“Blueprint for a New Mayor” contained sound advice for Mayor Martin Walsh, with thoughtful ideas on transportation, housing, neighborhoods, and how to manage the Boston Redevelopment Authority. I liked in particular Robert Campbell’s last point [“The Doorknob Census”], which was “get people talking about architecture.” I might have put that thought at the head of my list and added “talking in a very public way about how architecture makes real and discernible differences in peoples’ lives.” The proposals in ArchitectureBoston, thoughtful as they might be, are still in essence a dialogue among ourselves, while the general population is neither privy to nor engaged in this conversation. Worse still is the nagging suspicion that real community power brokers—owners, politicians, inspectors, planning board members—see design and design professionals as something akin to a minor specialty: nice, but only if you have the budget to bother with it.
It is a sad fact that the majority of people in the Commonwealth have no recognizable connection to architects or architecture. Legislators—who write and pass bills that have profound implications for the built environment and architecture as a profession—know fire marshals, police chiefs, building commissioners, and developers but would be hard pressed to name a single architect or design professional in their district. Without those connections, the public will never accept the notion that design can and does make a difference, and the legislative process will continue to whittle away at the practice of architecture in favor of more engaged professions.
The BSA Space on Congress Street shows promise in bringing interesting, challenging ideas into a more public venue and by hosting forums like mayoral debates; the first because it brings these ideas closer to the public, the second because it indicates to candidates (and a future mayor) that the design community is interested and engaged.
Bringing design thinking to the mayor is a great idea; more important to the Commonwealth would be bringing political thinking to the design profession.
Chris Walsh AIA
6th Middlesex House District
Robert Campbell's article leaves the impression that the Rose Kennedy Greenway is underused. Since opening in 2008, the Greenway has become a popular destination and the walking spine of our city for tourists, residents, and commuters as they explore downtown and the waterfront. In March, Boston.com published the Greenway's 2013 visitorship: 853,000 visitors, plus millions more who casually enjoy Greenway plazas and paths.
I invite Mr. Campbell to take a walk with me to see lawns and benches full of individuals reading, chatting, and relaxing in the North End Park; the delighted families spinning on the carousel; the diversity of kids cooling off in Rings Fountain; Financial District workers and shoppers lining up at food trucks; and visitors of all ages attending one of the Greenway's 300 free annual events. And we look forward to more reasons to visit the Greenway District, such as rotating exhibitions of contemporary public art like the murals at Dewey Square Park and terrific additions like the development of the adjacent Boston Public Market.
Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy
Our friend Robert Campbell has it pretty much right: Paris is a good example. But there are very few doorknobs here— it's mostly electronic DigiCode locks, "armored doors," and steel grilles. For many, this still great and still eminently livable city is also a place of stress and not a little menace (if mostly petty crime). We, too, have a new mayor after many years, and she will face some of the same issues and challenges your fine spring issue cited for Boston.
Thomas Vonier FAIA
The landmarks diagram accompanying Robert Campbell's enlightening article is lacking in accuracy with regard to one of the projects referenced: The Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge.
The graphic lists Miguel Rosales as an "architect" of the project, but at the time of his involvement, Rosales was an unlicensed designer at Wallace Floyd Associates (WFA) and only one member of a large team; these individuals were charged with Big Dig projectwide community liaison, planning, urban design, and architecture for one of the most important public works projects in Boston's history. However, the Charles River Crossing proved to be one of the most divisive and challenging aspects of the project from the perspective of every one of those disciplines.
In 1991 state officials formed the Bridge Design Review Committee (BDRC) to break the logjam. We at WFA helped the Review Committee bring famed Swiss bridge engineer Christian Menn on board as an adviser to evaluate the highway river-crossing alternatives and to select a recommended alternative. WFA assigned Rosales to assist Menn in the making of bridge models and drawings for presentations to the BDRC. Ultimately a scheme was recommended, and Menn pulled it all together and is the sole creator of the new bridge— with assistance from WFA, the BDRC, and Big Dig engineers. (I have been in touch with Menn and he fully agrees with my assessment.) Any assertion otherwise does a disservice not only to Menn and former colleagues at WFA but also to the collaborative design process that made the Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge possible.
David D. Wallace FAIA
Wallace Floyd Associates
This provocative issue clearly articulates the challenges facing the city. However, the message should not be directed solely to City Hall but also to the Boston Society of Architects and its affiliate members who are charged with guiding the public and private sectors in addressing pressing as well as long-term issues.
Certain themes reappear throughout the articles: social equity, identity, infrastructure, policy and regulatory process reform (or not). Surely there is no simple "blueprint" for addressing these complex questions. Resonating among the challenges is Robert Campbell's call to the leadership to make sure that the city holds on to and builds on the characteristics that define Boston's "essence"—a powerful yet hard-to-define sentiment. The question for the design and planning community is: How best do we assist the mayor in continuing the momentum of Boston's urban renaissance while ensuring that the benefits of the city's success are more widely available?
Although many issues require a civic response, there are a few that demand attention to ensure long-term social, economic, cultural, and physical resilience to this city: notably, providing affordable housing and high-quality educational opportunities for all; improving and integrating multimodal transportation networks; promoting symbiotic relationships between cities and communities beyond city boundaries, and embracing and planning for increased density as the city's daily and permanent population continues to grow.
Paul Lukez FAIA, Paul Lukez Architecture
Patrick Tedesco AIA, nbbj
Meera Deean, Utile
BSA Urban Design Committee co-chairs
Boston, with its 53 percent residents of color, is a "majority minority" city. Yet it continues to baffle me how invisible that community is in discussions of the travails of professionals who can't find housing within their reach ["Who Will Occupy Boston?"]. Where are they looking?
It seems that downtown, Back Bay, South End, Charlestown, Cambridge, Jamaica Plain, and South Boston are unreachable for professionals seeking to buy homes and put down roots. One is led to believe they have no other choice than to leave the area or move to the exurbs...really?
What is not in the discussion is the consideration of opportunities in neighborhoods like Roxbury. It is centrally located, with relatively convenient transit options, interesting building stock, and a fair amount of vacant buildings and lots. One could develop units at multiple price points in a combination of rehabilitated structures throughout Roxbury, Dorchester, and Mattapan. This involves getting past negative stereotypes exacerbated by the fact that we remain a largely residentially segregated nation. And the specter of "gentrification" remains a formidable barrier. That said, I believe most discussions about gentrification are simplistic and lack nuance and depth.
Thoughtful persons on both sides of the issue need to be brought to the table by the new mayor to hammer out ways to reinvest in these neighborhoods that are equitable for current and future residents. If someone renovates a dilapidated building, shouldn't there be a way to make that a win for everyone?
M. David Lee FAIA
Stull and Lee Architects