- Apr 6, 2007
- Reaction score
Mostly that Back Bay Station had been designed as a place of civic importance, while also remaining a functional train station (I don't believe the air-quality issues had come to light by this point) -- the goal of putting the civic value of the structure front and center. The arcade of wooden arches is, of course, the defining feature of the station and he loved how they pull out of the enclosure and help define the outdoor space surrounding the station as well on the Dartmouth side, while the Clarendon street entrance, conversely, pulled in/back to provide a through-way for cars and busses. The brick clad ventilation towers which define the Clarendon street side -- again, functional, but also a landmark element that draws upon references to historical parts of Boston. And the salvaged bits of the previous station that are incorporated into the new structure, bringing the themes of the Back Bay and South End neighborhoods into the project w/o carbon-copying typologies from those neighborhoods.
I think like so many architectural accolades, the form and thought behind the station is good............however the actual people experience is sub-optimal. Back Bay Station has always felt cold and uninviting to me. It's a place you walk through rather than a destination in itself. Contrast that to South Station concourse that has many food options, bookstores, tables to sit, and just a very nice public space. I ALWAYS enjoy walking through South Station or even spending a little extra time before or after catching a train. Plus, South Station has holiday pop-ups, occasional model railroads, sometimes music, and it's just generally a fun environment. Back Bay Station has a lovely concourse with those wood arches, but there is absolutely no comfortable place to sit unless you like cold slabs of granite. It's just NOT a space you want to hang out for even a few minutes in my opinion. Now, it could be made MUCH better with nice tables and chairs, some really cool artwork and lighting, plus some better air quality with electric trains. I like the "bones" of Back Bay, but it needs to be made into more of a people-friendly place. The BEST time I have spent in Back Bay Station was YEARS ago at one of the very first FIRST NIGHT celebrations where they had really cool lighting and a chorus of singers and dancers in the main concourse under those wood arches. It just felt like the space was much warmer and more people-friendly that evening.