Tag Archives: boston

Refurbishing a Boston Landmark

Very quick sketch here from a few photographs of an existing building, the old Filene’s Department Store, by Daniel Burnham, 1912.

digital photoshop sketch  of Filene's Boston by Jeff Stikeman Architectural Art

Filene’s Boston, 1912, by Daniel H. Burnham Architect, of Chicago. An Idealized Sketch of the Building Following a Proposed Future Refurbishment (click for a larger version)

Downtown Crossing, Boston, is a hot topic at the moment, and most of the discussion revolves around the proposed development of the Filene’s Site, of which this building is a part.  I worked on the Filene’s project/site about fifteen years ago, on the opposite side of the block backing up to the Burnham building. The mid-50s Brutalist Concrete building (since demolished) by Raymond Loewy,  was being considered for expansion and a ‘facade-ectomy’.  Nothing came of it (the project succumbed to the recession of the early ’90s).  That project however also included some measures for restoring the existing Burnham Building, cleaning and stabilizing its granite field, and deep-green glazed terracotta columns. The full restoration did not take place at that time, but there were measures taken to stabilize the terracotta, and replace some that had been lost or excessively damaged.  Those pieces now read in a different shade of green, having weathered the couple decades not as well as the century old glazed terracotta of the original. As part of the comprehensive development of the site (including a high-rise tower), some amount of work will need to be visited upon the flagship building.  Additionally, the window glazing which has been painted out for many years is shown here as reopened, allowing us to see into the building a bit. In this daytime view, we see only a few hints of the light fixtures at the ceiling level, but there would be a visual connection between inside and out. In the evening, the interior would be illuminated and warm, rather than blank and dark as is has been for decades.

Enlarged Detail of a proposed Corner Retail Entry and Glass Canopy, for the Original Filene’s Building at Downtown Crossing.

This image is only one concept, and will certainly be supplanted by further studies to be sure.  But in this exercise, the charge was to show the building facade refreshed, the ground floor as reopened, with a corner retail entry, new glass canopy, an entrance to the T, and perhaps a hint of an office entry mid-block, just past the T entrance. The view is Idealized, too. It’s not entirely possible to see wthis much of it from the location I’ve sketched it from.  But more about experience than specifics. I wanted you to understand the building, the intersection, the crowd, and the experience of stepping from narrow Winter Street into the light and under that great facade.

The crowd at downtown crossing is an interesting mix of office workers, tourists, young students, and residents. They are what give the area its energy.

A Detail showing a proposed entrance to the T (Subway) on Summer Street beyond. The lunchtime crowd depicted here reflects the energy one can expect to find at Downtown Crossing on a typical day.

As with most concepts, none of this is cast in stone.  That’s the challenge with a sketch like this. We need to represent what actually exists, couple it with what might exist, be specific about it without being too specific (because it isn’t resolved yet), and communicate some idea of the nature of the place.  Downtown Crossing is a vitally energetic part of the city, a literal and figurative crossing (hence its name). And for the last hundred years, a grande dame, the Filene’s building, has been holding court.  She’s a little tired after all that time, but with a bit of attention will again be a beautiful backdrop to the hurrying, shopping, ever-changing never-changing crowds below. That was the idea behind this illustration.

I’d posted this detail out of context a while ago. It’s clear now we’re looking at a touristy dad with kids in tow. His daughter has lost a balloon.

…here it is, diagonally across the frame, heading up, and soon to be lost around the corner of the building at right.

A last detail… There’s always the sound of music somewhere at Downtown Crossing. A sax player, drummers, a guitarist…. often overlapping, always echoing as you walk through the narrow streets on the brick paved streets  among the buildings.

I worked from an existing photograph, which is entirely typical when the subject is extant. No sense reinventing the wheel.  The deadline was also about a day of working time, with some good amount of conversation with my client beforehand, and some minor editing after. The work was performed in February of 2012. Joseph Larkin, of Millennium Partners, was the client.

The photograph which was used as a basis for the above work.

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Park Plaza Boston: Roof Top Bar

I showed a couple small details of these back in June, but can now show them in their entirety.

In June I received a call from Robin Brown, with whom I worked on the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, of Boston.  I was the senior designer of that project while at CBT Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc., architects.  In fact, it was perhaps the last building built of those that I designed before I left architecture and started my illustration studio. As with many projects, what I designed, and what was built, had a divergence.  But enough of it is still there of my work that I count it among my projects.  Here’s an very old study I did for the Mandarin, during the public approvals process, ca.2001.

Entry Study for the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Boston …one of my first experiments with photoshop. Can you tell that I had discovered the ‘gradient’ tool?

While working on it, I got a comment from someone that computers were really amazing, because otherwise it would have been impossible to figure out the shadow from that arching glass canopy.  …I wasn’t very successful at explaining to them that it was 2d, not a model, and that Photoshop did not ‘calculate’ anything related to shadows, but I did.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Robin had been investigating the idea of developing a roof top deck and bar at the Park Plaza Hotel.  It’s an enviable location, with roof-top views of the Public Garden, the Arlington Street Church, Old and new John Hancock Towers….

Today, the roof is a mix of rooftop equipment and high parapets.

Existing Condition of the Roof Top, with extensive HVAC components, and tall parapets

I walked through the interior space, and outside along the roof top, with Eric Peterson of Symmes Maini & McKee Associates of Cambridge.  They and design architects Arquitectonica are studying the feasibility of the concept. There were, at the time, only rough indications from their model of a furnishing plan for tables, and defining the extent of the roof deck.

A quick model shot provided by the architects, showing approximate extent of the roof deck.

There was not much else available to work from at that point. “Just see what you can come up with.” Robin wanted something that would speak to the energy level of the project, that captured the fantastic location, and which maybe conveyed what it would be like to be under the sky at night in the middle of Boston with such a vantage point.

digital photoshop illustration of a roof deck for the Park Plaza Roof, Boston

Looking West, down St. James Street, from a Proposed Roof top Bar at the Park Plaza Hotel

Sometimes, with an existing space, you can grab a few well-considered shots and simply sketch right over them quickly.  And Robin needed these quickly (day and a half, two days max.).  But this time it looked like a tall order to grab a few photos and just sketch away.  And we wanted the finals sketches to be taken at night, too. I took a few panorama photographs, doctored them a bit, removed the equipment, and painted away.

Looking North, over the Public Garden, Boston. Zakim Bridge at upper left, and the Dome of the State House middle right. Proposed tensile structure and bar at right, beyond.

These suffer from the restrictions of a blog, only 550 pixels wide.  In reality, they are about 12×18 and 300 dpi.  And so, some details.

Looking West, down St. James Street, with the old and new Hancock Towers at left

Instead of four-top tables, I went with groups of upscale seating, sofas, low coffee tables, and plantings of boxwoods and cedars in zinc planters. The deck is shown as Ipe or Teak.

Another Detail, Looking West, with the old New England Mutual Life Insurance Company beyond.

Necessarily, there isn’t a lot of ‘there’ there.  Just messy indications and highlights, more sketchy than specific.  Here’s a shot enlarged to the point where it falls apart.  The idea isn’t to zoom in and see detail, it’s to imply detail when zoomed out.

An enlarged detail, past full size. Really nothing here beyond a few strokes and indications of color and highlights. My favorite is her apple-tini.  Nothing there but a green triangle and three highlights.

Here are a few details from the view looking north.

The idea was to place groups of seating which defined an area for small groups of people, with enough open area beyond for a small function or cocktail reception. Note the State House beyond.

The parapets of the existing condition were chest high. Assuming the deck was built to be elevated about much of the existing piping, it became clear that the parapets could be brought to below eye-level, vastly improving the view. Instead of looking into a brick parapet, you’d be overlooking the Public Garden.  I introduced a continuous boxwood hedge and glass rail, lit from below, with the seating in front of that. This kept us back from the parapet, reducing any potential vertigo (we don’t want anyone looking over to the street below) and gave a better sense of enclosure while still preserving the view.

Numerous seating configurations scale the roof top down to more intimately sized areas, a glass rail preserves the view, and is set back from the parapet by a low boxwood hedge, lit from below. The Zakim bridge is beyond, left.

An existing penthouse of brick is to remain, and will contain the elevator lobby, bar, and service areas.  The industrial nature of the older original equipment will be cleaned and restored, left in place, with perhaps a tensile structure appended in a way that covers the doors out onto the roof terrace.

An existing Penthouse will remain (at right) with a new tensile structure expressing the connection out to the roof terrace.  And no,  That’s not Tom Brady….

What I enjoy about being able to share these in greater depth on a blog, is that I can explain how they are developed, and convey what the REAL effort can often be.  It’s not enough to simply paint a picture of something from information provided.  It’s sometimes more about synthesizing many things: incomplete designs; verbal descriptions; and quirky design complications; and delivering something which expresses the designers’ and the clients’ ultimate intent and which speaks to the big idea.

All work was done in Photoshop CS5, about 12×18, 300dpi.

copyright © jeff stikeman architectural art 2012

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Charlesview Residences, for The Community Builders

A groundbreaking was held the 16th of May at the site of what will be a new 22-building neighborhood called The Charlesview Residences, comprising 240 mixed-income rental units, 100 home ownership units (affordable and market rate), 14,000 square feet of retail ground floor, community spaces, and parks.

I was commissioned by Jeff Beam, of The Community Builders, to do a small suite of four sketchy renderings in order to provide the press and attendees with an atmospheric impression of the overall project as proposed.

Charlesview at Brighton Mills, Allston-Brighton

An Aerial View of the Project, middle ground. Digital, 11x17 and 300dpi

Aerial Detail of Charlesview

A detail from the Aerial, about twice full-size

Another Detail of the Aerial Sketch, zoomed in to about three times full size

The project had been in development by the non-profit development corporation The Community Builders for the past eight years or so, with CBT/Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc., of Boston, as the architect.

A view South Down Antwerp Street

The View South Down Antwerp Street; digital 11x17, 300dpi

Detail, at about Full Size, showing a portion of the Josephine Fiorentino Community Center, on the Eastern Side of Antwerp Street

Detail from Center, with a small hint of the Home Owenership Housing and the Park, Beyond

Sidewalk, West side of Antwerp Street

This substantial development will include the relocation of residents from the original Charlesview residential complex, built over 40 years ago on a five acre parcel just a few blocks away up Western Avenue.  Harvard University is providing the parcel for this project, almost twice the land area of the existing complex, in exchange for the smaller parcel where the original complex is currently located.  Harvard will also be providing a substantial  payment to cover the relocation costs of the residents, who are represented by the neighborhood organization Charlesview Inc.

Park at Antwerp Street, Charlesview at Brighton Mills, Residences

A half-acre Park will be created on Antwerp Street, between the taller Multi-Family Residences along Western Avenue and the smaller-scaled Ownership Housing to the South

A Detail of the Park Sketch, with a portion of a Community Center, beyond

Along the Park, a mix of Black-eyed Susans, flowering trees, and a large specimen Copper Beech

The project is expected to create more than 600 union construction jobs, and is partially financed by the AFL-CIO Housing Investment Trust, along with financing by MassHousing, private debt, and tax credits.

View across Telford Street, at the intersection of Western Avenue, looking west.

Enlarged Detail of same

To visit the Project Page on The Community Builder’s Website, click here: >> The Charlesview Residences


© Jeff Stikeman and jeff stikeman architectural art, 2009-2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Jeff Stikeman and jeff stikeman architectural art with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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Proposed Liberty Mutual Tower, for CBT Architects, Boston

Pencil rendering of the Proposed LIberty Mutual tower for Boston, the view is taken from Berkeley and Cortes Street, eyelevel

Pencil Sketch of the Proposed new Liberty Mutual Headquarters Building, in Boston; 11x13, 300dpi © Jeff Stikeman 2010

Liberty Mutual has filed a Project Notification Report with the Boston Redevelopment Authority for a proposed 22-story headquarters building at 157 Berkeley St.

Just about a year ago,  I did three or four loose pencil sketch renderings for CBT Childs Bertman Tseckares as a part of their initial interview presentation, when Liberty Mutual was interviewing architects who were being considered for the commission.  CBT was selected, and since then have been refining the design and developing the work.

Although I did a couple more concept sketches for the architect over the past year, as part of their design process, generally CBT’s presentation illustrations were being done in-house.  That’s often how work is developed.  Things are changing rapidly, and many times the designers themselves do the renderings and sketches required to communicate the direction of the design to their client.  In fact, that’s pretty much how I learned to render, under the gun, as part of the design effort.

Last week though the Project Manager for CBT,  Ken Lewandowski, asked if I could prepare a quick image to be included in the document which initiates the review process, and which describes the proposed project to the public. There is typically a substantial amount of information generated in order to describe the project for the purpose of public review, including plans, elevations, shadow studies, etc.  My illustration was a very small part of it all, but in the end, helps provide a clear and graphic statement about  the overall design intent.

The sketch is something between a loose concept sketch and a formal rendering.  It’s essentially a semi-formal pencil.  Working from a sketch-up model and various site photos, Google “Street View” screen shots, and reference photographs of entourage, I produced the image in a day or so.

A tighter view, just under full-size, with a sliver of the ‘old’ John Hancock at left.

Liberty Mutual Boston

Detail, Liberty Mutual, Boston; © Jeff Stikeman 2010

Enlarging a bit more, at about full-size;

Enlarged detail of the corner of the New Liberty Mutual headquarters Tower, Bosotn, taken from street level

Enlarged detail of the street-level corner, about 3x4 inches © Jeff Stikeman 2010

Comments to online press regarding the project have suggested that the perspective is exaggerated for effect.  It isn’t.  Of course the top of the tower is quite angular, but the building is triangular after all.  …and it’s really not possible to develop a view of a 22-story tower from eye-level without some distortion at the top (even from a block away), unless you introduce vertical vanishing.  Nothing was done for effect.

Detail of an existing ivy-covered brick Context Building at the intersection of Cortes and Berkeley Streets; © Jeff Stikeman 2010

The 10 St. James building is beyond, between the proposed tower and the context building at right.

Detail of the Prow, about full size; © Jeff Stikeman 2010

As a follow-up, it was decided to reproduce this image as an evening view.  The question is invariably asked whether I can simply re-color the linework again, but as an evening image.  The answer is generally no.  For one thing, sun shadows in the day image are usually done not only in color, but also as pencil texture, which would need to be removed.  But additionally, entourage elements (such as people, cars, the fluttering flag, clouds, etc.) look incredibly lame when reused for an evening version.  Imagine looking at the two images projected during a public meeting, and the slides are advanced from ‘day’ to ‘night’, and nothing changes but the coloring.  The traffic is the same, the flag appears frozen, the people haven’t moved, the clouds are still hanging in the same spot…

So some amount of rework is necessary to make a convincing version, although a lot of the linework can be reused to save time.

I spent perhaps half a day redoing the traffic and assorted other elements, and then adapted the color in photoshop to an evening palette.

12x12 Pencil Image Liberty Mutual CBT Architects Boston Night View

Evening Exterior View of a Proposed Tower for Liberty Mutual, for CBT Architects, Boston; all images © Jeff Stikeman 2010

Some Details….

Detail of the Upper Tower, © Jeff Stikeman

Detail at the Building's Corner on the Intersection of Berkely and Cortes Streets; © Jeff Stikeman 2010

...zooming way in here, perhaps four times actual size, where you can really see evidence of the human hand; © Jeff Stikeman 2010

Detail, full size; © Jeff Stikeman 2010



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Sketches for a Proposed College Expansion and Masterplan


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11x17 Pencil Sketch for a Proposed Academic Building

Pencil Studies for a Proposed College Expansion

Traditionally an architectural illustrator will come in at the end of the project and produce a formal image or two of the final, fully-designed concept, like the sketch above.   Sometimes though when a project is very large in scope, and will likely stretch over a number of years and be reviewed continually by many constituents and groups (users, the public, review boards, etc.), I am brought in to produce quick draft sketches and loose renderings throughout the process.  Images executed consistently and by one hand can, over a period of time, serve to stabilize for some participants what might otherwise feel like a moving target.  If many of the people involved in a project of large scope are lay people (neighborhood groups, users, etc.), and do not have a lot of experience with architectural projects, then they may not feel very comfortable looking at plans and elevations and converting them to ‘reality’.  A quick pencil study can be executed rapidly, presented the next day as follow-up to the previous day’s discussion perhaps, and remove many issues that are not yet germane (materials, colors, landscaping, details) which a formal image or digital (photoreal) rendering might raise.

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Enlarged Detail of the Previous Image, at Top, about full size

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...a further enlarged detail of the formal pencil, about 2x3 inches in the original

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Another portion of the 11x17 rendering taken from the right side of the image and enlarged to about full size

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...and zooming into that detail even further.

The above sketch and its details are what were produced at the end of one project’s process.  It might be interesting to take a look at some of the earlier conceptual studies, though.  These predate the final rendering above by a couple, perhaps even three years.

When I’m involved very early on in the conceptual phase, and client meetings and presentations are occurring perhaps weekly, things change constantly.  A project may not be far enough along to make a physical model, or it may be changing so quickly that such models (in cardboard or foam) can’t keep up.  So a digital ‘sketch model’ is often used to flesh things out.  Even then, though, they are often sparse,  and contain elements which are nothing more than placeholders or abbreviated mock-ups of what is ultimately intended.  Digital stills (shots taken from these digital models)  are a great tool for architects, but often the people to whom they are presented, clients especially, find them uncomfortable, oddly un-realistic, or unapproachable.

...screen grab of a Sketch-Up model. A great tool for the architect, but disconcerting for anyone not accustomed to the spare look of a sketch model.

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The same concept as the above digital model, but rendered in a quick pencil sketch.

A pencil sketch done simply and quickly moves the focus away from the odd nature of the computer model’s textures and primitive massing, toward the real matter at hand, in this case a discussion regarding whether there is an entrance to the pedestrian connection between buildings at  the higher street level (above sketch).  …or whether the path from the street continues downward and under the pedestrian connection (below).

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The same sketch, modified to show an alternate concept for the pedestrian connection.

We don’t know yet the color or even texture of the stone, or what the details in the stone trim might be.  And we don’t need to spend a half hour coloring the sky for the sky’s sake…  The marching orders are to translate the architect’s very rough digital concept model into something which the architect and client can discuss without distraction.  Softening the edges and implying flexibility (meaning: the design is still in process) is important.  It does no good to spend all day on a formal image, making the architect’s client feel hemmed in, as thought the architect is saying the design is fully resolved and inflexible.  Rather, the idea is to encourage discussion and exploration, and assure the client that the process is fluid, and progressing.

Following are some more early sketches, done in white and warm grey on buff paper.  These represent maybe a third of the sketches (including alterations and revisions) done in the conceptual and schematic design phases.

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An early view of a Concept for a Proposed Campus Expansion

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A later development of the previous view

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...a enlargement of the same view

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...and another portion of the sketch, enlarged

I offer these zoomed-in details of the sketches not to show the detail, but precisely for the opposite reason: to show that there isn’t any real detail.  What I enjoy about these types of sketches is that the flick of a pencil can be quickly made to establish a window opening, or that a quick smudge of pencil with some darker indications can be made to read as a mature tree.  The facile nature of the pencil is what makes the images valuable to the process.  Clients can readily understand the overall intent, without bogging down in the minutiae, and the sketches can come as fast and as furious as the design does.

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A very early view of the quad and the academic buildings depicted in the much more formal rendering at the very top of this page.

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Another view of the Quad and proposed buildings

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One Detail of the same image, enlarged

Note the ‘non-trunk’ of the tree, at left.  In these simple tonal studies, merely drawing a shadow falling across a portion of the tree trunk is enough to establish the entire trunk itself.

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...and a detail from the right side of the same sketch

These eventually became more and more formal as the design became resolved, and a suite of renderings, including an Interior, were executed.

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A more formal study of the image at top, this one more angular and (I think) less successful than the slightly more frontal (elevational) view.

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...detail of same

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...and another

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A slightly elevated view of the same quad, from the right

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...another, about 2x3 inches in the original

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A Detail from an Entry Study

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...Another enlarged detail, this about 1x2 inches. I can't help it, the pencil just loves the 'zoom'

That’s not a joke.  One of the things often unspoken about a hand drawn sketch like this one is that the human eye is constantly looking INTO things, deeper, seeking detail.  At a certain point, the eye stops caring that the building (which is the subject) has long ago stopped giving up new detail when we peer into it, and begins to revel in the human hand, the strokes on paper.  If this were a shot of a sketch-up model, the eye would be greeted with nothingness.  …maybe a solid color, a hard edge.  But here, when the eye has become satisfied that the arch is stone, and has a substantial profile, or that the bay beyond will have mouldings and guttering, it then makes the leap to pencil and paper and finds joy (eye-candy, to be blunt) in the incidental strokes that combine to express the slope of grass or the handrail, shrubbery, or human smudges.  And that’s the point.  Let the client know that there was joy in this process.  Joy in the process will yield joy in the built experience.

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...a Study for the Pedestrian Connector and Outdoor Reading Room

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A portion of an Interior Study, whose purpose was lost to last minute design changes.

There is an economy, believe it or not, to doing a number of iterative sketches throughout the design process, in addition to a few formal “beauty shots” at the very end when all is said and done.  Sketches like the looser conceptual kind included here serve to anchor the process, inspire the client, speak to the public and show true intention, and provide focus.  Passionate sketches, even incredibly loose ones, will convey their passion.  Architects are passionate, and their work is presented best when presented with a like amount of passion by the illustrator.  And in a way, despite the extra expense of these conceptual sketches, a savings is realized…  The discussion moves more quickly, decisions are made more quickly and more firmly, and with greater conviction.  In a sense, three years before the last formal image was drawn for this project, an inkling of that view, and the buildings within it, were understood by the client.  Quite literally, an early sketch can provide the client something to pin to the wall, and to pin their hopes on, it becomes a flag planted, toward which the project can move. Passion begets passion.  And a client passionate about the work, inspired by visual delight, and firmly committed to furthering it, is the best possible kind of client one can have.

Anything that helps plant that passion more than pays for itself.  …many times over.

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Passion must be evident even in the incidentals... A detail of the cross-hatched sky and an overhanging tree in the foreground.

The Architect for the project is Tsoi Kobus, of Cambridge.

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Play Area for Boston’s Esplanade

The Boston Globe is reporting today about a project I worked on a month or so ago, for Halvorson Design of Boston.

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Proposed Play Area for the Esplanade, Boston; designed by Halvorson Design Partnership, Landscape Architects

Friends of the Esplanade Playspace, a Beacon Hill parents’ group, is seeking to raise $1.5 million to build a 10,000 square foot playground designed for children from 5 to 12 years of age. The proposed location  is west of the Arthur Fiedler Footbridge, near the Esplanade Cafe.

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Climbing and play structures are designed for older children, ages 5 to 12, and are generally more physically challenging than traditional playground equipment which is often geared toward younger children and toddlers.

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An enlarged detail (1x2 inches in the original)

Mayor Thomas Menino and the State Department of Conservation and Recreation both have registered their support for the project.  The project still needs approval. though, from the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

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An enlarged partial detail (one inch by three inches tall) of proposed climbing structures placed in among existing mature trees on the site.

The Friends of the Esplanade Playspace  are privately funding the project, and plan to establish an endowment fund for its maintenance and perpetual care.

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Throughout the play space, climbing rocks of various sizes, with hand and footholds, will test the abilities of older children

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There will be climbing rocks of various sizes (complete with foot and hand-holds), positioned throughout the play space, on a fall-friendly play surface.

More information may be found here: Friends of the Esplanade Playspace

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Modern Theatre, Boston; Lobby Interior

Got a call from the architect a couple months ago, Adrian LeBuffe of CBT Architects in Boston, that as a follow-up to the previous three images done for this project, they’d like to go ahead and have a rendering done of the Lobby. This one was going to be a little more dialed back than the others, less theatrical and dark, but it still needed to integrate with the suite of images. The idea was to go much lighter here, yet incorporate the looseness and stylized nature of the others.

The Modern Theatre, Lobby Interior, Washington Street Boston

The space has a great winding staircase which travels up and around the volume, crossing in front of the large original entry, which is a large glazed opening that looks out onto Washington Street (behind the viewer in this image).

The walls were intended to hold a number of pieces of art work, potentially a rotating exhibition of student work.  There wasn’t much else to animate the space, and as is often typical, there was a desire to get back and see as much of the volume as is possible.  Often, this is a nightmare, with extra wide angles distorting everything, and a difficult time wrangling the eye toward a center of interest.

The fact that the stair wound itself all around the space was a godsend in this regard, because it allowed the edges of the image to develop a sort of circular composition, the eye crawling up the stairs from the bottom landing, across toward the viewer’s station point, and upward at left to the balcony beyond, returning to the right and down. In order to anchor the composition, I placed a colorful piece of artwork and the figure of a woman together on the low landing, and balanced those with the largest piece of art on the adjacent left wall. The thinking was that these three elements would work together to form a center of gravity at one of the third points.  They act not so much as an obvious center of interest in the classical sense, but more of an achor, around which the eye can move.

The Large Piece of Artwork (a detail from the Building's Exterior) Works with the Colored Artwork (a detail from the Paramount) and the Figure of the Woman to form the Center of Gravity for the entire Composition.

The neutral color palette was a head-scratcher, too, frankly.  Not for design’s sake, of course.  A neutral palette for the walls supports the artwork, and is entirely reasonable.  I was thinking purely with regard to the level of energy of the prior three images, where the lighting and color were more vibrant simply because we were dealing with exterior night scenes, and an energetic theater interior.

The fixtures lighting the artwork might have provided an excuse to get playful with lighting, but artwork is generally lit evenly and unobtrusively, not theatrically.  So, aside from some nice shadows from the frames, and highlights (I decided to make the frames nickel-silver in color), I wasn’t going to be able to get too exuberant with the lighting.  I didn’t want to light the space in a way that was counter to communicating the design intent, which is the primary consideration of the image after all.

All the other scenes for this series are taken at night, and despite the fact that our viewer’s back is to the large entry window, I still felt it could be an evening scene. This allowed me to introduce other colors not a part of the finish scheme per se by simply treating the scene outside as a wonderfully, colorfully lit source of colored light and colored specular reflections.  It is a street of great theaters, and nightlife is returning, so the hues here come from lights outside the building, at the sidewalk and from retail buildings adjacent and across the street.  These colors creep into the darker corners of the space as colored fill light (turning boring grey shadows into shadows of color), but they are most noticeable at the metal rail, which reflects the lights and ambient color from the exterior.

The Foreground Rail reflects the Lights and Colors from the Street Outside

A door opening beyond, tucked under the uppermost landing, is the entrance to the new theater space itself.  In a vitrine on its far wall is a section from the original theater’s frieze.  The rest of the existing 19th century house was beyond salvage, but a portion of its cherubic frieze, about four feet tall and nine feet long, will provide some color and visual interest to the theater vestibule.

Detail showing the Entrance to the Theater at Ground Level, with some artwork on the volume at right, which houses the building's elevator.

In order to break up the long unrelenting (compositionally, anyway) handrail, I introduced the figure of a woman at the rail, hit from above by a downlight.  She not only breaks the rail, but somewhat obviously redirects us back into the image and reinforces the circular composition. The rail behind her continues up and to the right, and the eye renters the loop.

The Figure at Left serves to break the long line of the Winding Rail

The rewarding thing to me about this series is that the Architect and his Client (Suffolk University) recognized that the very nature of the Theater as a project type, and the fact that the project would provide some much-needed (and long missing) activity and visual interest to this portion of Washington Street, meant that we could be a little more experimental.  The exterior images set a tone and a stylistic approach, and the challenge then became to maintain that theme throughout the series, as the two interior pieces were introduced at later dates.

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