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Jul 12, 2017

That 70s Show

Artery at Night Vanderwarker 636x480

Image: Central Artery. Credit: Peter Vanderwarker.

The Boston Society of Architects has been a “friend” to me for a long time and has introduced me to friends for life.

The year is 1974. Lowell Erickson is running the BSA, pretty much by himself.

The windows were falling out of the Hancock tower, the Playboy Club was in Park Square, and Mort Zuckerman was mad about having been told he could not build a high-rise on the site of today’s Heritage on the Garden.

I am fresh out of Cal Berkeley with a BArch degree, but architecture jobs in Boston are scarce.

I get a job at the Boston Architectural Center, directing the sixth-year thesis program. Elsie Hurst, a longtime supporter of the BSA, is in charge, followed by Sandy Greenfield and Arcangelo Cascieri.

Elsie gives me advice on marriage (she attends my wedding) as well as professional development.

About 1982, I go to a lecture at the BSA by some guy named Robert Campbell, who had just become the architecture critic for The Boston Globe. He is pretty smart.

I have just finished writing a book titled Boston Then and Now, and I ask Robert to write a foreword. We wind up collaborating for 22 years on Cityscapes of Boston, and we get another book out of the work.

Soon we both get invited to lecture at the BSA. That is a big deal for me. The BSA also gives us the Commonwealth Award.

Sometime around 1983, I go to another BSA lecture: Some MIT professor named Fred Salvucci swears he knows how to put the Central Artery underground. He asks me to take some photographs of the awful traffic on the artery, and before long, he is applying for billions of dollars from the Federal Housing Administration to do the project. With a little help from Tip O’Neill, he gets the money.

Fred also helps me get a National Endowment for the Arts grant in 1987 to document the entire project.

The BSA hosts a series of fantastic evenings: How will we develop the more than 100 acres of land now occupied by the Green Monster? Alex Krieger, Martha Lampkin, Rebecca Barnes, and Rafael Viñoly all speak up with fascinating (and varied) designs. It is very rich stuff.

Around 1990, the BSA sponsors another event: Imagine Boston (or something like that). Larry Bluestone comes up with a map of Boston underwater, titled “Dam or Be Damned.” I am amazed at how ahead of the time he was.

I do some photographs of the Central Artery project. Alexandra Lee buys prints for the BSA headquarters: That is another big deal for me.

Recently, I taught a series of three-hour photo workshops, meeting the next generation of good Boston photographers. I’m still making friends and still getting help from the BSA.

Editor’s note: They were all mere mortals in 1974; eventually, these people became: Lowell Erickson Hon. BSA; Elsie Hurst Hon. BSA; Fred Salvucci Hon. BSA; Alexandra Lee Hon. BSA; Martha Lampkin Welborne FAIA; and Robert Campbell FAIA.

Peter Vanderwarker, architectural photographer