Middlesex County Courthouse Redevelopment | 40 Thorndike St | East Cambridge

Equilibria

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That is because good design does not HAVE to do with beauty. It does often have beauty as a criteria (when the client says it need to be attractive-whatever that means) ... but modernism was about something very different. I wont go into it here ... but there is lots to appreciate about modernism on a design front.
I won't go there either, except to say... that's why people need to leave the studio sometimes.
 

cca

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Interesting response. I guess designers are out of touch. Right?
 

Equilibria

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Interesting response. I guess designers are out of touch. Right?
Obviously not all of them, but someone who believes that the point of design is not (1) make it serve the function and (2) look nice, by most people's taste - is out of touch, yes. Designers who design to earn kudos from other designers for being "bold" or "revolutionary" or "visionary" are out of touch, yes. But you said you didn't want to have this conversation.

And to head off the obvious response: I don't really care that design can be a profession (and I have a Master's from a design school). We all have to life in the city you force on us. People whose work is that visible and that invasive on public life can't claim "expertise" in any way other than "you don't know why you like this, but I understand it and I can make it happen every time." If you're repeatedly telling the majority of people they "don't get how great this is," well, that's the dictionary definition of being out of touch.
 

odurandina

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Do you folks like the new design? Is it good enough that investment and life is being infused into an aging building? Is the effort at adaptive reuse strong enough to please everyone?

God bless architects.
 

cca

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Obviously not all of them, but someone who believes that the point of design is not (1) make it serve the function and (2) look nice, by most people's taste - is out of touch, yes. Designers who design to earn kudos from other designers for being "bold" or "revolutionary" or "visionary" are out of touch, yes. But you said you didn't want to have this conversation.

And to head off the obvious response: I don't really care that design can be a profession (and I have a Master's from a design school). We all have to life in the city you force on us. People whose work is that visible and that invasive on public life can't claim "expertise" in any way other than "you don't know why you like this, but I understand it and I can make it happen every time." If you're repeatedly telling the majority of people they "don't get how great this is," well, that's the dictionary definition of being out of touch.
Your viewpoint is well stated. We now have nothing left to talk about. Lets move on with our lives.

cca
 

stick n move

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Very true and good point. If everybody thinks something sucks... then regardless of what architects think, it sucks, since the people are who live and work here have to see/interact with it. The architects job is to create something functional, but how something looks is important too. If something only looks good to architects, then it doesnt look good. More importantly though if the street level is a dead zone then thats where function doesnt exist either. If a song only sounds good to the composer because they “understand it” its not a good song.
 

Brad Plaid

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Do you folks like the new design? Is it good enough that investment and life is being infused into an aging building? Is the effort at adaptive reuse strong enough to please everyone?

God bless architects.
No. The repurposing is fine but the Elkus design is schlock. The colossal order is like heroin for them, they can't stay away from it. At the very least get rid of the comic book "cornice".
 

tobyjug

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^ Call me crazy, but I think I prefer the old tower over the new. Keep the brutalism but hire whoever did the BPL Johnson Building reno to open the ground floor and generally spruce things up.
I'm with you. That "new" design is like something out of a comic book. Could have saved money just by staining the current concrete rose color, and spared us the anti-RPG slats.
 

etik

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This project recently made the news, as opponents ready their last gasp to thwart the project after their legal challenge failed:

Opposition to Sullivan Courthouse development resumes ahead of Cambridge City Council vote

At core is a proposal by Rep. Connoly (along with East Cambridge NIMBYs who unsuccessfully sued the project) to advance a separate proposal, which would involve demolishing the courthouse structure (asbestos and all) and moving the massing to the First Street garage for affordable housing. This is cynically termed the "community" proposal, although many members of the community, such as myself, have not seen it.

Supporters of the current agreemnet to redevelop the courthouse take issue with the representative's plan, and I've gathered links to their discussions below:

Reddit user u/joey_slugs discusses the proposals as former East Cambridge Planning Team executive member and member of 40 Thorndike working group

Twitter user Mark Tang, member of 40 Thorndike working group, goes over legal hurdles to proposal bait-and-switch

Document listing community benefits under current agreement

Upcoming Dates
Rep. Connolly is holding a discussion on his proposal and the courthouse on May 16, 7-9 p.m., at Kennedy-Longfellow School, 158 Spring St.

Cambridge City council will be holding a hearing on releasing the First Street Garage parking spaces in June, though I could not find it on any agenda currently.
 

Equilibria

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Per live-tweeting - Leggat McCall has proposed and the Cambridge City Council has approved a compromise agreement:

John Hawkinson

@johnhawkinson


At the 1st St Parking disposition, Siddiqui proposes a compromise: doubling Courthouse residential to 48 affordable units, reducing parking by 125+25=150 spaces, & paying $8M instead of $4.5M to the Affordable Housing Trust.
That appears to be the final regulatory hurdle. I'm sure that the saga isn't quite over, though.
 

whighlander

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Twitter reports that the planning board has granted this project a special permit.

Etik -- its Cambridge -- there is always one more person who has some lawyer friend [mostly mostly retired] who will file a brief opposing something "out of scale to the neighborhood" So as the Bond movie said
Never say never....

My guess is that it might be quieting down as Cambridge seeing $ from all the new development wants more and more and this one is worth quite a bit in new taxable property
 

stick n move

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Does anyone else actually like the original facade? I think itd be better to instead of anonymizing the tower into just another generic anywhere usa design, to modify it to work as a residential building while keeping the historic and interesting facade.

This could definitely be made to work and would be much more interesting that some generic slapjob.

 

JeffDowntown

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Does anyone else actually like the original facade? I think itd be better to instead of anonymizing the tower into just another generic anywhere usa design, to modify it to work as a residential building while keeping the historic and interesting facade.

This could definitely be made to work and would be much more interesting that some generic slapjob.

Isn't the original facade past its sell by date in terms of age? (Functional not design) Also I suspect it is not very thermally efficient, so fails modern energy efficiency standards.
 

Equilibria

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Does anyone else actually like the original facade? I think itd be better to instead of anonymizing the tower into just another generic anywhere usa design, to modify it to work as a residential building while keeping the historic and interesting facade.

This could definitely be made to work and would be much more interesting that some generic slapjob.
In isolation, out of context, maybe. Rising like a dystopian secret police headquarters over a residential neighborhood, not so much.

The fact that it actually was a prison made it even worse/better.
 

DZH22

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Does anyone else actually like the original facade? I think itd be better to instead of anonymizing the tower into just another generic anywhere usa design, to modify it to work as a residential building while keeping the historic and interesting facade.

This could definitely be made to work and would be much more interesting that some generic slapjob.
Not only do I like it, but it's a building that has stood out to me since childhood field trips over 30 years ago. The sheer size of it, in its location, was always an awe-inspiring oddity while stuck in traffic on the bridge. I think the worst part of this project is they plan to reduce the height and, by extension, lessen the impact it has had on the area since I came into consciousness.
 

meddlepal

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I think the worst part of this project is they plan to reduce the height and, by extension, lessen the impact it has had on the area since I came into consciousness.
That's not the plan at all. They won all their legal battles as I recall.
 

BeeLine

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That's not the plan at all. They won all their legal battles as I recall.
But I thought the developers plan was always to remove the jail portion at the top. (?)
 

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