Raffles Boston (40 Trinity Place) | 426 Stuart Street | Back Bay

chrisbrat

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Back Bay Station redev can’t happen fast enough. Much as I love Tasty Burger, that foreground is depressing.
It's funny/fun to observe tastes changing in real time. When I was in 9th grade I took an architecture course and one day the instructor took us on a walking tour of Back Bay, pointing out and discussing in detail buildings of note. The man was completely smitten with the then-not quite new, but certainly not "old" Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood Back Bay station. Absolutely gushing about how much thought was put into every design component and how the project had been executed flawlessly, etc. And he wasn't alone -- there were plenty of reports in the Globe and elsewhere touting Back Bay Station's design (when I was even smaller, similar praise for Alewife as an architectural feat when it opened).

Cut to hanging out on aB these past many years and I've never heard anything, but unrestrained hate for the station, inside and out.
 

Blackbird

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The man was completely smitten with the then-not quite new, but certainly not "old" Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood Back Bay station. Absolutely gushing about how much thought was put into every design component and how the project had been executed flawlessly, etc.
Do you remember what in particular he liked about it?

I’m at least willing to believe it was probably less grimy back then. I’m sure a power washing would do wonders for the station if not the garage next door.
 

chrisbrat

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Do you remember what in particular he liked about it?
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.
 

Java King

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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.
 

chrisbrat

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totally agree with all of that and those improvements (seemingly not too difficult to aim for) would be massive. i wasn't explaining why *i* love the station (like you, i appreciate aspects of it and the intent behind a lot of it, but don't really enjoy being there); i was trying to recall and explain why my teacher was so enamored (and i may have failed on those points).
 

taketern

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I look forward to what BXP will do with the Dartmouth Street sidewalk/entrance (along with the new Stuart Street entrance and Clarendon Street Plaza entrance). Should be transformational in terms of bringing new energy to the otherwise drab feeling walking through Back Bay Station.

I was informed BXP recently visited the Raffles site to determine where best to situate the proposed bridge over Trinity St. to the Gateway Project/Back Bay Station. If all goes well, Raffles will offer a seamless connection to public transportation for both guests and residents.
 

Life Coach Mike

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totally agree with all of that and those improvements (seemingly not too difficult to aim for) would be massive. i wasn't explaining why *i* love the station (like you, i appreciate aspects of it and the intent behind a lot of it, but don't really enjoy being there); i was trying to recall and explain why my teacher was so enamored (and i may have failed on those points).
I don't think you failed at all! I was 35 when it was finished. I remember how the pieces hung together as a pleasant whole. I loved using the place. But over time wear and tear gradually took its toll (as I've seen at nearly every T station that has not been properly maintained or so complicated in their designs that manpower has not been up to speed. Witness the stinking abomination Alewife has become.) The lighting fixtures were changed at least twice or three times to the industrial-type now used. I miss the theme of the circle in the chandeliers. The tile has been a problem in certain areas, falling off the wall, albeit repaired. The public toilets became gross and the train waiting room is no more. And down on the platform the leaking water has resulted in endless metal "trays" to catch it, thus messing up the ceiling's expanse, which had already been compromised when the lighting scheme down there was also changed. And yes, the place could use a real pressure wash. At this point I'd rather see the place completely redesigned in side to help it make sense once again with the exterior and the arches.
 

chrisbrat

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I don't think you failed at all! I was 35 when it was finished. I remember how the pieces hung together as a pleasant whole. I loved using the place. But over time wear and tear gradually took its toll (as I've seen at nearly every T station that has not been properly maintained or so complicated in their designs that manpower has not been up to speed. Witness the stinking abomination Alewife has become.) The lighting fixtures were changed at least twice or three times to the industrial-type now used. I miss the theme of the circle in the chandeliers. The tile has been a problem in certain areas, falling off the wall, albeit repaired. The public toilets became gross and the train waiting room is no more. And down on the platform the leaking water has resulted in endless metal "trays" to catch it, thus messing up the ceiling's expanse, which had already been compromised when the lighting scheme down there was also changed. And yes, the place could use a real pressure wash. At this point I'd rather see the place completely redesigned in side to help it make sense once again with the exterior and the arches.
oh, that's really so sad. i haven't boarded or departed a train there in a very, very long time, so i am absolutely not a reliable narrator re: present-day status. i have eaten at tasty burger and walked through the station a lot in recent years, but that's it.
 

HenryAlan

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It's funny/fun to observe tastes changing in real time. When I was in 9th grade I took an architecture course and one day the instructor took us on a walking tour of Back Bay, pointing out and discussing in detail buildings of note. The man was completely smitten with the then-not quite new, but certainly not "old" Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood Back Bay station. Absolutely gushing about how much thought was put into every design component and how the project had been executed flawlessly, etc. And he wasn't alone -- there were plenty of reports in the Globe and elsewhere touting Back Bay Station's design (when I was even smaller, similar praise for Alewife as an architectural feat when it opened).

Cut to hanging out on aB these past many years and I've never heard anything, but unrestrained hate for the station, inside and out.
My daughter, who is an urban studies major and thinks quite a lot about built environment, says it's her favorite train station in Boston. I am less convinced, but it is pretty interesting in the way that it combines brutalism with some classic station elements. The concourse really is quite nice, especially on a bright, sunny day.
 

RandomWalk

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It’s one of the few fully modern train stations that really evokes the place making of the classic train stations. Contrast it with the Moynihan hall in NYC.
 

FK4

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I don't think you failed at all! I was 35 when it was finished. I remember how the pieces hung together as a pleasant whole. I loved using the place. But over time wear and tear gradually took its toll (as I've seen at nearly every T station that has not been properly maintained or so complicated in their designs that manpower has not been up to speed. Witness the stinking abomination Alewife has become.) The lighting fixtures were changed at least twice or three times to the industrial-type now used. I miss the theme of the circle in the chandeliers. The tile has been a problem in certain areas, falling off the wall, albeit repaired. The public toilets became gross and the train waiting room is no more. And down on the platform the leaking water has resulted in endless metal "trays" to catch it, thus messing up the ceiling's expanse, which had already been compromised when the lighting scheme down there was also changed. And yes, the place could use a real pressure wash. At this point I'd rather see the place completely redesigned in side to help it make sense once again with the exterior and the arches.
There was more of a train waiting area? What happened to it?
 

Justbuildit

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When it first opened Moynihan was laughable but I was just there Sunday and it seems the food/shopping area is completely open now including a food court with plentiful seats. Still a shame there aren’t benches near the platform escalators but it is much better than when I saw it right after opening
 
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awood91

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Jesus Christ THERE IS SEATING FOR TICKETED CUSTOMERS AT MOYNIHAN. What world do you think we live in that seating for non-ticketed vagrants would be a good thing?! If you're not a vagrant and don't have a train to catch, just walk through and be happy we can have nice things for fuck's sake.
 

Gunner02

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Jesus Christ THERE IS SEATING FOR TICKETED CUSTOMERS AT MOYNIHAN. What world do you think we live in that seating for non-ticketed vagrants would be a good thing?! If you're not a vagrant and don't have a train to catch, just walk through and be happy we can have nice things for fuck's sake.
Exactly right. They have whole entire waiting areas, for Amtrak customers only, with hundreds of seats each. Their food hall also has seating for like 250. They are 'waiting areas' for the exact reason North Station implemented turnstiles. < to mitigate the non-paying loiterers >
 

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