Edward M. Kennedy Institute | Columbia Point | Dorchester

statler

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I was just thinking to meself, "Self?" "Yes?" "You know what this city needs more of?" "More things named after Kennedys?" "Exactly!"

Challenge: let's see how long we can keep this thread politics-free!

Over/Under: 2 posts

Boston.com - July 28, 2010
Model of Senate chamber, interactive exhibits highlight Kennedy Institute plan



By Andrew Ryan, Globe Staff

Plans released today for an interactive institute named for the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy show a boxy, low-slung white structure with a unique feature at its center: A life-size model of the horseshoe-shaped floor of the US Senate.

Students and other visitors to the 40,000-square-foot facility at Columbia Point would walk the aisles of the hallowed chamber, watching large screens for records and footage of great debates. Each of the 100 desktops will include a touch-screen computer containing information about all the men and women who occupied those seats.

"You would go to Senator Brown's desk and it is essentially an iPad," said Peter Meade, president and CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. "You press a button and its says prior to Senator Brown, Senator Edward M. Kennedy served here in this seat. As did Senator John F. Kennedy, before he was president. And Senator Webster. And Senator Sumner. And Senator John Quincy Adams."

The institute will offer history lessons on each of the 1,918 people who served in the chamber, from Senator William Maclay of Pennsylvania, the first elected to the body, to Senator Carte Goodwin of West Virginia, who took office just over a week ago. The idea is to create an interactive research center on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Boston that will tell the Senate's story.

The project, which will break ground this fall with the hope of opening in 2013, has been criticized because its financial support includes $38.6 million from the federal government, with requests for more federal tax dollars pending. Private companies, organizations, unions, and others have already donated $50 million, Meade said, with a fund-raising goal of $125 million to finance construction and create an endowment.

"It will not be, as some have cynically suggested, a static library or a shrine, either to my husband or even to the United States Senate," said the senator's widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, when she spoke at UMass Boston's commencement in the spring. "Rather, it will be a dynamic center of learning and engagement that takes advantage of 21st-century technology to provide each visitor with a unique and information-rich, personalized experience that literally will bring history alive."

More educational center than museum, the building will include five classrooms with the technological capacity for distance learning. A broad exhibit hall will wrap around the Senate floor with displays tracing issues and great debates. A digital library and oral history archives will house electronic copies of the papers of Senator Kennedy and other members of the Senate. In the back right-hand corner, there will be an exact replica of Kennedy's Washington office. That will be different than the model of the Senate floor, which will only be a rough copy of the real chamber, with changes made to facilitate its function as a teaching tool.

Umass Boston Chancellor J. Keith Motley described the institute as a "jewel on our campus" that will help elevate the school's stature as a research center.

"But more importantly it will be an opportunity for young people from middle school and beyond to learn in an environment when you can look at this history of this country and the Senate in a real interdisciplinary kind of way," Motley said. "It didn't start out as the Edward M. Kennedy Institute. The idea was to study the Senate historically."

The building was designed by Rafael Vi?oly, an architect from Uruguay whose other works include Tokyo International Forum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, and the Abu Dhabi campus for New York University. In this project, Vi?oly faced a particular challenge because his plans had to mesh with I.M. Pei's innovative 125-foot-high John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, which would be next door.

By design, the institute will have a lower profile than the nine-floor presidential library. The institute will be largely a single-story square structure, with a black or dark-blue glass-like second floor rising from the center, adding height and stateliness to the model of the Senate floor.

"I think what he saw as the mission of this building was to complement and not compete with I.M. Pei's design of the presidential library," Meade said.

The design for the Senate institute echoes some elements from the presidential library. The institute will be predominantly white, like the library, and it has some of the same boxy and triangular shapes found on the lower floor of the presidential museum. The black or dark-blue glass material on the second floor of the institute will be a modest reflection of a much grander feature of the library, the 115-foot-high glass-and-steel pavilion that faces Dorchester Bay.

At the dedication of the presidential library in 1979, Senator Kennedy described his brother's museum as, "a lighthouse bearing witness to Jack's truth that America at its best can truly light the world."

"He and I had a special bond, despite the 14 years between us," Senator Kennedy said. "When I was born, he asked to be my godfather. He was the best man at my wedding. He taught me to ride a bicycle, to throw a forward pass, to sail against the wind."
More pics here.
 

Shepard

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Columbia Point is like our own little creepy slice of Brazilia.
 

Beton Brut

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Rafael Vi?oly also designed the new Convention Center; failing to mention that is sloppy journalism.

Is it political to wonder if the building will include a replica of the Dike Bridge?
 

briv

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Ha. Looks like a big box store.
 

statler

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Seriously. Just slap a Best Buy sign up there, no one will know the difference.
 

kmp1284

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What was the model, his favorite case of scotch?
 

bdurden

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It literally turns it's back to the waterfront.
 

GW2500

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This design is simply unexceptable, its a wharehouse.. Did the Kennedy estate approve this design?
 

mass88

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Say what you will about the design of this thing, I can see this becoming a solid addition to Boston's attractions. You can go and see the real thing in D.C., but it has a stuffy and rushed feel to it. Here you will get to see a replica and take your time. I like the idea of it.
 

Shepard

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The idea feels only half thought-through. Why should the Edward Kennedy Institute host a replica of the Senate with information on every senator and on every debate? How does this cement UMass Boston's position as a mecca of research? What does this have to do with Boston, MA, where it will be located? Who will go here aside from Middle Schools desperate for a new field trip destination?

And then there's the design... when I said above "Brazilia" I was obviously being very generous. But I don't think any other confined supposedly urban area is designed around the automobile with so much asphalt, needless parkland, and free-standing "ionic" structures.
 

statler

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Why? Edward M. Kennedy was a long serving senator. An institute about the Senate makes sense in that context.

How? It will also house an extensive collection of papers of one of the longest serving senators of our nation. These papers may prove valuable for research.

What? Edward M. Kennedy's family was from Boston and his office was located in Boston. There are many ties between Kennedy and the city of Boston.

Who? Aforementioned researchers, scholars, etc., curious local citizens, school groups and tourists.
 

BostonUrbEx

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Can't they just combine this with the library? I feel like this place is going to be renamed Kennedy Point one day and will be nothing but a massive parking lot with scattered "Kennedy" buildings with no windows, ruining a perfectly good spot for some midrises or a better UMB campus.
 

Shepard

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Thanks, Statler, none of that was clear :)

Perhaps I mean to say that if we're going to build a mausoleum we should build a mausoleum and be done with it, not an over-the-top reproduction of a room that exists 500 miles from here.

I know, I'm a killjoy.
 

AmericanFolkLegend

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I'm surprised this building is getting bashed so badly. I thought some of the modernist / minimalist fans on the board would appreciated.

You're trying to fit a replica of the Senate and research space inside a building, without taking away from the mid-rise JFK building next door. Of course it's going to be squat.
 

Pierce

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I'm surprised this building is getting bashed so badly. I thought some of the modernist / minimalist fans on the board would appreciated.

You're trying to fit a replica of the Senate and research space inside a building, without taking away from the mid-rise JFK building next door. Of course it's going to be squat.
It's not a design though-- it's two 2D shapes extruded and some windows blocked through... maybe it will be in the details? but this is just blah.

I don't get the selection of Vinoly at all. He wouldn't even be my #1 choice of architects named Rafael.

Decades ago when they did the first Kennedy building they chose a design team that was at the top of their game (Pei and Dan Kiley). Now they choose a design team that was at the top of their game decades ago.

Wouldn't a better tribute to the late Senator be to keep the design fee in-state? How about a competition with office dA, machado&silvetti, rawn, and bruner/cott? i guarantee the result would be much more inspired, more Boston, and more Ted Kennedy.
 

czsz

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"You would go to Senator Brown's desk and it is essentially an iPad," said Peter Meade, president and CEO of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. "You press a button and its says prior to Senator Brown, Senator Edward M. Kennedy served here in this seat. As did Senator John F. Kennedy, before he was president. And Senator Webster. And Senator Sumner. And Senator John Quincy Adams."
Ugh, I hate how interactive museums have evolved into computer labs. What's the point? I can do all that from my laptop; I don't need to view the screen in the setting of a fake Senate.

When I was in middle school we took a field trip to the fake NASA mission control center at Framingham State. This sounds similar, but way more hyped, and less fun.
 

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