SHIFTboston blog» Blog Archive » A meeting in Boston and around the world in ONE DAY? HYBRID as a solution for Boston’s emerging jet set.

A meeting in Boston and around the world in ONE DAY? HYBRID as a solution for Boston’s emerging jet set.

How about a business hub in Boston so adequately efficient in layout, internal infrastructure and proximity to transportation, that one could conceivably arrive, attend a meeting, and be off to Beijing in just ONE day? 

The studio:

Two weeks ago we presented Tsai and Nawratil’s radical concept for the expansion of South Station from the 2012 post-professional studio at the Yale School of Architecture, co-taught by Ed Mitchell, Fred Koetter and Aniket Shahane. The 2012 post professional studio examines a series of contiguous developer parcels in Boston and students have designed concepts to identify new roles for the future of these sites. We will be presenting the second of the two most radical student proposals along with a critique from David Gamble, a standing official on the Innovation District task force and co-writer of the new district program.

The concept:

HYBRID by Mengyao Yu and Jie Tian creates an urban enclave for the emerging ‘jet set’ of downtown Boston, challenging the city’s historic fabric of neighborhood districts and embracing the large scale of the South Boston waterfront. The site’s proximity to the highway, ferry and airport triggers this response, capitalizing on the tangled landscape of infrastructure which is most advantageous to an emerging population of business executives and part time global citizens of Boston. In the scheme, two major locations, one an urban island in the center of the freeway off ramps between the Leather District and Fort Point Chanel and a second to the west of the Convention Center are the locus of two large hotel and apartment complexes. These enclaves are linked to the Ted Williams Tunnel, the waterway taxis and ferries by way of the Chanel and South Station terminal for easy access to points throughout the globe. Locally a bridge linking the two hotels makes a park-like connection from the Rose Kennedy Greenway into South Boston. The buildings are designed so that there is easy car and taxi access, and their evocative forms emphasize both their role as urban landmarks and the experience and views of the complexes from the air and from the car.

What the Innovation District task force says:

SHIFTboston spoke with David Gamble AIA, of the Innovation District Task Force,  co-chair of the BSA Urban Design Committee to hear what the task force has to say about such a development. 

SHIFTboston:  Would the city of Boston ever approve such a large-scale transformation like this? What might be approved? Is there anything that would not?

David Gamble:  “Hybrid” wisely capitalizes on the transit-rich – and often overlooked – infrastructure of the site.  While South Station, the Bus Terminal and Logan Airport are all known transportation hubs, the scheme amplifies their proximity to one another by revealing paths between them and adding new ones to augment the network.  Interstate 90, the great east west car corridor, acts as a direct conduit for new development and commerce, and water transport is brought into the channel in a way that elegantly activates the solemn channel.  Moreover, pedestrian movement is facilitated by the construction of two elevated platforms over the water, helping to diminish the perception of distance between the two sides, which are really quite close.  The problem is just that one can’t easily traverse the channel now without going all the way around it. 

The great promise of this proposal lies with the notion that infrastructure has the potential to do more than just connect people with places.  If designed well, and with thoughtful engineering, the transportation endeavor can be an armature for new construction that literally wraps the investment. In a city that benefitted from billions and billions of dollars depressing a short elevated freeway and building a harbor tunnel, such an ambitious vision ought not to me dismissed too easily. 

SHIFTboston:  The structure provides an improved link between the leather district, south station and the fort point channel districts. Have you seen other design proposals or plans that aim to increase circulation between these districts? Would you describe.

David Gamble:  Proximity is important, but the linkages between the two sides are perhaps less important than the effect that they have on their specific sites.  To the east, Site 2 embraces the grade change of Summer Street and creates an active promenade between the Convention Center and the hotel.  A new datum is embraced and extended.  To the west, the tangled-web of I-93 off ramps, and the residual space they define, become activated by the new program, effectively spanning a space entirely devoid of habitation.  More than just a bridge, the hybrid project establishes a network of connections which seek to diminish existing barriers and create new alignments unforeseen.  The scheme embraces the tangled web of existing circulation and rationalizes it, creating a compelling magnetism between east and west. 

SHIFTboston:  Given your familiarity with the urban context surrounding this site, what are your thoughts about the form, texture, scale and layout of the new buildings? Do they add a new and exciting moment to the existing fabric? Are the complimentary to it? Or are they in conflict with it?

David Gamble:  The scale of the architectural proposition, while dwarfing the context of the late nineteenth century Fort Point neighborhood, does not overwhelm the new context which has already begun to emerge under the auspices of the “Innovation District” brand.  Buildings recently completed or permitted in the district have more in common from a typology perspective with the nearby Financial District or Kendall Square in Cambridge than anything that resembles what was there in the past. In fact, compared to the footprint of the Convention Center (which itself is going under a major expansion!), one can say that the sister-structures are even too small given the transit investment required to access them.  The project could warrant even greater height, especially on Site 1. 

SHIFTboston:  What are some of your overall thoughts about the specific programming?

David Gamble:  Boston is notoriously short on hotel space.  There are hundreds of rooms planned, permitted or under construction already in the area, and collectively they are unlikely to meet the full demand.  In a city whose occupancy rates consistently rank near the top in the country, it’s hard to imagine we will ever have enough accommodation in downtown Boston for the millions of tourists and visitors who chose to experience the city. 

But one wonders if the project relies on the hotel program situated above the retail base.  Housing is in demand, and in particular the smaller-scaled, micro units which are being sought by people on both ends of the age demographic and are more affordable.  While the is an elegant parallax created between the sinuous hotel forms, additional housing might have helped to better integrate the objects into their surroundings, and offered places for residents in a district which is likely to see more than 20 million square feet of new construction take hold in the next generation.

Written by: Meghan Maupin

Edited by: Kim Poliquin

Content provided by: Edward Mitchell, post-professional studio at the Yale School of Architecture

 

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