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    Final Year: Boston Comprehensive Studio

    By jtwang
    Oct 7, '12 1:50 PM EST

    Our class is entering the fifth and final year of the B.Arch. degree. In fall that means we undertake comprehensive studio. This year we are designing a jazz and experimental music hall. It will contain a 1200-seat main hall and a 300-seat experimental hall.

    Two weeks ago we took a field trip to Boston, which will be the site of the project.

    The Big Dig/Greenway is a long urban park that used to be a multi-level highway. We were completely surprised by how nice it was in real life. The Google Earth view of the Big Dig gave us the impression that it would be an empty, dead space. Seeing it in person, it was an active, open, pleasant space that was one of our absolute favorite parts of Boston. Native Bostonians, how do the locals feel about this project?

    Quincy Market, a good place to walk around, shop, and get food.

    This information pavilion is really cool, especially how the roof form drains into a kind of fountain.

    Some interesting seating on the Big Dig.

    One of our possible studio sites on Fort Point Channel. We affectionately call it the "Lobster Roll Site."

    Another possible site, next to the Children's Museum.

    I enjoyed the ICA, although my colleagues leveled some serious criticism at it. The current approach through a parking lot is not a pleasant way to reach the building.

    ICA Lobby.

    The huge elevator is a unique and interesting way to get up to the galleries.

    The "Long Gallery" that views out to the water. The view was supposed to be made of lenticular glass, allowing you to see only the space directly in front of you, creating a changing, dynamic experience as you walk through. The client felt that the view should simply be panoramic and impressive.

    The media lab looks directly at the water. There is a space much like this on the High Line in New York.

    When you get down to the bottom of the media lab, you can see more.

    Some nice details in the staircase. I like the light fixture that goes vertically through the center.

    Another view of the lobby.

    The biggest disappointment for me was this space. In photos and other publications, I expected this to be an amazing public space with its great seating and the massive cantilever creating a new kind of urban experience. It was my favorite part of the building before I saw it in person. Unfortunately, it seemed that there was not enough circulation through this space to really activate it. Maybe on nicer days it really is active? Can someone who has seen this building more often shed light on it?

    A view up the staircase on the facade of the building.

    We spent a morning at MIT.

    Looking at the incredibly clean glass details on I.M. Pei's buildings.

    Apparently MIT students are college kids too.

    We couldn't get into the Aalto dormitory.

    The Holl dormitory was oddly scaleless. The windows looked three times as big from far away.

    This room by Gehry literally made my classmates sick. The floor looks like it's at a 20% slope. But a level shows that it's perfectly flat.

    On Harvard's charming campus. Cambridge was a great town with plenty of activity but still a great residential feeling. Is this guy marrying three women?

    The Cambridge Public Library by William Rawn is a great building, and the space in front of it was full of couples, children, and dogs.

    Seeing the Carpenter Center gave me a new-found appreciation for Corbu.

    Amazing urban experience, food, and cannolli in the North End. There's a restaurant seemingly in every other door. I highly recommend it.

    We could get everywhere by T Train.

    We watched an experimental music show in Somerville. I love strange music, but this was difficult even for me.

    Wally's Jazz Club. Much easier to appreciate. The best jazz I have ever heard (though I'm from Iowa so that's not saying a lot). I was most impressed by a song that they seemed to build up organically, starting with a free sound, slowly finding rhythm and structure over time, and building up finally into a loud, cohesive jam session.

    We took a day trip to Exeter. This is the third Kahn building I've seen, and it did not fail to impress. The plain but rigorously-detailed facade on the outside increases the surprise of the interior.

    Some of the more intimate, less "architectural" spaces show Kahn's sensitivity to warmth and familiarity for a space where people reside daily.

    The service elements are deliberately placed and framed.

    The lights are carefully placed within the slab.

    Joints are clearly shown between different materials and different concrete pours.

    Unfortunately, changes to the fixtures undermine the concrete details.

    Sorry for the dark picture, but you can see how Kahn held the treads away from the wall when they are not structurally attached and then placed landings against the wall because they are structurally connected.

    There is a pleasant outdoor space at the very top. The views to the context are revealed  through tight, vertical slots.

    Parts of the building you never see in photos. Here, the roof is surprisingly mundane.

    The atrium is actually smaller than it looks in photos. The circular cut-outs help create variety in a scheme where floor plans are repeated.

    Study models show substantial modifications throughout the process.

    Unexpectedly, there is another Kahn structure right next to the Library. It's a dining hall that our professor called "a B-list Kahn project."There are still some trademark Kahn moments.

    Getting an ice cream afterwards.

    Boston from the airplane we left on.


    • leedykxhoorn

      The sign on 7-438 is clearly a joke.

      Oct 7, 12 7:40 pm

      cambridge library = ann beha architects

      Oct 8, 12 1:31 pm

      Thanks, I wasn't aware that they were also working on the project. I just looked at the Arch Record article that listed William Rawn.

      Oct 8, 12 6:07 pm

      I agree the ICA has its successes and failures. I grew up outside Boston and have been to the ICA a number of times. I think the major reason it is rarely crowded is because (as you experienced) it is isolated from the major pedestrian traffic of Boston. That said I'm sure you saw the large number of recent buildings and new construction. The ICA is part of the redevelopment of that stretch of waterfront and even now is a nice place to walk the harbor (the Moakley courhouse by Pei Cobb Freed/ Tro Jung Brannen is a great building to walk by). I've found it a nice place to sit and relax quietly appreciating the harbor and city. At night you can find couples kissing. In some ways it's openness and isolation make it an intimate space.

      It also plays host to private events and functions. Lastly, one of the most unique urban experiences taking advantage of a building's design is Red Bull's cliff diving competition.

      Thanks for the great photos from the Exeter library! Glad you enjoyed the Boston area!

      Oct 8, 12 11:25 pm

      Thanks for the post! 

      I appreciate all the details and observations... I've never seen anything like the ICA stairwell... is that simply a fire stair?

      Oct 9, 12 10:04 am

      Thanks for the info, Daniel. I was sure that our few hours spent there were not enough to really evaluate the place.

      As for the ICA stairwell: It's hard to tell what it's for without floor plans, but it follows the shape of the auditorium. It may be just a fire stair for the auditorium that also brings out the sectional quality of that space to the facade. It may be a means to access the auditorium more directly. It's possible that it was also intended as a lookout to the public (although there is a gate there now).

      Nov 7, 12 9:15 am

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