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    Boston - Day 5

    By Chili Davis
    Jan 8, '07 9:32 PM EST

    On our final day in The Athens of America, the plan was to take the T to M.I.T. to see Frank Gehry's Stata Center, Eero Saarinen's M.I.T. Chapel, Alvar Alto's Baker House, and Steven Holl's Simmons Hall, then find the Genzyme Center. Next, hop the T to Harvard to visit the G.S.D., then to Allston to see the library...

    Unfortunately, most of that didn't happen. Monday was the only day of our trip that the weather didn't cooperate. It was cold, and it was rainy. We did, however, make it to M.I.T. Lindsay was miserable and I thought if I made her oogle architecture any more, she may leave me.

    Our back-up plan was to visit the Museum of Fine Arts, but it took a trip there to discover that some places close on New Years Day.

    The conference concluded with a keynote presentation by Brian Healy, AIA, principal of Brian Healy Architects in Boston, which may just have been the best lecture of the Forum. We capped the night off with some cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory. Tomorrow, we fly back to the Motor City. Enjoy the pictures, and I'll see you in Milwaukee next year...


    • Chili Davis

      Regarding the buildings pictured above...

      Loved it!
      It's okay.
      Hated it.
      Loved it!

      Also, please forgive the cloudiness. The weather wasn't cooperating with my digital camera, either.

      Jan 8, 07 9:43 pm
      brian buchalski

      cloudiness is hot...kinda makes me miss boston actually

      Jan 8, 07 10:52 pm

      chili gets my nod as best blog of '06.

      Jan 9, 07 2:54 am

      i'm kind of amazed that you could hate the aalto dorm and love the holl dorm, given that baker dorm has always been a resident favorite and simmons has been the dorm the students love to hate. did you get inside either one?

      maybe baker looks dated to young eyes? maybe the holl just looks like so much fun?

      the aalto has been heralded for the variety of views, residential spaces, scale, and relative warmth (as dorms go) while simmons has bizarre scale issues, especially in the rooms, and windows that seem to be designed specifically so that views out are compromised. i'm a fan of holl generally, but this one seems like the realization of an experiment that should have stayed one.

      Jan 9, 07 6:59 am

      sort of second what steven opinion of the buildings you
      have up there are more or less the reverse of yours...

      i do really like brian healy though... i went to psu..where he went
      to school and got a chance to see a piece he did while he was
      there...(he used to do these forced perspective collages..or
      painted drawings) and boy was/is he talented.

      he was also on my thesis jury and has a ping pong table in his
      office..just as an aside.

      hope you enjoyed beantown chili.

      Jan 9, 07 9:21 am
      Chili Davis

      I didn't get inside the Baker House. Perhaps that may have changed my perspective. Maybe it's not that I hated it so much, I just had high expectations, and from the exterior, it wasn't terribly spectacular. The Holl did look like an exciting place to live in, not to mention the sign on the door that said no architects, I wish I had a picture of that! I guess the experience changes once you live within one of these spaces, so my opinions are strictly from a spectators standpoint.

      Jan 9, 07 9:26 am

      hm. is that sign because of architourists or because the residents have become general architect-haters since moving in?

      i just heard this week (was it here? can't remember.) about an exhibit with simmons hall as the subject, but instead of it being a celebratory architecture puff piece it's a collection of student-made films and art which slam life in the dormitory. so, on the good side: it's become it's own little generator of cultural artifacts - unfortunately at holl's expense.

      i'm sure the general ambivalence of those who have to use the stata center hasn't helped either.

      Jan 9, 07 11:41 am

      Wow, yeah, I feel exactly the opposite about those buildings, too. Funny. There is a LOT to be learned from that Aalto dorm, Chili!

      May I ask why you liked the Gehry thingy? I think you are actually the first person I've ever heard say they like it.

      Jan 9, 07 12:18 pm
      Chili Davis

      The Stata Center is typical Gehry. I've always been a fan of (most of) his work. I guess the one part of this work that I really enjoy is how the building, when its surface becomes extruded and undulating, becomes engaging to pedestrian trafic at street level. You may not see this from pictures, but walking along the front of the building, at some points I felt as if I were moving in and out of the building, without actually being inside of it. It sounds funny, but you can actually be in this building without ever going inside. Just my take.

      Jan 9, 07 12:24 pm
      Chili Davis

      Also, as far as the M.I.T. Chapel is concerned, I think that is definately a space you have to be within to appreciate, and I'm quite sure I would have a different take on it, had I been able to go inside.

      Jan 9, 07 12:26 pm

      huh. I always felt like it met the ground aggressively; that it was agitating on ground level as it poked out in unexpected places to jab at passersby. I also hate the way the titanium meets the smooth brick...always looked like a red monster had vomited mercury, to me. Ahh well. I do like his thingies in LA, and Bilbao. Just not this thingy.

      Yes, it is a shame you weren't able to go in the other buildings. I feel quite certain you would have felt differently about them.

      Jan 9, 07 1:52 pm

      i agree with myriam and steven- i don't think you can judge the chapel without going inside. same with the aalto dorm. they are both great buildings and there's lessons to be learned there. and the chapel... all the drama is on the inside, come on! with the water... and the light... and the brick... [getting incoherent here]

      and yet, i dislike both the gehry and the holl buildings, and i've never been inside either of them- so i guess i'm not being very fair about it.

      steven, i've seen the exhibition you're talking about- last year in the cca in montreal. yes it was more about the students- i remember there were several nice graphics done around statistics of the student population in the building [country of origin, gender, some others] and how they are distributed in the building and how they use it. then there were the student's own videos and one accelerated video of the construction. that's all i remember.

      Jan 9, 07 2:13 pm

      big 2nd to lars' comments on Brian Healy. He lectured at UF when I was in undergrad (I believe he's taught studios at UF in the past)...I really enjoyed the work, the way he spoke about it, and his laid-back attitude.

      that Gehry thing is gross (juding only from images).

      Aalto is my hero. seriously.

      Jan 9, 07 7:22 pm
      brian buchalski

      aalto is very good. and although his image is on the currency in finland (or used to be since i think they are using the euro now) he's probably still under-rated.

      and i'll second marlin...chili has had the best blog recently (at least since oana s. seems to have vanished into the poche of manhattan)

      Jan 9, 07 10:10 pm

      favorite things about the Stata Center by Ghery:

      1- It has a large elevator whose only function is to take you 1/2 a floor up and down. huge waste

      2- it has a conference room in the middle of the thing that cannot be used because you get sea sick (funky angles, patterns, colors) from just stading (or sitting) there.

      The blue bar was pretty cool, good beer.

      Jan 9, 07 11:18 pm

      i did my undergrad at mit and the chapel and baker house are two of my favorites. i actually lived at baker house all four years and i think the novelty there is the way the spaces are arranged, the way one circulates through it, and the custom build furniture. the individual rooms are also unique - many which are pie shaped - and i think about 95% of rooms have amazing river/boston skyline views.

      the chapel is very cool inside becuase it's kind of like an ando building that uses focused light and the sound of water. i went there for a medeval chant recital and with all the elements working in concert, it was a surreal and freaky experience. sarieen also did the kresge auditorium right next to it.

      i graduate before simmons was built but i heard in general students are not a big fan of it. never got to see the gehry buildings either. :(

      did you happen to see a lot of the impei buildings on the east side of campus? like the media center.

      Jan 9, 07 11:49 pm

      Wow. When you walked between Baker and the Chapel, you didn't notice Kresge Auditorium? It's Saarinen too, designed and built at the same as Kresge Chapel. The auditorium and the chapel are defining points for the 20th mid-century, both a brilliant contrast and complement. They are the high achievements of modernism in Boston and standouts in the world. Baker House is functional while still human, and very appropriate for it's site. Unfortunately, despite spaces that tend not to be exactly identical, it manages a regimented mechanical quality good for engineers, but not broader creativity or achievement. Neither Simmons Hall, nor any other work of Mr. Holl's will stand any test of time. Stata is a fine Gehry piece, probably his best institutional scale work aside from the Bilbao Guggenheim. It maintains visual interest both outside and in, keeps a human scale, and divides space brilliantly to allow both separation/privacy and collaboration/socialization in work endeavors. It occasionally exhibits dissonant proportions and suffers from a lack of craft. The latter may be more a symptom of the late 20th/early 21st century than any failing of Mr. Gehry.

      Oct 4, 07 5:32 am

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