Since January 2007 we’ve been investigating alternative preservation strategies for maintaining our cultural heritage while embracing our future. By examining unexplored degrees of preservation between its ever-present all-or-nothing proposition, we’ve opened a new dialogue about how architecture should be preserved in the modern age.


One of the concepts that we are pushing in our design for the Hayden Building is the activation of the building’s edge: the line between the building’s interior and the urban exterior. The facade is perhaps the most unique quality of the building, and with its striking masonry walls and deep windows, we are installing program to allow people, both internally and externally, to engage with the building’s facade.  We are actively experimenting with the exterior lighting to reinforce the building’s edge and to cast emphasis on what was once a forgotten facade.


While digging into the Hayden archives, we stumbled upon this famous portrait of HH Richardson wearing a robe in his studio.  The image has been both a source of humor and inspiration for us these past few months.  We couldn’t help but wonder the story behind the photo.  We’ve determined that the architect used the robe to mystify the architect/client relationship.

According to lore, Richardson’s clients would make the trek from Boston to his Brookline studio to meet with him.  When they arrived, Richardson’s assistant would sound a gong and the architect would appear from the back wearing his monk’s getup.  In her book H.H. Richardson: the Architect, His Peers, and Their Era, Maureen Meister claims that Richardson wore the robes (and regularly disseminated the portrait to his potential clients) to reinforce his medieval and gothic design roots.

Richardson was prolific and successful early in his life, unlike the typical trajectory of an architect.  Although unusual, one must assume that this unique marketing tactic actually worked.  To Richardson, the architectural experience extended beyond that of buildings: He wanted your experience to begin when he entered the room.


For the Hayden project we studied the building’s functional evolution and overlaid the significant regional and architectural history.  Our initial strategy was to gain a comprehensive understanding of the building and its architect so that we could reinterpret the project in a contemporary manner while sustaining its original qualities.






Neighborhood Memory

We recently ran across the Ghost Houses by curb architects Ted Shelton and Tricia Stuth in Tennessee.  This project recreates two new historic sibling homes along side a third existing historic house. Using memories embedded in photographs, newspaper articles, longtime neighborhood resident accounts, and census data they re-presented what once was in a beautiful dialogue of now and then.


Stuff-We-Find-in-Historic-Buildings #2: On Preservation and Pornography at the Hayden Building

This is the second in an occasional series that chronicles HBI’s growing collection of found items in the historic buildings where we work. We launched this series in February with a focus on the Roxbury Action Program’s years at the historic Alvah Kittredge House. This post looks at Chinatown’s Hayden Building.


HBI is pleased to announce the selection of CUBE Design + Research as the architectural team that will be responsible for designing the upper story residential units at the 1875 Hayden Building. Last week CUBE’s principals Jason Hart, Chris Johns and Aaron Malnarick presented a compelling proposal to HBI staff and board members on how they would handle the design of the units while dealing with challenging structural bracing and circulation patterns unique to the long and narrow building footprint…. more

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?
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As a part of of our ‘Rethinking Preservation’ project for Neutra’s Cyclorama in Gettysburg, we designed a graphic for our ‘Network’ scheme.  The graphic has been used nationally by various organizations as rallying tool to gain supporters for the preservation of modern buildings.



CUBE partner Jason Hart discusses the status of preservation and aging modern-era buildings in the Architect’s Newspaper.

Ailing Downtowns: Rochester, NY

Pictured above are two proposals for Midtown Plaza in Rochester, NY. The Plaza was a 1950s planning experiment aimed at propping up downtown retail business that had diminished with the expansion of suburban shopping centers. Thus it’s with some irony that these two proposals each convert the existing office building over the old mall into housing, in some manner suburbanizing the urban in a seeming development trend across the country. A new proposal, yet to be unveiled, is in the works according to Midtown Plaza, vacated in 2008, was designed by Victor Gruen. Local historian Dan Palmer believes the building is an integral part of the Rochester skyline and holds great architectural integrity inside and out.
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