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On Blueprint (Spring 2014)

“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
State Representative,
6th Middlesex House District

​Framingham, Massachusetts


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.

Jesse Brackenbury
Executive director, 
Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy

Boston


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
Paris, France