure, but it sounds like the "cliff" was probably a dead idea much sooner than the landscraper. That's my best guess. Interesting about map in the T station - I'll have to check that out!
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Old 08-18-2009, 07:08 PM   #16
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston


is that the landscraper on the bottom right? this is the only diagram of the project on pei's website
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Old 08-18-2009, 11:40 PM   #17
Ron Newman
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

Yep, that's more or less where the T station map puts it too. In the narrow block between Congress and Union streets.
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Old 08-24-2009, 11:58 AM   #18
Justin7
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

That is one seriously depressing image.
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Old 08-24-2009, 12:50 PM   #19
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Re: Government Center Walking Tour: Modernism in the Heart of Boston

Here is an official BRA rendering. (warning: big)

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