City Hall Plaza Revamp | Government Center

Charlie_mta

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2006
Messages
3,148
Reaction score
3,072
I have to say that I prefer deciduous trees and shrubs for landscaping instead of evergreen trees and shrubs, at least in Massachusetts. I used to work in Alaska quite a bit, and loved the Fairbanks area because it reminded me of New England, with a lot of deciduous trees in and around the city, and they were a native species, not imported. I generally find fir trees to be too visually smothering, too thick. Deciduous trees have more color nuances and are more multi-dimensional and transparent, even in the summer. Just my subjective personal taste.
 

jass

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
5,093
Reaction score
768
In the city of Boston, I don't think you'll find many pines around here
I agree, but thats because they were cut down and the city doesnt use them as part of their greenscaping. Not because theyre not from here.

As always it can come down to cost/benefit, programming decisions, and what has historically had the best chance of surviving.
Actually, it usually comes down to bureaucratic inertia, which in turn is likely to have come from some ridiculous design sensibility linked to British royalty (aka, American lawns) which then gets passed down.

Note that Im not saying that this specific location is ideal for them - as you point out, there are subway tunnels below it which creates very specific constraints. But there are certainly places all over the city they could be planted without that being an issue.

Deciduous trees have more color nuances and are more multi-dimensional and transparent, even in the summer. Just my subjective personal taste.
Except for those 4 pesky months where the entire city looks dead.

Note the pops of color the pines give to Vancouver in January


 

RandomWalk

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 2, 2014
Messages
2,010
Reaction score
1,984
Evergreens aren’t the most compatible trees with the urban roadside environment. If you are using local pines, the sap will tick off vehicle owners who park under them. They also drop the lower limbs as they grow, which makes the trees look awkward as they mature. If you plant them in a mixed woodland setting, like a larger park, those issues are less important.
 

Cortes

Active Member
Joined
Jul 23, 2013
Messages
387
Reaction score
451
This whole discussion is so silly to me that I'll go ahead and contribute. Why would you WANT pine trees? If I had my opinion become reality, why not apple trees or Concord Grape vines or just a bee colony? There are 3 Redwoods growing in the public garden, why not one of those? How about some Chestnut trees? Rant over.😆
 

kingofsheeba

Active Member
Joined
Aug 22, 2013
Messages
851
Reaction score
1,077
Nah, Redwoods at Harbor Lights.
7173A450-5C3A-4CB3-B88D-0EC2FE424FCD.jpeg


Oh a side note, I’d like to see the Greenway do big time festivals that attract major acts like Molly Tuttle, Janelle Moane, and Nathaniel Rateliff and the Nightsweats. Greenway Fest.
 

jass

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 10, 2006
Messages
5,093
Reaction score
768
They also drop the lower limbs as they grow, which makes the trees look awkward as they mature.
Did you open the pictures I posted above? I dont find they look awkward at all.

Why would you WANT pine trees?
Because they dont look dead for 4 months of the year?

Seasonal depression is a thing. Having zero greenery for four months contributes to that.

why not apple trees
I have no idea how apple trees would fare in Boston, but many global cities do use fruit trees in their street planning. The US tends not to for reasons.

The reasons may include...

the sap will tick off vehicle owners who park under them
Which IMO is a shit reason to not plant trees. Lets stop coddling drivers, yes?
 

as02143

Active Member
Joined
Jun 19, 2021
Messages
125
Reaction score
139
One day, some time ago, someone told me that City Hall plaza was supposed to evoke Piazza del Campo in Sienna. I went to Sienna and definitely did not think that City Hall plaza had anything at all to do with that place.

This redesign, for some reason, does feel like it makes City Hall plaza much more usable, but, what was the person taking when they thought that it could be piazza del campo in the first place?
 

Life Coach Mike

Active Member
Joined
Aug 26, 2019
Messages
280
Reaction score
419
One day, some time ago, someone told me that City Hall plaza was supposed to evoke Piazza del Campo in Sienna. I went to Sienna and definitely did not think that City Hall plaza had anything at all to do with that place.

This redesign, for some reason, does feel like it makes City Hall plaza much more usable, but, what was the person taking when they thought that it could be piazza del campo in the first place?
I agree with you as02143. You had to be there. At the time the government center complex was designed it was touted as the "New Boston". After decades of dreary, outdated cityscape, already partially destroyed by the central artery, the believe in "urban renewal" was almost absolute. Tearing down the old to build the new (the entire West End, parts of the South End, Scollay Sq., etc.) seemed to be the best solution to revitalization. The design of City Hall and its plaza was meant to symbolize this New Boston. The size of the plaza was to be a singular moment in architectural design which surpassed similar plazas being created throughout the country. Boston's was to be the best! In order to sell this design, someone came up with the the Sienna comparison. This gave "old European" cache to the plan, offered many second generation Americans living in the North End a vision for something culturally familiar (and who were angry that Hanover St, long a central artery to and from the North End, was rudely cut off by the plaza), and basically tarted-up the image of a empty brick plaza that was supposed to gather together the populace into a civic "living room." Such hopes and dreams (like thoughts and prayers after mass murders) were meant to smooth over and elevate historic Scollay Sq, which was not cared for and had become a seedy area attracting "low life" types, strip joints, and porn theatres. Now the center of the city with a new "European" image would attract the "best" of its citizens and workers. It worked for a while; the corner fountain of the plaza IMO was a great addition. The benches and trees along the JFK building accommodated large groups of strollers. And city hall, open freely to the public, was seen as a wonderful temple of civic architecture. The area around Sears Crescent was to have multiple restaurants, tables, and umbrellas. Culture then changed to promote mass groups for celebrations of all kinds, the fountain died, the benches broken, the steps became dangerous to traverse, City Hall closed its main entrance on the side and after 9-11 the building became less accessible, the ADA forced accommodation of the physically challenged, and next to nothing was spent on maintenance. Pave got torn up and poorly repaired, the bridge over Congress St never got built, and the success of Quincy Market was a stark contrast to the foreboding back facade of City Hall, the huge flight of stairs to the plaza, and the increased feeling of it all being abandoned. It didn't work as an island of culture and served as a symbol of the city turning its back on everyone. After 40 years of wrangling we now have a complete redesign which I hope will bring the area up to date as far as how people seek to use such space. We shall see....or in 40 more years we'll be spending another multi-million dollar package to try again.
 

Charlie_mta

Senior Member
Joined
Jul 15, 2006
Messages
3,148
Reaction score
3,072
I agree with you as02143. You had to be there. At the time the government center complex was designed it was touted as the "New Boston". After decades of dreary, outdated cityscape, already partially destroyed by the central artery, the believe in "urban renewal" was almost absolute. Tearing down the old to build the new (the entire West End, parts of the South End, Scollay Sq., etc.) seemed to be the best solution to revitalization. The design of City Hall and its plaza was meant to symbolize this New Boston. The size of the plaza was to be a singular moment in architectural design which surpassed similar plazas being created throughout the country. Boston's was to be the best! In order to sell this design, someone came up with the the Sienna comparison. This gave "old European" cache to the plan, offered many second generation Americans living in the North End a vision for something culturally familiar (and who were angry that Hanover St, long a central artery to and from the North End, was rudely cut off by the plaza), and basically tarted-up the image of a empty brick plaza that was supposed to gather together the populace into a civic "living room." Such hopes and dreams (like thoughts and prayers after mass murders) were meant to smooth over and elevate historic Scollay Sq, which was not cared for and had become a seedy area attracting "low life" types, strip joints, and porn theatres. Now the center of the city with a new "European" image would attract the "best" of its citizens and workers. It worked for a while; the corner fountain of the plaza IMO was a great addition. The benches and trees along the JFK building accommodated large groups of strollers. And city hall, open freely to the public, was seen as a wonderful temple of civic architecture. The area around Sears Crescent was to have multiple restaurants, tables, and umbrellas. Culture then changed to promote mass groups for celebrations of all kinds, the fountain died, the benches broken, the steps became dangerous to traverse, City Hall closed its main entrance on the side and after 9-11 the building became less accessible, the ADA forced accommodation of the physically challenged, and next to nothing was spent on maintenance. Pave got torn up and poorly repaired, the bridge over Congress St never got built, and the success of Quincy Market was a stark contrast to the foreboding back facade of City Hall, the huge flight of stairs to the plaza, and the increased feeling of it all being abandoned. It didn't work as an island of culture and served as a symbol of the city turning its back on everyone. After 40 years of wrangling we now have a complete redesign which I hope will bring the area up to date as far as how people seek to use such space. We shall see....or in 40 more years we'll be spending another multi-million dollar package to try again.
I lived through that time period as well (age 16 in 1966) and your assessment is spot on. As I recall there was virtually no opposition to these massive urban renewal projects in Boston, except of course from the people displaced who were summarily ignored and forgotten by the city government and the press. The basic feeling I got from the the 1950s and 60s was that history was out, and the future was in. The generation in charge at that time had survived the Great Depression and WW II, and were not interested in looking back into that abyss, only in moving ahead to a bright and shining future at any cost. I honestly think that the bombed out cities of Europe which were being built anew in the 1950s almost from scratch, served as a kind of inspiration for the huge urban renewal projects in Boston which wiped out entire sectors of the city and replaced them with futuristic new buildings, wide streets, sweeping plazas, and superblocks {although the European cities did manage to do this with a much lighter hand). In my opinion the urban renewal projects in Boston were a kind of blind craziness that went way too far, ignoring the past and launching madly into the future. We're still trying to clean up that mess today.
 

Top