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Boston City Hall

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“For we must consider that we shall be a city upon a hill.  The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world”

Jonn Winthrop delivered this quote to his fellow Puritans as they landed in Massachusetts Bay and he was well aware of the political and religious significance that this colony would come to hold within the world.  Winthrop was also aware that not only were the eyes of the world upon the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but that the eyes of the colony were on him.  In a newly founded colony lacking a built environment, John Winthrop became more than the colony’s leader; he became an example to his people and he was their symbol.  Today this quote still rings true when looking at civic institutions, but instead of individual men being a culture’s only symbol and identity, we can instead look upon a culture’s civic architecture, as well. Whether it is the White House or State House, these civic buildings have become new symbols that create our cultural icons.

In Boston there are several iconic buildings that hold social, cultural, historical, and political significance for the Commonwealth, the New England region, and the American nation. Among the civic architecture of the city, a natural hierarchy exists in which the Massachusetts State House – representing the needs of the Commonwealth with Boston as the Capitol city – reigns supreme. Following after the Massachusetts State House, comes the Boston City Hall, a building that is meant to represent the people of the city. Yet the current Boston City Hall is a building that does just the opposite.
The current Boston City Hall was completed in 1966 and was supposed to be the jewel of a massive urban renewal project which saw the demolition of 1,000 of buildings in order to make way for a handful of federal, state and city buildings.  In the middle of this urban renewal project sprouted the Boston City hall, which is surrounded by acres of a brick plaza making up what is referred to by urban planners worldwide as, “the worst civic space in the world.”  The building, designed by Kallman, McKinnell and Knowles Architects, is one of the greatest examples of Brutalist architecture, yet it does little to connect with the people or past of Boston and it is ridiculed by the citizens that is is supposed to represent.  Because of the displeasure caused by the building and plaza, in addition to the building’s deterioration and “sick syndrome label,” plans have been drawn up to abandon the building and sell it and the plaza to a developer.
The purpose of this project is to consider not how to fix the current City Hall, but instead to imagine what it means to build a structure to represent the culture and city of Boston.  To do this, I have embraced a traditional, classical style that can be seen in many buildings throughout Boston, most notably, the Boston Public Library.  To have designed my proposed Boston City Hall in a traditional, classical style, this new building could help represent the old city in a way that goes beyond mere imitation of the rich stock of colonial buildings already present in Boston.  This style also helps reinforce the formal hierarchy, previously alluded to, between the current City Hall and the Massachusetts State House. Located less than a mile away from the City Hall Plaza, the Massachusetts State House is a federal-style building with rich ornamentation and it is crowned with an iconic gold leaf dome.
Sustainability was also important focus featured throughout the design process of this project and sustainability was as much of a factor in designing as was the style itself.  Because of the harsh climate and dense urban fabric, passive solar heating would not be a viable option.  Instead, a push to capture daylight became the priority.  The result was a building that has a narrow floor plate with large windows.  Each office is able to get adequate daylight to to accommodate office tasks.  The center of the building is where all the circulation takes place, and this is top-lit by two large skylights that help form a long atrium.  The atrium is not only for light gathering but, perhaps more importantly, for aiding the natural ventilation process.  The atrium doubles as an air vent for the building, supplying fresh air in a natural means.  Air is pulled through this atrium by a natural process created by an updrafts which are created by large vertical vents that line the walls of the buildings.
Urban sustainability was also a focus of  the project and can be seen in my removal of the massive, undefined plaza for a more contained and shaped formal space.  Furthermore, the City Hall building type, one that does not have late night or weekend hours, is addressed by the inclusion of a public market on my building’s first floor.  It is the idea that this space can act as a Farmer’s Market for the residents that live nearby, and relates to the market environment in nearby Faneuil Hall.
In closing, this project looks to react to the harsh civic face created by the current City Hall, and to replace it with a building that is more sensitive to the needs of the city, existing culture, and urban fabric.

John Winthrop delivered this quote to his fellow Puritans as they landed in Massachusetts Bay and he was well aware of the political and religious significance that this colony would come to hold within the world.  Winthrop was also aware that not only were the eyes of the world upon the Massachusetts Bay Colony, but that the eyes of the colony were on him.  In a newly founded colony lacking a built environment, John Winthrop became more than the colony’s leader; he became an example to his people and he was their symbol.  Today this quote still rings true when looking at civic institutions, but instead of individual men being a culture’s only symbol and identity, we can instead look upon a culture’s civic architecture, as well. Whether it is the White House or State House, these civic buildings have become new symbols that create our cultural icons.

In Boston there are several iconic buildings that hold social, cultural, historical, and political significance for the Commonwealth, the New England region, and the American nation. Among the civic architecture of the city, a natural hierarchy exists in which the Massachusetts State House – representing the needs of the Commonwealth with Boston as the Capitol city – reigns supreme. Following after the Massachusetts State House, comes the Boston City Hall, a building that is meant to represent the people of the city. Yet the current Boston City Hall is a building that does just the opposite.
The current Boston City Hall was completed in 1966 and was supposed to be the jewel of a massive urban renewal project which saw the demolition of 1,000 of buildings in order to make way for a handful of federal, state and city buildings.  In the middle of this urban renewal project sprouted the Boston City hall, which is surrounded by acres of a brick plaza making up what is referred to by urban planners worldwide as, “the worst civic space in the world.”  The building, designed by Kallman, McKinnell and Knowles Architects, is one of the greatest examples of Brutalist architecture, yet it does little to connect with the people or past of Boston and it is ridiculed by the citizens that is is supposed to represent.  Because of the displeasure caused by the building and plaza, in addition to the building’s deterioration and “sick syndrome label,” plans have been drawn up to abandon the building and sell it and the plaza to a developer.
The purpose of this project is to consider not how to fix the current City Hall, but instead to imagine what it means to build a structure to represent the culture and city of Boston.  To do this, I have embraced a traditional, classical style that can be seen in many buildings throughout Boston, most notably, the Boston Public Library.  To have designed my proposed Boston City Hall in a traditional, classical style, this new building could help represent the old city in a way that goes beyond mere imitation of the rich stock of colonial buildings already present in Boston.  This style also helps reinforce the formal hierarchy, previously alluded to, between the current City Hall and the Massachusetts State House. Located less than a mile away from the City Hall Plaza, the Massachusetts State House is a federal-style building with rich ornamentation and it is crowned with an iconic gold leaf dome.
Sustainability was also important focus featured throughout the design process of this project and sustainability was as much of a factor in designing as was the style itself.  Because of the harsh climate and dense urban fabric, passive solar heating would not be a viable option.  Instead, a push to capture daylight became the priority.  The result was a building that has a narrow floor plate with large windows.  Each office is able to get adequate daylight to to accommodate office tasks.  The center of the building is where all the circulation takes place, and this is top-lit by two large skylights that help form a long atrium.  The atrium is not only for light gathering but, perhaps more importantly, for aiding the natural ventilation process.  The atrium doubles as an air vent for the building, supplying fresh air in a natural means.  Air is pulled through this atrium by a natural process created by an updrafts which are created by large vertical vents that line the walls of the buildings.
Urban sustainability was also a focus of  the project and can be seen in my removal of the massive, undefined plaza for a more contained and shaped formal space.  Furthermore, the City Hall building type, one that does not have late night or weekend hours, is addressed by the inclusion of a public market on my building’s first floor.  It is the idea that this space can act as a Farmer’s Market for the residents that live nearby, and relates to the market environment in nearby Faneuil Hall.
In closing, this project looks to react to the harsh civic face created by the current City Hall, and to replace it with a building that is more sensitive to the needs of the city, existing culture, and urban fabric.

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