Category Archives: Architecture

Boston’s biggest construction projects since WWII

View of the skyline from Boston Harbor

Present day view of the skyline from Boston Harbor

The amount of development taking place in Boston is impressive but Curbed Boston helped put the crazy development we see in the Seaport in perspective in their post Five Big Post WWII Changes That Shaped Modern Boston

urban renewal

In the late 1950s Boston’s entire West End neighborhood was razed

The most dramatic and possibly unwelcome change was the city’s wholesale demolition of the West End and the displacement of thousands of residents,  all in the name of urban renewal. This alone offers insight how and why neighborhood groups became so vocal and powerful in Boston. The image on the left shows a crowded neighborhood made up of multifamily brick buildings and the image to the right shows open space which in the years that followed came to be populated by mostly ugly and uninspiring concrete structures.

Boston Back Bay High Spine Architecture

Boston’s “High Spine” in the Back Bay

Other developments of note included the High Spine which started in the 1960s with the building of the Prudential in the Back Bay and continues to be developed today. Also noted was the decline of the Combat Zone (Boston’s Red Light District) sandwiched between Boston’s Theater District, Downtown Crossing and Chinatown, which is now home to some of Boston’s largest high end residences, including the posh Ritz Carlton residences. The article closes referencing both the Big Dig and the flurry of development which continues now as the city’s newest neighborhood, The Seaport, takes shape.

You can read the full article here.

An American in Havana: The architecture

travel, gay travel, caribbeanAs I mentioned in my previous post, Havana has a shabby chic vibe that even a city like New Orleans would envy.  But one needn’t just visit Old Havana to see some amazing architecture.  The neighborhood we stayed was filled with homes that appeared to date back to the first half of the 20th century (if not older) and exuded an old world charm with high ceilings and architectural details from that time.

architectureHavana Cuba architectureA lot of homes were once family residences but now many of them are overflowing with multiple families since there seems to be a housing crunch in Havana.  I asked why some appear decrepit and some looked like they had been restored to their former glory and was told that it really came down to money.  I was told one way you can tell if a family had money was if their house had recently been painted.  It was stories like this that often time gave me pause to consider the implications of our cold relations with Cuba.  Unlike many poor nations, I couldn’t help but get the impression that this could all so easily be averted.

While most of Havana remains in a depressing state of disrepair it would be unfair not to share with you examples of the “New Havana”.  Like this new restaurant that opened in the neighborhood we were staying on our visit to Cuba. Sara in Havana, travel, gay traveltravel, gay travelIn addition to “Sara” which I’ve shared in photographs of above, there are also national treasures like the Hotel Nacional de Cuba which according to our guide was the playground for many American mobsters in the 1940s and 1950s and is still a functioning hotel.

travel, gay travelThe hotel has beautiful views of the ocean and manicured grounds that include a tunnel rumored to run below the streets of Havana; intended as one of many escape routes for Fidel Castro back during the days of Bay of Pigs.

Blog posts from this series:
Post 1: An American in Havana
Post 2: An American in Havana: The Cuban people
Post 3: An American in Havana: The architecture
Post 4: An American in Havana: Old Havana
Post 5: An American in Havana: The food
Post 6: An American in Havana: The cars

Third Hancock tower proposed for Back Bay



Little more than a week after The Boston Globe told us that the Hancock Tower would now be called 200 Clarendon, the same newspaper reports that Manulife Financial Corp which owns John Hancock intends to add a third high-rise to the Back Bay skyline.  The proposed building would replace an existing 9-story building at 380 Stuart Street with a new 26-story building with a distinctive curved glass facade.  For more details read the Boston Globe article here.


Holy Trinity Church in the South End to be turned into luxury condos

South EndLast June the Archdiocese of Boston put the Holy Trinity Church up for sale. The ne0-gothic church and rectory first opened in 1877 but has been vacant since it closed in 2011.  Last week the Boston Redevelopment Authority approved plans to transform the church and rectory into 33 new housing units.  The $47 million project will involve demolition of the existing interior space to accommodate a new 8-story building that will also include 28 basement parking spots.

The new design attempts to marry modern steel and glass elements while preserving the historic character of the existing structure and exterior masonry. Lighting features will enhance the church’s spire and highlight the classic architecture of the building.


Sanctuary in the city

BPL, Todd Van HoosearSource: Todd Van Hoosear

Although Boston isn’t quite there yet, spring is definitely in the air and it is a beautifully sunny day in Boston.  This courtyard in the McKim building of the Boston Public Library (BPL) is one of my favorite places to enjoy in good weather. The BPL courtyard (open to the public) is surrounded by an arcade that reminds me of architecture more often found in Europe than the US and is the perfect place to get away from all the noise and nonsense in one’s life.

Whenever visitors come to Boston, I bring them to the BPL.  It isn’t on a lot of tourists radar but everyone I bring here leaves both impressed and glad they stopped by. If you have time be sure to also walk upstairs to check out the John Singer Sargent’s murals.

Boston Athenaeum open house 12-4PM today

Boston AthenaeumLast week I wrote about today’s Boston Athenaeum open house which is today from Noon to 4PM.  With the weekend weather in Boston a bust, finding cool things to do indoors is a must so check out the open house.

Did you know the Boston Athenaeum is one of the oldest independent libraries in the US? It is also one of only sixteen extant membership libraries; meaning that patrons pay a yearly subscription fee to use the Athenæum’s service.

Boston Athenaeum Open House Noon – 4pm at 10 1/2 Beacon Street

Sydney is such a seductress

Sydney HarbourAs I was perusing Facebook yesterday I stumbled upon this breathtaking photograph of the Sydney Opera House at sunset.  It reminded me how much I loved Sydney (and all of Australia) when Sergio and I visited back in November and December of 2009. I wrote about that trip quite a bit.  Here are two posts you may find interesting if you share my fascination / love of Australia, An Americans’ observations about Australia and Seductive Sydney.

Much thanks to Marc Keeper who posted this on his FB page. It made my evening.