Librería Donceles, A Brilliant and Uplifting Installation at Urbano Project

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for anyone, let alone for this blog. I intended to publish shortly after the election of Donald Trump, but felt that no post—regardless of how good I felt about it—was worthy of being published. It goes without saying that the times we’re currently living in, are dark and terrifying. The anti-immigrant, white-nationalist rhetoric that launched the political career of Donald Trump has exposed many ugly truths about our society. While many of us continue to be in shock following the events of November 8, many more are determined to continue fighting for equal rights, liberty and justice for all.

It’s fitting that the first post of 2017 on The Evolving Critic is about Librería Donceles—an installation by Pablo Helguera currently on view at The Urbano Project in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

Practicing within the realm of performance, visual art, community outreach and social activism, Mr. Helguera conceived Librería Donceles as a socially engaging, part-functioning used bookstore and part-installation that aims at fostering a greater sense of community and cultural understanding in Boston. It also simultaneously exposes the social and economic inequalities that continue to plague Spanish-speaking, tax-paying New Americans in the United States.

The installation—brilliant and uplifting in so many ways—comprises of more than 10,000 used books in Spanish in all subjects, from the arts to travel and everything in between. Titled after Calle Donceles, a street in the historic quarters of Mexico City, Librería Donceles has been—until April 22nd—the only Spanish language bookstore in the City of Boston and the only I’ve ever been to in the United States.

Pablo Helguera performes at Libreria Donceles opening night at Project Urbano

Pablo Helguera performes at Libreria Donceles opening night at Project Urbano. Photo Courtesy of the Urbano Project.

Begun in 2013 in Brooklyn, New York, the project has gone through several iterations and has been installed in Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Indianapolis and finally, Boston. Those who visit the installation have access to all the books and events associated with it, regardless of income or socio-economic status. Those who wish to make a purchase are asked to limit it to one book per visit and donate what they wish for it. The funds collected through the sale of books will go towards Urbano’s arts education and social justice programs, something everyone should stand behind.

To further drive the point that bookstores are the pillars of communities, one of the most important components of Librería Donceles are its salon-like gatherings that bring members of the community together around conversations and workshops that foster and encourage social activism and tolerance. These community gatherings are what make this installation by Mr. Helguera one of the most powerful I’ve experienced in recent memory.

On the day I visited Librería Donceles, an intimate group of people gathered to hear poet and Wellesley College professor Majorie Agosín and her colleague Chris Mollica discuss among many things, the role poetry plays in our lives and the importance of listening to one another.

Librería Donceles reminds us all that celebrating our diversity and humanity, matters now more than ever in these uncertain times. Rather than focusing on building walls and closing our minds, we should focus on engaging and celebrating the many ways that make each and every one of us, human.

Libreria Donceles Helguera

Photo Courtesy: The Urbano Project


Libreria Donceles. Photo Courtesy: The Urbano Project.

Urbano is open Monday through Friday 1-6pm; Saturday 10am-2pm or by appointment. 29 Germania Street, Jamaica Plain, MA, 02130.

On Instagram: Touring Saint Ronan Modern in New Haven Plus Other Buildings Not on The Tour

This past weekend I hopped on a train to New Haven, Connecticut to join the New Haven Preservation Trust, New Haven Modern (which is an initiative of the NHPT) and DoCoMoMo-US on a tour of the modern architecture of the Prospect Hill Historic District in New Haven. Largely characterized for its outstanding examples of Queen Anne, Shingle Style, Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, French Renaissance Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival style houses, the Saint Ronan/Edgehill Neighborhood is also home to a handful of mid-century modern infill houses.

Led by architectural historians Chris Wrigen and Charlotte Hitchcock, the tour was loosely based around the theme of fitting modernism into an existing neighborhood like Saint Ronan/Edgehill.

Organized as part of DoCoMoMo’s Tour Day—the annual initiative designed to raise public awareness for mid-century modern buildings and landscapes in the United States—the Saint Ronan Modern tour attracted more than 50 people and included more than 30 buildings, the bulk of which were buildings of the modern movement.

The tour started at the Bethesda Lutheran Church on Saint Ronan Street and concluded on Canner Street with the 1950s Yale Divinity School apartments and a Post-Modern house  designed in 1986 by Peter Tagiuri.

The Bethesda Lutheran Church was designed by the Office of Douglas Orr in 1955-1958. The architect was H. Dillingham Palmer and the church is designed in a “Scandinavian Modern” style with red bricks, light-colored wood and an A-shape roof that suggests Gothic architecture. According to the tour guides, Orr was not a fan of the modern architecture of the time, so he relegated certain commissions to other designers in the firm. The Bethesda Lutheran Church was one of those commissions.



For some context to the modern houses we were about to see, the tour guides stopped at several houses on Saint Ronan Street, including the Adolph Mendel House designed in 1913 by R. W. Foote (illustrated below) and the J. Edward Heaton House designed in 1903 by Leoni W. Robinson.


After this brief stop, we walked over to Autumn Street to look at four houses designed between 1905 and 1967. Parallel to Saint Ronan Street, Autumn Street is home to several mid-century modern homes built as infill on subdivided parcels.

The first stop on Autumn Street was the J. Edward Heaton Carriage House built around 1905 and renovated and expanded in the 1960s by the office of E. Carleton Granbery. A former barn converted to a residence, the house features a lush courtyard connecting the interior with the exterior, epitomizing what the tour guides referred to as “California-living” style.


The Mrs. E.H. Tuttle House designed in 1956 by E. Carleton Granbery also in the “Californian living” style.


50 Autumn Street is home to the Dr. Jose Delgado House designed in 1959 by Gualtier & Johnson and expanded in 1988 by Edward Kubler.


One of my favorite buildings on the tour was the Stanley and Margaret Leavy House at 70 Autumn Street. Designed in 1967 by Granbery, Cash & Associates, the house has become the poster child for Saint Ronan Modern. While setback from the street, it is impossible to miss this bold, stunning house in an otherwise architecturally quiet street.


On Edgehill Road is the Robert and Judith Evenson House designed in 1979 by Peter Kosinski/Kosinski Architecture. The house is built on the site of the former St. Francis Orphan Asylum, demolished in 1963.

After the Evenson House, we headed to Loomis Place to look at several buildings that form part of the Foote School. Among the architects whose buildings form part of the Foote School include Perkins & Will (with E. Carleton Granbery), David Cochran & Miller, Roth & More as well as Maryann Thompson Architects.


One of the more striking houses on the tour was the John and Ruth Martin House at 55 Loomis Place. Designed in 1967 by Sidney T. Miller, the house is a two-story frame house with features that recall Prairie Style houses of Frank Lloyd Wright. Unfortunately, there’s is very little out there on the architecture of Sidney T. Miller, but from what I have been able to see, his work deserves a second look.


Finally, the tour concluded on Canner Street with the 1950s Yale Divinity School apartments designed by the office of Douglas Orr. In contrast to the Divinity School apartments which stands out from its neighbors, the Post-modern house on the next block over on Canner Street was designed in 1986 by Peter Tagiuri and fits in perfectly with its surroundings.



After the tour, I decided to explore two more buildings on my own: The First Presbyterian Church designed in 1966 by John Dinkeloo and expanded in 2005 by Christiaan Dinkeloo (son of John Dinkeloo) and finally, the Whitney Avenue Fire Station designed in 1962 by the firm of Carlin, Pozzi & Millard.



New Haven was a hotbed for modernism and within Yale University you’ll find many buildings designed by some of the leading architects of the time. I took some time to revisit some old friends I hadn’t seen in a few years.

Phillip Johnson and Associates’ Kline Biology Tower, 1964.


Ingalls Hockey Rink, 1957, Eero Saarinen



Marcel Breuer’s Becton Engineering and Applied Science Center (now known as the Becton Center for Engineering Innovation & Design), 1968.


Interior of the Yale University Art Gallery, 1953, Louis I. Kahn.


Paul Rudolph’s Art and Architecture Building (Yale School of Architecture), 1961.


Gordon Bunshaft’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, 1961.



The Community Services Building (now known as the Knights of Columbus Museum), Douglas Orr, deCossy, Winder and Associates, 1965.


For more of the architecture seen on the Saint Ronan Modern tour, head over to my Instagram where you’ll find photos of the entire itinerary (some included here).

Brace Yourselves, an Immense Online Resource Dedicated to The Bauhaus Just Launched

HAM-Bauhaus-Collection-16The Harvard Art Museums announced on Monday that it has created a new and expansive online resource dedicated to the Bauhaus—the most influential design school of the twentieth century. The resource, which allows for unprecedented digital access into one of the first and largest collections of Bauhaus objects and ephemera in the world, is only the beginning in what will culminate in major exhibition at the Harvard Art Museums in 2019, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Bauhaus.

Founded in 1919 in the city of Weimar, Germany by Walter Gropius, the Bauhaus was in part shaped by the ideas of the Arts and Crafts Movement, but unlike the Arts and Crafts Movement which rejected the machine, the Bauhaus embraced it, blurring the lines between the arts, crafts and technology. The school was forced to shutdown in 1932 by the Nazis, but its legacy is still felt and seen today in the objects in our homes and in the architecture of our cities.

The school’s founder, Walter Gropius fled Nazi Germany and settled in Massachusetts, bringing with him the ideas that made the Bauhaus revolutionary in its time. Gropius joined the faculty at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in 1937 and went on to establish along with a few of his students, The Architects Collaborative-another influential architecture firm in the Boston area. In the 1930s,  Boston became a hotbed for modernism thanks in part to the many artists and designers associated with the Bauhaus. Many of these artists and designers called the city their home or spent years teaching at Harvard, influencing the next generation of architects and designers.


Wilhelm Wagenfeld, Coffee and Tea Service: 5-Piece Set, 1924–25. Brass with mercury silvered interiors and ebony fixtures. Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Gift of Hanna Lindemann, BR52.22-26. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Photo: Harvard Art Museums, © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

The new online resource comprises of the Harvard Art Museums’ 32,000+ Bauhaus-related works, an essay on the connections of the Bauhaus and Harvard, an annotated map listing institutions, archives and architectural landmarks associated with the Bauhaus. The online resource also includes a comprehensive list of Bauhaus-related archives and exhibitions held across Harvard, as well as an extensive bibliography on the movement.

It’s okay, go ahead and procrastinate as much as you’d like by browsing this incredible resource on the most influential design school of the twentieth century.

After a Much Awaited Relocation and Expansion, The McMullen Museum of Art Is Set to Reopen This Fall

McMullen Museum, atrium and entrance

McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Brighton Campus. 2101 Commonwealth Avenue. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

This September, after roughly two years of renovation and construction, Boston gears up to celebrate the grand reopening of the McMullen Museum of Art on the Boston College campus in Brighton.

Now housed in a newly renovated and expanded Renaissance Revival style building designed in 1927 by Maginnis and Walsh, the new McMullen Museum of Art will include 30,000 gross-square feet of exhibition space—that’s three times more the space it used to have in its former location also on campus.

Formerly located in a congested corner of Devlin Hall—one of the four original Gothic Revival buildings designed by Maginnis and Walsh on the college’s campus—the McMullen will feature two main galleries on the second floor, a sculpture gallery as well as a smaller gallery on the third. The renovations also include a large rooftop terrace.

LaFarge Windows, McMullen Museum of Art, Brighton Campus, Boston College.

LaFarge Windows, McMullen Museum of Art, Brighton Campus, Boston College. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

Opened in 1995 as a teaching museum, the McMullen Museum has organized many critically acclaimed exhibits, including an excellent retrospective on Wilfredo Lam as well as exhibits on Paul Klee, Roberto Matta, Edvard Munch, Sarah Westlake and Jackson Pollock among others. Its most recent tour de force, John La Farge and the Recovery of the Sacred, brought together more than 85 works consisting of paintings, stained glass windows, and works on paper that shed new light one of the most innovative American artists of the 19th century.

La Farge’s astonishing stained glass tryptic of Christ preaching, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Paul, a recent gift to the University from the Vareika Family, will be one of the crowning jewels on view in this newly renovated and expanded building by DiMella Shaffer.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

And as if a “new” museum in a new location wasn’t exciting enough, the McMullen Museum of Art has partnered with Harvard University’s Houghton Library and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for its inaugural exhibit, Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections. The exhibit, which is being billed as “one of the most important ensembles of illuminated manuscripts anywhere in North America,” will feature different explorations surrounding the creation and study of illuminated manuscripts. It will be on view concurrently at these indtitutions beginning on September 12 until December 11, 2016.

The museum, which has always been free to the public, will also expand its opening hours and relaunch a newly revamped docent program.

So much to look forward to this Fall at Boston College.