Tag Archives: massachusetts

Korean Church of Boston

Korean Church of Boston in Brookline, Massachusetts by Brian Healy Architects, 2010.

See also this week's book review of Commonplaces, a monograph on Brian Healy Architects.

To celebrate its fiftieth anniversary the Korean Church of Boston decided to build a Children's Chapel and Eduction Center next to its existing church in Brookline, west of Boston. They held a design competition in 2003, the jubilee year, won by Brian Healy Architects with an infill design that responds to the unique circumstances of the site as well as the program spaces of worship and study for the church's "third generation members -- the children ages five through twelve."

At about 8,300 sf (770 sm), the addition is small. It interlocks with the L-shaped church -- sited on a block bound by Harvard Street on the east and Holden Street on the west -- with an L-shaped plan of its own, creating a small internal court in the process. The existing church and Children's Chapel front Holden Street and the civic institutions across the street. While the church formerly turned its back on the commercial strip of Harvard Street, Healy extended the building and created a pavilion with a new entrance on this busy thoroughfare.

Our proposal expands on the competition brief by addressing the challenge as a campus planning initiative. -Brian Healy, Commonplaces

But providing a secondary entrance on Harvard Street was not a simple and direct task, due to a 9-foot (2.75m) change in elevation across the site. The architects removed the old plinth and retaining wall, excavating to grade to create a new plaza. This outdoor space and the adjacent building extension (both part of the soon-to-be-completed phase 2, with the phase 1 chapel and renovation of 2,133 sf (200sm) in the existing completed last summer) will comprise a new Community Center.

From the dark rainscreen-clad volume on Holden Street, access to the chapel is up a flight of stairs lined in bamboo-picket guardrails with narrow openings. Another bamboo wall screens the stair from the chapel, its floor and risers in wood, and its wall and ceiling of acoustical panels. The last are articulated like the new exterior volumes, staggered vertical panels in varying widths. In this sense, among other ways, the building approaches a contemporary Arts & Crafts ideal; interior and exterior fuse into a total work, extending to the shaping of exterior spaces and its relationship to its surroundings. It is a design well worth the recent Architect Magazine Design Award.

Loft Residence

Loft Residence in Boston, Massachusetts by Della Valle Bernheimer.

Commissioned by an artist and her computer scientist husband, Della Valle + Bernheimer Design (d-bd) approached the design of the couple's loft in Boston by separating the spaces according to levels of privacy and function. Though not a new approach, the relatively small area (click here for floor plan) made it difficult for the architects to physically separate the spaces while maintaining an open, loft-like character. So, instead of standard construction and/or orthogonal walls, laser-cut steel walls follow two curving lines that separate the spaces into private/domestic, private/studio and public/studio. The first area contains the master bedroom and bathrooms (upper portion of plan), the second area contains a ceramics studio and meditation space (lower portion of plan), while the remaining area is devoted to the painting studio and kitchen that also functions as display space.

Following from the client's demand for a neutral palette in the apartment, possibly as a backdrop to the wife's colorful paintings, the steel walls have a quiet, gray tone, while providing textures that add to the tactile nature of her work. Actually the two walls are different types - bedroom wall is stainless steel and the studio/meditation wall is raw, cold-rolled steel - giving the loft subtle differences in how the public space is contained.

Beyond the mere fact of the two steel walls, obviously the generator and strongest quality for the spaces, they also feature holes for the hanging artwork and pivoting doors that enable the space to be more flexible than it seems. It is through computer technology (precise laser cutting of the walls) that d-bd were able to create spaces more efficient for the small plan with the flexibility mentioned above. So the architects were able to use the computer to overcome the constraints of the site and retain the loft-like character of the space, but in a way that is texturally rich and spatially interesting at the same time.

In the words of d-bd, "we designed a movable steel cart containing a hydraulic lift...fabricated to facilitate the installation of the [steel] panels during the construction phase. After completion of the construction, the cart will remain on-site, to be used by the artist as a mobile easel." This extra consideration goes well beyond how architects and contractors typically approach the construction process: it being a means towards the final product. Of course the final product - a loose term when one realizes a building is always being changed by the occupant - cannot be reached without a (usually long) time of construction. But any artifact that creates a continuity between the construction and occupation, like the cart/easel, imbues the whole process with that much more meaning, enabling the user to be connected with the building/interior's making. When the occupant herself make things, that artifact is that much more appropriate.

Simmons Hall

Simmons Hall in Cambridge, Massachusetts by Steven Holl Architects, 2002.

The newly-opened Simmons Hall, on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is part of M.I.T.'s ambition to impart unique contemporary architecture on their expanding campus. Including buildings by Frank Gehry, Kevin Roche and Fumihiko Maki, Steven Holl's undergraduate residence hall (with Perry Dean Rogers Partners Architects) stands out with its conceptual clarity and brazen imagery. Envisioned with the idea of "porosity", the building is seen as part of the city and campus form, slices of each stacked ten stories tall and almost 400 feet long.

Both in plan and section, the building is composed of two types of openings: five large-scale openings that correspond to entries, views and outdoor spaces, and over 3,000 small-scale openings acting as windows. Each of the 350 dorm rooms looks out from an amazing nine windows (click for image)! Built with a "perfcon" structure, each opening is 2 x 2 feet and 18 inches deep, allowing for winter light to enter while shading the rooms from the summer sun. A number of these smaller openings connect to the interior and act as the "lungs" of the building, drawing air into and up through the building. The image at left illustrates the different colors applied to the head and jambs, creating identity for each "house" within the overall structure.

Internally the building is as complex as its exterior. Wide corridors connect the dorm rooms and the building's amenities: dining, fitness center and a theater, among other facilities. Eight atria connect the floors vertically in a manner more flowing than rigid, contrasting the regimented exterior (click for section). The combination of circulation with dorm rooms and ancillary functions is the primary programmatic solution that reinforces the notion of the building as a slice of the city. Parts of the city are lifted into the building and inserted next to internal streets, for use by students and their guests, in effect making the building a contemporary re-interpretation of Le Corbusier's Unite d'Habitation in Marseilles, France.

In Simmons Hall, which opened to residents recently, architect Steven Holl successfully continues to translate conceptual ideas into impressive buildings that can stand alone without knowledge of their impetus. But the strength of his designs allows the observer to discover the ideas: here the large and small openings speak of the building's porosity, while the internal interactions act as a micro-urban condition. Aside from the building's praises as a stand-alone object, it is a part of a larger whole; it is part of a campus and a city. In reflecting the greater condition into which it is inserted, ideally Simmons Hall will give back to M.I.T. and Cambridge through its quality spatial and interactive experiences.

[Google Earth link]

Institute for Contemporary Art

Institute for Contemporary Art in Boston, Massachusetts by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, 2002.

The following text and images are by The Institute of Contemporary Art the for their New Waterfront Museum by New York's Diller + Scofidio (now Diller Scofidio + Renfro)  in Boston, Massachusetts.

On September 4, 2002, the Trustees of The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, unveiled Diller + Scofidio's highly anticipated design for a new 62,000-square-foot, four-story museum to provide both a world-class exhibition space to showcase works by leading contemporary artists and a vibrant center for public performances, educational activities, and waterfront access.

Diller + Scofidio's dramatic cantilever design integrates the public harborwalk into the building and produces shifting views of the waterfront throughout the museum, which will include 18,000 square feet of exhibition space; a 300-seat performing arts theater; a media center; educational facilities; and a bookstore and restaurant.

The galleries, located on the uppermost level, dramatically cantilever over the city's public harborwalk toward the water, providing a sheltered open space at ground level where visitors can gather to enjoy views of the Boston Harbor. The exterior of the "gallery box," clad in translucent glass planks, will be illuminated at night to become a radiant, welcoming waterfront presence. Inside the museum, the harbor view is transformed into a theatrical backdrop for the theater's stage, whose glass walls can be adjusted for light--from transparent to filtered to opaque--to meet particular performance needs.

Completion of the museum, which will be Diller + Scofidio's first major new building project in the United States, is projected for spring 2006. A $60 million capital campaign is underway to support building and endowing the facility.

Sauna Pavilion

Sauna Pavilion

Sauna Pavilion in Berkshire Mountains, Massachusetts by Artifact Design, 1999.

The following text and images are by Artifact Design (now ck-a) for their design of a sauna pavilion in the Berkshire Mountains of Massachusetts.

The sauna's site was a small knoll at the end of a large open meadow overlooking a pond and its feeder stream. The program required the building to be present at the meeting of earth and water.

To mediate between the two site characteristics, we created a spatial zone defined by a grade change, a plankway for the cold plunge, and a screen wall. We pulled the sauna itself back from this edge and made it a copper-sheathed cube sitting in the landscape.

One revolves around it while proceeding through the ritual of the bath: entering, undressing, baking in sauna chamber, running to the cold plunge, scrambling out of the frigid pond, entering, etc. The timber frame and roof plane tie all the elements together.

Large areas of glass between columns allow visual continuity of the landscape through the interior.

Ed note: The sauna pavilion is featured in Hauser, a German design magazine, and XS, a Thames and Hudson book devoted to fine works of small architecture.

New England Holocaust Memorial

New England Holocaust Memorial

New England Holocaust Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts by Stanley Saitowitz, 1991.

Ironically in San Francisco, a city known for its progressive attitudes, controversy has arisen over local architect Stanley Saitowitz's Yerba Buena Lofts, a stacked condo development of cast-in-place concrete, glass and industrial-grade steel on Folsom Street, south of Market. The design updates the Victorian context of bay windows into contemporary materials and methods, much to the public's chagrin. But before the loft project was even an idea, Saitowitz had completed a commission in another city known for its conservative aesthetics, Boston; the New England Holocaust Memorial in Carmen Park, near City Hall. The gap that exists between the acceptance of the Memorial and the rejection of the Lofts lies in Americans' attitudes towards the built environment: contemporary ideas can seep into the markers of our time and mortality, but not into our daily lives.

Maya Lin's winning design for the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial, off the Mall in Washington D.C., helped to create an acceptance for abstract art as a conveyer of emotion over literal historicism (a short-lived acceptance with the recent World War II Memorial design). The reflective granite surface brings the living and the deceased (or M.I.A.) together in the simple, recessed type, often used for rubbings and always touched lovingly with outstretched hands. Although a controversial design at the time of its selection, and subsequent unveiling, the Memorial has become a strong symbol associated with the Vietnam conflict and an important part of the healing process for family and friends of victims.

The Holocaust is an event that is being memorialized in many countries around the world as the gap between past and present grows and more Holocaust survivors pass away. These memorials attempt to both mark a time and an event but also capture the intense emotions of what is seen as the worst undertaking of modern man. The most well-known, and successful, structure to commemorate both the victims and survivors of the Holocaust is Pei Cobb Freed & Partners' United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. Much of its success at moving the visitor is the large amount of personal images and paraphernalia, which combine to overwhelm our senses but also tell us about each life taken, their hopes taken in a senseless act. In the process we come face to face with our own mortality and are reminded of the fragility and brevity of human life.

Stanley Saitowitz's design for the New England Holocaust Memorial is best described in these quotes by Elie Wiesel:

Look at these towers, passerby, and try to imagine what they really mean - what they symbolize - what they evoke. They evoke an era of incommensurate darkness, an era in history when civilization lost its humanity and humanity its soul . . .

We must look at these towers of memory and say to ourselves, No one should ever deprive a human being of his or her right to dignity. No one should ever deprive anyone of his or her right to be a sovereign human being. No one should ever speak again about racial superiority... We cannot give evil another chance.

[Google Earth link]