URBAN DESIGN

 
BOSTON LIVING WITH WATER

with Michael Gebhart, FAIA, Wayne Welke, Architect, Wes Wirth, Landscape Design and Misael Benros

BOSTON CITY HALL PLAZA

Redesign of Boston City Hall Plaza:

The Plaza has been a stark and inhumane space for decades. It is heat baked in the summer and wind swept and ice cold in the winter. There are no places for people to sit and congregate or nature to soften the atmosphere. It lacks an edge and feels like a space to traverse fast  rather than a pleasant space that can be a destination to linger and interact with others. This new sustainable design transforms the plaza into a welcoming user friendly space that is flexible and can accommodate both small and large events.

  • A new edge building to this vast plaza gives it definition and human scale and a dialogue between plaza and city hall. 

  • The new building snakes along Cambridge Street. It provides space for a subway station, a market building and a cafe in its concave forms. Its walkable green roof adds "Highline" like green spaces. 

  • Water from this roof drops down at the end of the building to a brook in which recycled water from stormwater collected under the vast plaza is cleaned by plants before it is stored in a reflecting pool.

  • The later will cool the plaza and can be used for iceskating during winters.  

  • Moveable planters and benches on the plaza bring nature and scale to this vast space. They can be pushed aside during large events giving the plaza the flexibility needed for diverse needs.

  • The subway stop, the cafe and its outdoor seating and the market building activate the plaza and provide comfortable spaces to "hang out" for the community.

  • Added trees all along the edges of the site, the green roof and the moveable planters add nature and soften the plaza. 

  • This proposal is the result of many conversations and merging many visions.

  • This was a commission for the 'Foundation for a Green Future'.

 

Competition for the Redesign for the Fort Point Channel Area:

This neighborhood is designed to easily adapt to the sea level rise predicted for 2100. We’ve never been afraid of the water. As a maritime city, Boston has always lived half in and half out of the water. This design proposes a long term multifaceted approach that will enable Boston to accommodate and continue to enjoy the presence of the sea. It incorporates actions that will be implemented and adjusted over time to minimize storm impact:

  • Create a coherent community with strong connections to the surrounding city.

  • A new park with a hotel connects existing neighborhoods & the convention center to the channel, a community center and a pedestrian bridge to the other side of the channel. 

  • Water is the visual and activity focus for the New 100 Acres. 

  • By employing multiple strategies our design adapts to a variety of changing conditions.

  • A protective loop-highroad protects historic structures. A soft edge absorbs rising waters.

  • New buildings and parks are raised and existing historic buildings are modified and stabilized.

  • Weave nature into the built environment to provide agricultural production and a more resilient and attractive environment. 

  • The neighborhood is complete with multiuser with its own food and energy production as well as waste and storm water recycling and organic treatment.

TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT AND PARK DESIGN 

 

This intersection at the riverfront is a sea of asphalt with many dangerous intersections where pedestrians have been run over(3). A school is at the other side of the intersections from where most school children come from. The riverfront is separated from where most park users come from by often heavy traffic. With the hospitals expansion there was a need of over 140 parking spaces.

To address all these issues we designed:

  •  A very large oval roundabout to manage car traffic with a parking garage for 300 cars (2) in the middle. This parking can serve both the hospital and the park users. This garage is sunken 4 to 5 feet below grade.

  • The parking garage and traffic oval are covered by a green roof (1). It allows pedestrians to easily cross from all sides reconnecting what is now separated by dangerous traffic. An elevator takes the users from the garage to this park.

  • The new green roof accommodates two baseball fields and tennis courts (1).

  • The riverfront is one of the few parks that Cambridge has. With this park the green space has greatly expanded and helps to connect the riverfront park with bucolic views of the river. 

 

Competition for the Redevelopment of the Area Around the McGraw Highway Overpass.

There are many warehouses, truck garages, car sales places, and industrial uses on this site. The existing overpass highway manages traffic in one direction. These uses are barriers between the adjacent residential neighborhoods. Our design proposes:

  • A new planted roof hill to cover these uses and four new large sound stages that will provide employment to artists. 

  • The proposed design removes the overpass and leads the traffic to an on-grade road under the hill and a treelined avenue  coming off a traffic circle.

  • At one end of the site is a large artists' community in a former ware house. An art path connects the existing artists community to a series of galleries and leads to a subway stop at the edge of the site. The extension of the subway will go along one edge of the site.

  • The covered Mill river is day-lighted with a new lake. This creates a beautiful open space that is adjacent to the neighborhood to the SouthWest. This lake is the focus of a new hotel that sits at its shore.

  • Other uses are offices at the rear of the hotel facing a large skylit atrium.  A community center with Boston views is at the top of the hill and athletic fields cover the roof on the western part of the site. Senior housing adjacent to community gardens are near the artist community.

URBAN DESIGN FOR RECONNECTING NEIGHBORHOODS
 

SITE

Creating a active & inviting downtown with pedestrian friendly streets while building an integrated public transportation system (rail, aerial tramway, parking garage shuttle services). 

A CAR FREE DOWNTOWN

The downtown will have no private cars and become a park-like environment, safe for pedestrians & enjoyable at all times. New housing in former parking lots decrease the need for cars, improve air quality,  expand pedestrian friendly areas & increase the tax base. This also creates green space between buildings. 

RIVERWALK

A new 50 foot wide public park along the river edge, doubles as sacrificial space for flood water management & enables the enjoyment of the river in normal weather.

HOUSING  .                            

A total of 1200 new housing units . Typically ground floors of housing will be stores & restaurants or artist lofts & greenhouses  Made with waterproof materials & a smaller upper floor storage, allow items to be moved upstairs during floods & afterwards rooms can be cleaned & quickly operational again. Townhouses on the slopes on the river's opposite side add many units of housing & leave downtown at a modest scale.

ENERGY

New Buildings are built to Passive House standards comply with the Energy Petal of the Living Building Challenge.

WATER RESOURCES 

Permeable paving and green roofs greatly reduce storm water volumes. Waste water are processed & cleaned in greenhouses where plants grow.

 

URBAN AGRICULTURE

Agriculture integrated into the urban fabric & commercial greenhouses on south sides of the power plant and parking garages will produce food during all seasons & act as a visual screen.

MOUNT PELIER DOWNTOWN SUSTAINABLE DESIGN
 
 

Planned in collaboration with Chris Haines, Architect .

RESILIENT NET ZERO COMMUNITY  PLANNING FEASIBILITY

GOALS

 

A truly sustainable community where every part is integrated in the whole system with a NET ZERO energy & restoration of site ecologies. Mixed uses for all needs of a small community as well as varieties of housing types for all ages and pocket books. 

 

SENSE of PLACE

Provide a variety of massing, building types & plants & use topographies to create individual neighborhoods with their own identity & sense of place. Traffic & parking are kept at the perimeter for an enjoyable safe park at the center.

HOUSING TYPES

263 units of housing satisfy every need from small apartments in an elevator building, family apartments, townhouses with 1 or 2 families, to individual houses & terrace houses with one or two families to gentlemen’s farms. 

ENERGY

Buildings with highly efficient envelopes and HVAC systems are configured to optimize their solar exposure and to balance visibility with privacy. Electricity is generated on site with both existing windmills and new PV panels. The adjacent railroad station provides energy efficient public transportation.

WATER

Storm water is managed with water features, lakes streams, wetlands & fountains/small waterfalls. Grey water is processed in the greenhouses with fish farms & food production. Composting toilets take care of black water.

PERMACULTURE

Food production on the site is possible at various scale: at the individual house in planters, in neighborhood community gardens, at small farms & a commercial garden area associated with the food store. Organic farming, recycled water & composting from the site minimize resources required.

A COMPLETE COMMUNITY

A variety of functions will serve the community with close to 50,000 SF of commercial space. Near the train station mixed use buildings, housing & commercial functions are placed around a new lake.  A farmers’ market can become a future retail street with small individual buildings for stores and small businesses. These commercial uses provide an opportunity to live & work on this site.

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237 Mt. Auburn Street   Cambridge MA 02138   voice (617) 354-8707   fran@amacher-associates.net

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