The MFA’s superb exhibition The Postcard Age: Selections from the Leonard A. Lauder Collection included stunning post cards of dirigibles (none of which are shown here because my iPhone photos are so crummy). As many of you know, I am obsessed with blimps. At my request, Siqi Zhu included one in the Utile City graphic he designed to adorn our self-published books and lecture announcements. Although I am not a huge Led Zeppelin fan (not a hater either), I always thought the band missed the mark by not including a zeppelin somewhere in their very groovy London art school-looking album art (see the album cover for their 2007 compilation below). My love of blimps was first stoked by a Goodyear blimp ride over the Interama site in 1974, when my Dad was on the design team for the never-to-happen world’s fair in Miami – last conceived to celebrate America’s bicentennial in 1976. Later, I always liked the way that Leon Krier included airplanes and blimps in views of his otherwise pre-modern urban visions (despite the quasi-fascist implications). More generally, I appreciate the way that dirigibles were often paired with views of modern skylines in the 1920s and 1930s as a signifier of progressive metropolitanism.



Figurative Ceilings

An article posted on WBUR’s website about Rafael Guastavino’s incredible vaulted ceilings at the Boston Public Library made me fondly remember both many lunches with my father at the Oyster Bar in Grand Central Station (both professional and personal advice for a late-20-something corporate architect) and Office dA’s fantastic ceiling in Banq in the South End – unceremoniously thrown in a dumpster when the building owner couldn’t lease the space “as is” after Ginger Park, the second restaurant to occupy the space, closed. I always thought that if the bar in front of Banq had instead wound around back in the pleated cavern, the restaurant (reconceived as a “restaurant/bar”) would have survived.

And by the way, every Boston and New York architect should know about Guastavino and his extant projects. Please do some research and go on some field trips with friends and colleagues! As luck would have it, Guastavino and his projects are “the focus of an illuminating architecture exhibit “Palaces for the People: Guastavino and America’s Great Public Spaces,” organized by John Ochsendorf, a professor of architecture and engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, at the Boston Public Library’s Copley Square Branch (700 Boylston St., Boston, through Feb. 24).” I have been on reviews with John at MIT and he is fantastic.



Move South Station?

Jay Tsai and Miron Nawratil, two students at the Yale School of Architecture, proposed a not-so-far-fetched alternative to the current plans for alleviating the shortage of track space at Boston’s South Station. MassDOT’s current plan is to re-locate the existing post office facility to provide space for additional tracks, opening up options for expanding commuter rail service to underserved communities. In Tsai and Nawratil’s proposal, the Fort Point Channel is dammed and drained south of Summer Street (think The Netherlands) to create more than enough sub-surface space for the ideal future track capacity of the station. The benefit is a fully subterranean train station, allowing for the redevelopment of both the existing and new track areas for urban development that can knit the Leather District directly to the loft buildings in the Fort Point District.

Just as importantly, the new South Station headhouse will provide views north across Fort Point Channel and Boston Harbor to visitors first arriving in Boston. Only the train station in Venice provides a comparatively dramatic view. Commuters and visitors would find water taxis and ferries directly across Summer Street. Importantly, the new tracks and station could be built while the existing station is fully operational. With only a flip of a switch, trains could be directed into the new station, freeing up the old facility for demolition – except for the historic headhouse, which would be saved as part of a redevelopment plan.  

The project, done for a post-professional studio co-taught by Ed Mitchell, Fred Koetter, and Aniket Shahane, is just another thought-provoking urban proposal done in the urban design-focused architecture studios conceived and taught by Mitchell and his colleagues. More on Mitchell’s other recent studios – focused on New Bedford, Taunton, Providence, and Brooklyn – later.