Recently, the Boston Herald published a list of the top ten best new buildings of the decade in the city. These buildings break away from the typical brick and brownstone architecture that canvas most of Boston. Architecturally speaking, Boston has yet to distance itself from the puritanical and conservative ideals deeply rooted in its history. Looking at the past for architectural inspiration has allowed Boston to achieve limited freedom in creativity. The buildings on the list have been praised for pushing Boston out of its conservative architectural envelope and redefined the world class city that it is!
Boston has never been able to get out of the shadows of New York City and the list proves that the rivalry between these two world class cities is alive and stronger than ever. It is not a secret how much Yankee fans and Red Sox fans love each other. They can barely wait for baseball season to begin to call each other names and brag about which team has won the most World Series. Wait, what am I talking about?! These fans will harrass each other regardless whether is baseball season or not. If you ask me to chose a team, I prefer the Red Sox, but if you ask my brother, he prefers the Yankees! One can never win. This love hate relationship between these two cities is captured in the list of the top ten best new buildings in Boston. By my count, Boston wins with 5 Boston/Cambridge architectural firms making a name for themselves, while placing the city at the forefront of the architecture world.
Office dA, one of my favorite Boston firms makes the list with the Macallen Building in South Boston. Considered one of the first LEED-certified, environmentally conscious multi-housing buildings in the state of Massachusetts, the Macallen Building stands out for all the right reasons and the city is a much better place because of it. The building was recently honored by the American Society of Landscape Architects with a 2009 Professional Design Award. The partners at Office dA, Monica Ponce de Leon and Nader Tehrani proved that Boston possesses the talent and genius to award architectural commissions to local firms, instead of inviting architects from Los Angeles, New York City or from abroad to leave their imprint on the city.
Among the New York City firms on the Herald’s list include Rafael Viñoly for his design of the Boston Convention and Visitor Center in South Boston, Diller Scofidio + Renfro for the boxy Institute of Contemporary Art also in South Boston and Polshek Partnership for the WGBH Building in Brighton. And yes, I do prefer the Boston architects over New York because they are excellent examples of what our local talent is capable of producing, but the New York architects (and I hate to say this), placed Boston on the international map this past decade with buildings like the Institute of Contemporary Art and the Boston Convention and Visitor Center.
Although New York pushed the architectural envelope in Boston, the building that always captivates me is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Stata Center by the Los Angeles architect Frank Gehry. To borrow a word used recently by the Chicago Sun Times film critic Roger Ebert in his critique of Broken Embraces by Pedro Almodovar, Gehry’s 2004 Stata Center is a “voluptuary” of a building. Its textures, materials, colors, and soft sexy curves punctuated by geometric shapes and hard edges are a reflection of yours truly. No, not in the soft sexy curves (in case you wanted to know), but in the multitude of colors and textures that make up my daily wardrobe! The Stata Center is a building that keeps me engage, it makes me feel like a kid in a candy store, excited and hyper, waiting to indulge my senses in all the sugar. It makes me want to hug every one of its shiny surfaces and scream to the world the audacious and bold step Boston has taken forward with this building.
In all fairness, New York architects have been dramatically influencing the architectural fabric of Boston for decades. The prestigious firm of Carrere and Hastings, McKim, Mead and White and even H.H. Richardson have all left their mark in Boston, designing buildings like the Boston Public Library and Trinity Church, which have served as sources for countless other buildings around the country. The New York architectural firms who left their mark in Boston this past decade have broken the barriers of creativity in Boston!
As groundbreaking as any of these buildings were during the last decade, there were two other notable buildings that did not make the list, but which deserved to be mentioned in this post. So here I go, take note.
Simmons Hall at MIT by Steven Holl, one of my favorite New York firms, stands out for being a building that belongs in New York or Los Angeles and not in Boston. It breaks away from the puritanical and conservative ideals associated with Boston architecture, adding a funky, cool sophisticated feeling to the fabric of Massachusetts.
The other building that deserved to be listed is the Allston Branch of the Boston Public Library, designed by the Boston architects of Machado and Silvetti. Distancing themselves from the brick so typical of Boston architecture, Machado and Silvetti incorporate slate sculpings and slate shingles with glass and various other rich textures creating a visually enticing building in one of Boston’s most culturally diverse neighborhoods.
To see other buildings on the list, click on the link above and let me know which ones you think deserved to be listed and which ones were omitted!