Boston City Hall Redevelopment Proposal

–By Patrick Lausell–

Boston City Hall Plaza is a void of urban vigor. This lack of public social interaction is not due to the vastness of the space or to its aesthetic qualities. The problem is a result of a space largely without program. The plaza does not interact programmatically with the buildings that define it. City Hall Plaza is mostly composed of edge conditions designed to keep people out. The original BRA Urban Renewal Plan identifies a crucial element for the success of City Hall Plaza. It states that ‘the buildings around it should programmatically and spatially engage the plaza,’ yet the resulting design does not meet the requirements. Was there a lack of communication between the planners and the designers, or was it a lack of understanding of how internal building functions generate public activity?

The plaza as it exists today is mostly a transitional space. The strategy for redevelopment should be to program the spaces along already established circulation routes. By adding a mixture of programmed spaces for retail, living, working, entertainment, or dining, we create the urban activity that is necessary for social well-being. Use and program are the dominant factors that will determine its success. Program is as important as the plaza’s physical dimensions in establishing urban vigor. A diversity of overlapping functions generate urban activity. A successful public urban space does more than just allow for circulation; it creates a dynamic setting for social interaction. The diversity and proximity of programmed functions is important because it creates informal or coincidental social contact. This leisurely and informal social contact is one of the great pleasures of living in a city.

I propose creating an urban corridor that breaks-up the plaza, creating a procession of urban activity. Programmatically active edges define the public corridor and give structure to the ephemeral qualities of the urban space. The interrelationship between edge and plaza is the focus of this project. These programmatically active edges are the thread that binds the urban fabric.

The City Hall Building is preserved and adapted to a different use. The site is tied together by a network of hybrid edges. These study models show the exploration of hybrid, public, commercial, and cultural edge conditions.