Tag Archives: Childs Bertman Tseckares

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.






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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



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.

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The Modern Theatre, Boston: Exterior

…waiting on a package of drawings for a set of three images that I’ll need to execute by end of the day Thursday.  As I sit here with an eye on the in-box, I might as well make use of my time and expand upon some work I showed a couple months ago. Then, I posted an interior shot of this historic theater’s renovation, and so now maybe it is about time to post the exteriors.

The existing building is a somewhat odd mixture of a classical entry of an arch and columns, coupled with a later addition (of a few upper floors) in an incongruous polychromed victorian “mannerist” confusion.  Taken in parts, each is perfectly fine, but together it seems, to me, there’s little hierarchy.  Makes for a difficult composition. Because it was an existing building, I basically got a marked up existing photograph from the architect, showing some thoughts about exterior lighting.

The Existing Theater, with architect's comments

The Existing Theater, with architect's comments

The new work is a tower above, housing students of Suffolk University.  The tower, as large as it is, is secondary, and not intended to (literally or figurally) overshadow the theater entrance. When renovated, the theater will host live performances, and the dormitory tower won’t really be a part of that experience.  In some ways, as far as this pair of exterior images is concerned, the tower is to be incidental, and background.

The architect had modeled the tower, and provided me with a shot of it from roughly the same angle as the existing photographs.  The difficult thing for me is that the tower and the existing building are not structurally parallel or aligned.  They are just a bit off, which makes them (in a rendering) appear to have “perspective issues”.  That is, it looks like things are out of whack in three dimensions.  Another complication is that the corner of the existing building, where it returns down the alley at left, is not a square ninety-degree corner.  It is wider, and flatter, and so it also appears out of whack in perspective and not parallel to the tower.  Can’t be avoided, really.  It’s the kind of stuff you don’t pay any attention to walking down the street, but which jumps out when you study it in 2D.  The choice for me is often whether to render it faithfully (out of whack) or to tidy it up and force it back into a more expected alignment or geometry.  In this case, because the tower and the existing building were already at odds, I felt that trying to “fix” everything would be too much manipulation.  One tweak or two is acceptable, but a few “white lies” can really pile up and cause problems. So the odd geometries were allowed to coexist.

The client wanted to show the theater at night. It had been empty and run down for about 20 years, and was a veritable “missing tooth” in Washington Street’s row of wonderfully lit theaters.  Restoring it would contribute greatly to the night time street experience.


The Modern Theatre, Boston

I mentioned in a previous post about the interior image that the project architect for CBT, Adrian LeBuffe, was amenable to doing something a little more visually interesting than a standard glory-shot. Because it was a theater, the idea soon became to inject a little, well, theater or drama into it.  The idea is that people are arriving for an opening, limos, bright lights, traffic, etc.  and that there’s a little drama at low left occurring with a couple who are either on their way there, or headed home.  Not quite sure what’s happening, as much as I was trying to set something up and let people fill it in with their own thoughts.  It was a bit of an attempt at a set-piece, with the newly renovated theater acting as the stage itself.

Detail at foreground and Theater Entry

Detail at foreground and Theater Entry

Detail at the upper portion of the existing building

Detail at the upper portion of the existing building

About three months later, the client called to have me do something from the reverse angle, showing Washington Street at night with “The Modern” included as one among a few great old theaters lit brilliantly and creating a great evening street scape.  The balance was to compose the image so that the theater could be included as a supporting player to the street scene, while also trying to make it something of the center of interest.  Those concepts are a bit at odds: focus on it, but without drawing an inordinate amount of  attention to it.

There was an existing photo to work from, and the architect had spent some major effort in generating a photoreal daytime view. This image (below) was part of that work, which I further stripped down back to the barest information.  This image doesn’t represent the fine work of the architect’s team, it’s a rather dumbed-down version that I used as a base to begin my work.

A daytime shot of Washington Street from the Station Point (or viewpoint) selected by the client.

A daytime shot of Washington Street from the Station Point (or viewpoint) selected by the client.

The work I did at this point was essentially an exercise in overpaint.  Mostly, I used a hard round brush in photoshop to build up the image, and drew in whatever was missing. I also edited out those things which were a distraction.  A giant Mercedes SUV may be a handsome car, but there’s no reason to keep it front and center in a rendering, fighting for your interest. Lose it.

I also continued the use a textured “ground” under the image, to break up edges and add a unifying visual interest to the surface.  I suppressed the amount of strokes that are visible where there is detail or a center of interest, and allow it to be pretty strong and obliterating where there is a desire to keep the eye from lingering.

Washington Street, and The Modern Theatre, Boston

Washington Street, and The Modern Theatre, Boston

Compositionally, the Millennium Tower (the glass triangular-topped tower, at center left) was asserting itself too much, and so I just clipped the top off.  That relegated it instantly to lesser status.  If it had a completed top, it would have read much more like the center of interest. I also pushed it back with some atmospheric depth.

I frankly feel that having the theater dead-center is a bit of a compositional no-no, but the two buildings at right were added to the “make-sure-you-show” checklist halfway during the work.  Turns out the project would also be renovating the two right buildings, and so the client wanted to show them as well.  That forces things compositionally, but as this is illustration and not fine art, there is an editorial aspect to things.  I don’t just get to paint what I want… I did add the back side of a no-parking sign at far right, in cooler blue, as a bit of relief to the sea of red/orange and to “push” the viewer’s eye back into the composition.  On the back of the sign there’s a little in-joke. I applied a sticker with my website’s logo on it.

At lower left again is a staged bit of tension.  He’s leading her on, yet she’s looking back at the viewer.  No real story line here, just (in all three views) different glimpses of couples undergoing their own personal dramas.  Some details…

The Modern Theater_FINAL02_detail

Detail of the Theater Marquees along Washington Street

I’m not sure there is a more enjoyable type of architectural scene to work on as an evening exterior of a street of theaters.  For me the real enjoyment came in turning the daytime photos into evening shots, and adding exterior lighting and the highlights they generate.  In this case, adding details is very much like painting in an opaque medium, where strokes of lighter values (like white) can go down over darker values.  In watercolor, that’s not really possible, and if you want something white you generally need to leave the paper showing through from the very beginning.  Watercolor can seem to be a very much a straight-line process, building up darks with little chance to retreat.  Digitally, though, I am able to jump back and forth between darks and lights if need be.  It’s very forgivable having an “undo” button.

Detail at the Entrance of the Modern Theater; showing the overpainted lighting effects and "paint" work

Detail at the Entrance of the Modern Theater; showing the over-painted lighting effects and "paint" work

From what I understand, the Modern Theatre should be opening late 2009.


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