Friday, May 7, 2010

Blog Post No. 2010-8: Three Things...

Really in no particular order

Ok, maybe some order:

1. More on City Hall Plaza. As a follow-up to the last post regarding Boston City Hall Plaza, Kara Wilbur forwarded me a link to a Providence Journal blog piece by Martin Brussat from yesterday entitled "Boston City Hall Plaza as it ought to be." The vision there, by Robert Helfand, is certainly arresting and presents a far more tightly-woven street network through the plaza than we now have. For instance, it brings Hanover Street up the hill from its current terminus at Congress Street all the way to Cambridge Street, restores Brattle Street around the Sears Crescent, and creates a new cross-street that does a little eyebrow around what is apparently a new Boston City Hall built in a full-throttle classical style. In addition to the new City Hall, we have a central fountain, a campanile, a low-rise replacement for what is now the JFK Federal Building, and a row of new buildings along the Congress Street frontage now occupied by the existing City Hall. There's even a new apparently classically-inspired version of the Government Center MBTA station headhouse. I confess to liking the vision a lot and wanting to sit on the edge of the fountain and watch what might be happening in the plaza. I also confess to thinking that the vision veers dangerously close to the intentional amnesia of those who brought us the current plaza. The vision would be a massive departure from the present and the last almost 50 years making it almost seem like it never happened. As my post suggested, I'm not convinced we need to go quite that far to see some progress and get a better plaza.

2. Performance art + urban planning. Russ Preston's blog -- Life + Urbanism -- recently linked to a really interesting exercise in performance art plus urban planning down in Dallas. Texas. The idea was to simulate a pedestrian-oriented set of buildings and streetscape on a one-block stretch of what is now, by the look of things, a fairly auto-oriented street in the city's Oak Cliff section. The original intent was to use "crowdsourced placemaking" to create a fun, rewarding place -- a "Better Block" -- over a single weekend and for just a $1,000 up front. There's a lot packed into what is shown on the videos, blog posts, and online news articles that are linked together at the Bike Friendly Oak Cliff site. Impressive stuff. I especially like the way the blogger at Bike Friendly Oak Cliff refers to his fellow travelers as "BFOCers." Seriously, though, guerrilla urbanism has a place in the toolkit, no doubt.

3. And on it goes. I'm really not sure what to make of the extremely public way that developer Don Chiofaro is taking on the Mayor over height limits and development potential on the Greenway here in Boston. I mean, I thought the multiple-article frontal assault through the pages of the Boston Globe was a bold enough move. But when you call a press conference, as Chiofaro did late last month, for the express purpose of calling out someone who is now in his 5th term as the Mayor of Boston and really isn't that old, you're playing with fire. Maybe the thinking is that the Mayor is eventually going to be gone and Chiofaro plans on being around when that happens. Maybe he thinks his relationship with the Mayor can't get worse, and so he's got nothing to lose. Who knows? It's certainly a different way of going about things. We here at RTUF will keep our friends around this great country of ours updated as this continues to unfold.

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