Paragon Park Memories

We are beginning a master plan for Nantasket Beach in Hull, Mass., a waterfront town on the South Shore of Massachusetts. Today Nantasket Beach is blanketed by surface parking lots and a knot of intertwining roads. I recently came to learn that those surface lots were once home to one of the biggest destinations on the South Shore, Paragon Park, a beach front amusement park in the tradition of Coney Island or Hampton Beach.

2510977306_63d2da9f3dLooking at old photos and listening to stories from our client, Paragon Park was an amusement paradise of roller coasters, carousels, a ferris wheel, penny arcades, bumper cars, skee-ball, etc. There was the “Kooky Kastle”, The Giant Coaster, Auto-Scooters, the”Turnpike Ride”, the Trabant, the Tilt-A-Whirl, Galaxy Coaster, the SkydiverParatrooper,  MatterhornHimalayaRound UpScrambler, Crazy Tea Cups, Twister Kiddie Coaster, Caterpillarthe Whip, Batman-slide, Super-slide, Salt and Pepper Shakers, Swing ride, Rotor, Bermuda Triangle, Congo Cruise, Jungle Ride, the list goes on!

Scene_in_Paragon_Park,_Nantasket_Beach,_MAParagon Park 1984 5You could grab fried clams, take a stroll on the boardwalk, watch the parade of hot rods, lay on the beach, and slyly check out those gams. Today the only remnant of it is the original carousel. The Giant Coaster was removed in 1985.

185986_1729011058226_2691280_nThe Giant Coaster (1917-1985)arcade

Here is a website that chronicles some Paragon Park Memories

Also, here is LENGTHY retrospective of it.

SO, what do you think? Take away the insurance liabilities and seasonal nature of an amusement park, would it be a good idea to resurrect Paragon Park?! Is there a place for more amusement parks at summer spots?


London’s Maker Lifestyle

from The Monocle 100 – a special supplement of the December/January 2013/2014 issue of Monocle

As my graduate students grapple with new conceptions of Newmarket – Boston’s 1950s-era industrial zone – we have been tracking approaches to the revitalization of manufacturing in the US. The discourse ranges from labor and transportation cost issues being discussed by economists to the “maker” lifestyle espoused by 20 and 30-somethings in Brooklyn and Somerville. We liked Monocle’s take on the issue, despite the fact that it falls firmly in the lifestyle camp, because it highlights the advantages of a neighborhood of makers and suppliers. Importantly, land values need to be kept artificially low to sustain the kind of neighborhood that Monocle is championing. For a balanced view of the issues, check out the superb blog MAKELondon that Kevin Hively, our go-to economic development consultant, discovered. “MAKELondon is written and produced by Karl Baker, a recent graduate of the Cities Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Karl wrote his dissertation on the opportunities of ‘industry-led’ urban regeneration, analysing a site in Islington London to reveal the potential and the challenges of small-scale industry in London.”


Arches and the Zeitgeist

A team comprising Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron and Australian firm Hassell has won the high-profile competition to redesign Melbourne’s iconic railway station at Flinders Street.

Joel Lamere’s fabrications, exhibited at the Makers in the Making Exhibition at NADAAA, are a contemporary take on the hypostyle arcade.

Just as we were beginning to doubt our cultural relevance as a result of our arch-centric solution to the Long Island Index innovative parking garage design challenge (see the more retrograde interpretation of the project below), we ran across two super-contemporary projects that make it clear that arches are back – and with a vengeance (Elizabeth found the recent H&dM project while doing some recent hunting/gathering). We worked closely with Joel Lamere (project above) on the geometry and modeling of the Boston Harbor Island Pavilion. This accidental convergence means that we need to get Joel involved with the LIRR garage project, if it moves to the next stages. BTW – we have already been working closely with Buro Happold in New York on the structural concept.

The first floor structure of our proposed parking garage prototype for the Long Island Railroad


Aldo Rossi and Parking Garages



When we put the tennis bubble on top of one of the parking garages we proposed for Rockville Centre on Long Island (bottom image), we couldn’t quite admit that the building looked like Palladio’s Basilica in Vicenza (middle image). This accidental reference not only validates our goal of elevating the status of the parking garage from a utilitarian structure to a civic building, but also points almost directly to Aldo Rossi’s 1966 book The Architecture of the City. In the book, Rossi launches an argument about the persistence of urban form by referencing the Palazzo della Ragione in Padua (top image) – a near-twin of Palladio’s structure. Rossi is drawn to the building because it serves as an example of urban complexes in historical cities “whose function is no longer the original one. In particular, one is struck by multiplicity of functions that a building of this type can contain over time and how these functions are entirely independent of form. At the same time, it is precisely the form that impresses us; we live it and experience it, and in turn it structures the city.” Our proposed garage prototype is also conceived as a robust building that can absorb shops, office space, and residential units over time. We can imagine that our proposed building might not be a parking garage at all in the future. 


Multi-floor Industrial

A rendering of the New York industrial building, designed by DiLoreto Architects, under construction in Northwest Portland. (John L. Bowman Real Estate)

Answering Nina Rappaport’s call for the return of the “Urban Vertical Factory,” a new project was announced in Portland, Oregon that the developers claim will be the first multi-story industrial building built in the City in sixty years. This project, flagged by Philadelphia urbanist Jonas Maciunas, proposes a new type for an industrial district that can no longer attract large scale manufacturing because of land values and the logistical challenges of central city sites. While the building doesn’t push the envelop in terms of hybrid uses (no retail outlets for manufacturers on the ground floor, for example), it serves as an excellent real-world example for my graduate students at Northeastern.

Quoting the article about the project in the Oregonian by Eliot Njus: “Our economy has “shifted to a large extent to more information-age, flex-industrial uses,” said John Bowman, one of the real estate brokers marketing the space. “We’ve designed a building targeting the kinds of users that are leasing these kinds of spaces. There’s less need for heavy manufacturing.” “Higher land prices are also driving industrial developers toward going vertical, Bowman said. “You can’t build a single-story building on this industrial-zoned land anymore.” In addition to light manufacturing, service and tech firms, the space will also be marketed to traditional users of industrial space for warehousing, distribution or storage. Printing companies or firms who serve hotels, for example, could want a small presence near freeways and downtown Portland. Users in the glass-faced building will share entrances, loading docks and large-capacity freight elevators. Its 20,000-square-foot floors can be divided into units as small as 1,000 square feet.


Feelin’ Groovy

An article in the Guardian quotes a 2008 economics paper’s finding that “for a single person, exchanging a long commute for a short walk to work has the same effect on happiness as finding a new love.” Forget arguments of efficiency, environmental benefits, or cost savings – city planners should be making the case that a walkable lifestyle is a key to happiness, that elusive goal, the pursuit of which is enshrined as an unalienable right in our nation’s founding declaration.

– Will

Infrastructure as Architecture

The Madison Avenue bridge in Trumbull, CT has always been my favorite bridge over the Merritt Parkway. It was one of the inspirations for the planters/guardrails that line each floor of our proposed parking structures, developed as a prototype for village centers near Long Island Railroad stations.

It has been fashionable lately to use the term “infrastructure” when discussing not only larger systems of architecture and the landscape in the urban environment but also individual buildings – almost as if the word “architecture” was suspect. But can we reverse the equation and imagine that more architectural thinking might infiltrate the world of engineers and transportation planners? That was precisely our goal when deciding how to frame our approach to the ParkingPLUS Design Challenge we were offered by the Long Island Index. While maybe colored by the sentimentality that comes with nostalgia, I have always admired public works projects of the WPA-era and earlier. My childhood in Fairfield County, for example, was devoid of any architectural inspiration except for the bridges over the Merritt Parkway and the corporate headquarters buildings of Roche Dinkeloo (also a big influence!). Later, as a student at the Harvard GSD, I took an excellent seminar course entitled “Visions of New York in the Twentieth Century,” taught by Rico Cedro, where I was first made aware of the legacy of Robert Moses, not only as a politician and planner, but also as a client for works of engineering that included architectonic issues as part of the civic agenda. It’s with this background that we conceived “Civic Arches” – a proposal, to some, that might hark back too directly to the sources of our inspiration. But what’s wrong with arches? They are a highly pragmatic way to pierce a solid wall.


The Library of the Future

The Makerspace inserted into the middle of the Westport (CT) Public Library.

We were recently asked to speculate on the future of the public library. A rather open-ended question but fortunately we have been engaged in a fascinating discussion with Belmont Day School as we develop a vision plan for their campus. Academic libraries are grappling with the same issues that face public libraries: rapidly changing technology, decentralized information access using web search and emerging ideas of civic space in a world of social media. Pair these high-level issues with the more concrete problems of limited budgets, aging facilities and a boom in usage and it would seem libraries are ripe for the kind of disruptive change the new economy thrives on.

It turns out, the mission of the library is the same as it has been for centuries: to connect people with information to produce knowledge. The 21st century library is carrying out this mission in exciting ways: “maker” spaces with publishing software, video editing stations and 3D printers; digital commons where patrons – dare we say “customers” – and librarians interact informally and collaboratively; and instructional spaces to hone new skills or discover new languages.

It’s an exciting time to be thinking about libraries but all this talk of change can be tempered with the comfort that the mission remains the same.

– Brett