All you need is Love
The warm embrace by the architecture establishment was critically important to the growth of my fledgling firm, which was founded simultaneously with the start of my term on the ArchitectureBoston editorial board in January 2003, not only because of the advice and encouragement I received but also because my multiple roles at the BSA helped legitimize Utile as a serious enterprise. In my first few years of involvement, Hubert Murray FAIA, Elizabeth Padjen FAIA, and Richard Fitzgerald were only the most supportive of a much broader group of friendly advocates. More recently, Matt Kiefer, Rich Dimino, and Jim Collins FAIA have been go-to advisors for a wide bandwidth of BSA-focused, professional, and disciplinary issues. I’ve always been a mentor junkie. The BSA has provided an endless supply of new candidates.
I jump started my term as president a few months ahead of schedule (in September 2014) by organizing a professional charrette focused on Harvard-owned Beacon Yards. The site, thrown into the public spotlight because of Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT’s) decision to redesign the interchange that runs through it, was one of several significant chunks of underdeveloped real estate that was being discussed as a policy issue but not as a significant city-building opportunity. Rather than run the charrette to give voice to affected communities—ironically, MassDOT was doing a good job at that—we decided to ask respected professionals to lead cross-disciplinary teams. Alex Krieger and Kishore Varanasi signed up and then persuaded all-star casts of landscape architects, transportation planners, and real estate experts to generate thoughtful and realistic schemes. In the end, two highly specific and visually compelling proposals were generated that helped change the ambitions and priorities of the Commonwealth and Harvard.
Two additional professional charrettes were mobilized during my term. The first tested a new mixed-use residential neighborhood just north of the Andrew T station on Dorchester Avenue. The charrette helped encourage the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) to designate the corridor as an SPA, or strategic planning area. The authority has subsequently led a public-engagement process that has successfully argued for increased development density in the area. The second charrette focused on the future of Suffolk Downs. Timed to coincide with the state’s decision not to locate a casino on the site (it’s being built in nearby Everett), the last of the charrettes hasn’t yet catalyzed any significant next steps, but during one of the charrette events, Sara Myerson, the BRA’s newly appointed chief planner, and Omar Boukili, the mayor of Revere’s chief of staff, promised to work together on a future plan.
Last but not least, and with the leadership, encouragement, and tireless outreach of BSA executive director Eric White and Gretchen Rabinkin AIA, we ran a soft campaign to make the BSA an indispensable resource to the Walsh administration as it was setting up shop. We were aided by the interests and talents of Globereporter Dante Ramos and the hard-earned knowledge and zeal of former city councilor Mike Ross. Their Globe pieces and participation at urban design–themed BSA events has helped make the BSA the go-to organization when public policy intersects with large tracts of land, whether at Beacon Yards, Widett Circle, or Suffolk Downs.
And, yes, it was a blast!
Tim Love FAIA, 2015 BSA president