Tag Archives: Back Bay 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.

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.

Back Bay – Boston

Back Bay is famous for its rows of Victorian homes, which according to wikipedia are considered one of the best-preserved examples of 19th-century urban design in the United States.   The neighborhood’s name refers to when this now trendy part of the city was marsh. Now a shopping, business and residential district, fans of architecture will recognize most of the residential buildings date from the late 19th and early 20th century.

When I first moved into Boston, I lived in the Back Bay and I’ll always consider the neighborhood home.  Below are a series of photographs from Back Bay.

The neighborhood blends the old with the new beautifully.  The photos above are from opposing buildings at the intersection of Newbury Street and Massachusetts Avenue.  The modern building on the left was designed by Frank Gehry in 1989.  By contrast the re-purposed building across the street provides a glimpse of Boston’s past.

When I first moved to Boston the building above which dates back to 1899 was home to Waterstone’s Bookstore and was one of my favorite places to spend time when the weather wasn’t agreeable.  The building is now home to a Montessori school and a restaurant.

Above is a trompe l’oeil to add some interest to what otherwise would be the back of a concrete building that is home to the Boston Architectural College and behind it is the Prudential building which dominates the Back Bay skyline.