Tag Archives: CBT

Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, Wakefield MA

Back almost twenty years ago, I worked as the designer on a renovation of The Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, in Wakefield Massachusetts.  At the time, I was working for CBT Architects of Boston.

The Library had a fund raiser the other night, and I donated a sketch of the original entrance, on Main Street, for the silent auction.  thankfully, it sold.  …nothing worse than donating something and seeing a blank clipboard at the end of the evening.  Come on people, the FRAME is worth something, isn’t it?!?!

The sketch is in warm grey pencil, on vellum, with white highlights, about 8×10 in size.

Lucius Beebe Library Sketch

The Lucius Beebe Memorial Library, Main Street Entry  -(click for full size)-  © Jeff Stikeman 2014

Been busy here, and per usual, neglecting updates. Had a week off in March, but other than that, it’s been straight through since Christmas and New Year’s.

Typically slows in July and August (which is fine with me!), so I’m looking forward to getting out of the studio and into some sun.






1 Comment

Filed under Self Commissioned

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



Filed under Commissioned Work

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.

1 Comment

Filed under Commissioned Work

The Modern Theatre, Boston; Theater Interior

Busy week.  Wrapped up yet another sketch  for a University project Monday/Tuesday, did three images today for a project at Boston College, and I’m headed to Martha’s Vineyard tomorrow to scout a property for a large format formal watercolor.  Before I leave, thought I’d update the blog with a project from about a year ago.  There are three images in this series, but I think for now it’ll do to just deal with the interior.

Proposed Theater Interior for The Modern Theater, Boston - CBT Architects

Proposed Theater Interior for The Modern Theater, Boston - CBT Architects

The Modern Theatre opened in 1914, and was the first theater in the country with a dedicated sound system for projecting talkies.  It’s also the home of the “Double Feature”.  After years of lying empty and unused, it’s now being renovated by Suffolk University, which owns the building.  A tower is being constructed on site to house 200 students of the university, and the original exterior is being restored.  Over the years, the interior has suffered many indignities, and there is nothing remaining that is salvageable.  In the gutted volume,  a new 185 seat theater is being built, and the lobby will double as a gallery for local artists.

Since the interior was to be all new, there were no photographs to work from. Essentially the only information was a conceptual plan provided by the architect (a preliminary study), and a couple paragraphs describing the lighting system.  It’s a fairly common scenario:  do a concept rendering of a space before it is finished, so that if it isn’t feasible, the client won’t have spent a lot of money developing the idea.  Only problem is there’s not much to work from in order to do the rendering itself.

Here’s a plan (at bottom) and a longitudinal section (top).  Martin Vinik was the theater planner.  The architect for the entire project was CBT Childs Bertman Tseckares Inc, of Boston.

Section (at top) and the Conceptual Plan

Section (at top) and the Conceptual Plan

I made a quick model using the plan as a texture on the floor, so that I could build the elements to scale without much fuss or thought.  No need to build anything that won’t be seen from the stage (which is where I wanted to take the view from), and no need at all to build the rest of the building.  Nothing but the volume of the theater and the balconies, stage, light rigs and catwalks.

The Model roughed out in Cinema 4D

The Model roughed out in Cinema 4D

My gut feeling in this case was to try to avoid the idea that a theater view must always show the point of view as if it is taken from the house.  You’ll often see a rendering of a new theater taken from the farthest seat in the house, with a very wide angle lens, in an effort to show the entire house.  This tends to distort the space and lay it wide open, splayed and out of normal perspective. The near seats look mammoth and the stage looks distant and minuscule.  Not good.

Rather than play that game, I went straight for the stage.  I had the idea that I’d show the house and seats from the performer’s perspective.  Since the performer is visible from every seat, it goes without saying that the performer will be able to see the entire space.  If I showed the crowd filing in prior to the performance, I could even turn up the house lights and manage to show the space in its entirety.  One or two tries with the camera, and I settled on the view to be developed (below).

The Model, viewed from the Proposed Camera Location

The Model, viewed from the Proposed Camera Location

I sprinkled in some lights and jacked them up to provide the requisite glare.  Part of the challenge was to yet again show something without showing anything too specific.  Standard marching order.  Glare helped a bit to camouflage some areas and hide them from direct view, because we didn’t quite know what many of the details would be.  Here’s a test render, done with an eye to create some interesting lighting and shadows

A quick Rendering Test of the Model

I sketched out a quick composition test to run by the architect.  This was painted directly onto the test rendering, and anything in this image that isn’t in the one above is simply paint. Well, digital paint, anyway.

Rough Thmubnail Study of the Proposed View

Rough Thumbnail Study of the Proposed View

I worked with Adrian LeBuffe as the project architect for CBT, and though I got the thumbs-up to proceed,  he also provided some additional information about a need for acoustic panels, and clarified some points about lighting.  He also gave me leeway to develop the image in a way that was a little more visually interesting than typical digital renderings.

From the composition study, I realized that rather than a vague pair of chairs, the image needed to feel more concretely associated with the unseen performer.  I swapped out the ambiguous pair of chairs for a solo stool and microphone, sitting center stage on simple carpet.  That little tweak made the image, to me, more visceral and a little more believable.



Looking at the composition study, you can see that it almost feels as though the stage is in one world, and the house is in another.  The frame of the proscenium and curtains making it feel like we looking through into a television.  I needed a way to bring the two spaces together, making them feel more intimately intertwined.  The visible lighting was a device that accomplished this for me, and allowed me to better organize the composition around competing diagonals.  As for color, the palette is basically all blue/orange.

There is an “ground” or a base texture of varied random strokes, which help break down edges and detail, and help to present the image as more sketchy and less finished.  The texture isn’t there to replicate brush strokes of paint, but is more intended to act like the textured coats of gesso did on raw canvas prior to receiving paint, it provides an interesting surface to work on.

I wanted to continue a motif that I’d started with the two exterior images.  In all three images there are couples who are engaged in their own personal dramas.  In the image below, we have the self-styled urban hipsters headed toward the front row.  In the middle-left is a couple at odds.  He’s checking his watch, and she’s leaning away, feigning interest in something that isn’t even there.

Detail, Entourage

Detail, Entourage

Some other similar minor moves are sprinkled around the image, but all are far enough away to not take away from the stool at foreground left, which was my supporting player in the composition.  The star is the theater space itself.

The Modern Theater, Interior; Final Version

The Modern Theater, Interior; Final Version


Filed under Commissioned Work