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Architecture Boston: The Latest Architecture and News

How to Foster Civic Engagement in the Age of Twitter

Too often community engagement can be seen as an afterthought, carried out in a dull and unengaging way. But does it always have to be this way? In this article from ArchitectureBoston’s Spring 2016 Issue, originally titled “Bring on the joy: Civic engagement strategies in the age of Twitter,” Russell Preston makes a case for more dynamic public engagement, citing several examples where “engagement is actually the process” rather than just a “required step to a planning process.

In New England, changing zoning is more difficult than sending someone to the moon. In the spring of 2015, Dan Bacon, planning director for Scarborough, Maine, asked for help implementing a better zoning code for Higgins Beach, a picturesque community of largely seasonal residents. Outdated regulations were putting its historic character in jeopardy. Different tactics were needed to successfully change the zoning before the next season of construction.

The hard task was helping the residents understand that they controlled future development with their own regulations. Change like this takes trust, and my team did not have months to build that trust. The best tactic? Become locals. We decided to live in the neighborhood, and in June of 2015, we rented a cottage with a large living room to host a multiday planning charette. Every meeting, presentation, and workshop was held in that cottage.

Why Old is the New Green

When it comes to sustainable architecture, the focus has historically been on designing buildings to reduce emissions. In recent years though, this focus has expanded to take into account the full life-cycle impact of a building and its components. But is this enough? In this article from ArchitectureBoston's Fall 2015 Issue, originally titled "Old is the new green," Jean Carroon FAIA and Ben Carlson argue that not only are most green buildings not designed with the full life-cycle of their materials in mind, but that even those which are they rely on a payback period that we simply can't afford. The solution? A dose of "radical common sense" in the form of preservation.

“Radical common sense” is the term a fellow preservation architect uses to describe a mindset that values repair over replacement. Why is this radical? Because, while reuse of water bottles and grocery bags is rapidly gaining ground, reuse of buildings and building components is not. And it’s not hard to see why: It is almost always less expensive and easier to replace a whole building and almost any of its elements — doors, windows, light fixtures — than to repair and reuse. Replacement also can offer measurable and consistent quality with product certifications and warranties not available for repaired items. Theoretically, a new building can ensure “high performance” and significantly reduce the environmental impact of building operations while creating healthier spaces. What’s not to like?

Maybe the old saying applies: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. We want and need “sustainability.” We want and need buildings, towns, and cities that are not bad for the environment nor the people who live and work in them. But is “new” the solution or the problem?

Preservation Takes the Spotlight in Fall Issue of ArchitectureBoston

As the 50th Anniversary of the National Historic Preservation Act approaches, the fall issue of ArchitectureBoston hits hard with questions about one of the profession’s most heated topics today: preservation. With essays and articles from a dozen different perspectives, featuring a dozen different problems and solutions, the issue is a gateway for discourse for anyone interested in the role of the past, in the future of architecture. Read on for more information.

Why Google Makes Independent Mapmakers as Important as Ever

For most of history, mapmaking has been an incredibly specialized pursuit, the domain of either intrepid explorers or highly skilled cartographers, and the resulting maps were some of society's most important repositories of information. In the 21st century, internet-age services such as Google and Wikipedia have made this system largely obsolete - but that doesn't necessarily mean that mapmaking is dead. In this article from Architecture Boston's Summer 2015 issue, originally titled "Redrawing the Map," William Rankin argues that our age of information has instead sparked a new age of cartography; one that is different, but just as important as what came before.

Given the proliferation of GPS devices and interactive mapping online, it’s easy to declare the traditional map obsolete. Intuitive turn-by-turn directions have replaced road atlases, Google has upgraded the static map with everything from real-time traffic to restaurant reviews, and Wikipedia has taken the place of the hefty geography textbook. Is there any hope for a cartophile? Will the stand-alone map, lovingly produced and custom designed, be only a niche product for rich collectors and Luddites?

Why Students Need a Space of Their Own

Public/Private, the Spring 2015 issue of ArchitectureBoston (out now) examines current trends in how we view public and private space and the effect these have on architecture. Tackling spaces as diverse as social space, the workplace, residential life, transportation, or civic territory, the issue examines what happens when notions of public an private space intersect. In the following article, originally published under the title "Quiet, please," Laura Wernick FAIA explores the need for enclosed, private spaces within educational facilities.

I walk by William Rawn’s Cambridge Public Library extension twice a day on my way to and from work. I love the transparency of the south façade. It is sharp and crisp, and I can see right through to all of the exploring, socializing, reading, and working taking place within. When I go into the library for research or study, however, I tend to move quickly away from the openness of the new building into the old one. I find a semi-enclosed quiet spot away from the crowds, turn off social media, and get to work.

Code of Context: The Uneasy Excitement of Global Practice

Global, the Winter 2014 issue of ArchitectureBoston magazine, out now, is an examination of the challenges and opportunities facing architects working abroad, from the Middle East to Africa to Asia. The topics explored in this issue include how to value resource-constrained approaches, honor local vernacular, and learn from the urbanization precedents set in other parts of the world. In this article, Jay Wickersham FAIA examines how in a globalized market, architecture firms can take steps to ensure that their designs act in the best interests of the foreign communities they affect.

The signs of architecture’s globalization are all around us. Foreign students flock to Boston to study architecture, prominent buildings are designed by foreign architects, American firms build practices around international projects. Globalization has allowed architects to work outside their own regions and cultures, at a scale and with a freedom of design they might never enjoy at home. But beneath the excitement and glamour of international practice, I sense an unease. Are we creating vital and original new architectures, or are we homogenizing cities and landscapes and obliterating regional differences? Are architects helping to strengthen and develop the economies of host communities, or are they acting as unwitting tools of inequality and repression?

Sasaki Associates. Technologico de Monterrey. Monterrey, Mexico Machado and Silvetti Associates. Vietnamese-German University. Binh Duong, Vietnam Kyu Sung Woo Architects KAIST IT Convergence Building Daejeon, Korea Höweler + Yoon Architecture. Sky Courts. Chengdu, China + 18

In Novels, A Character Flaw

Architects are woefully underrepresented in literature. According to Jay Wickersham, author of this article originally published in Architecture Boston, there are very few books that accurately portray designers without sensationalizing or glossing over their craft. He does, however, point us towards some exceptions: works of fiction that come close to grasping what the study and practice of architecture is all about. Read the full article, along with these recommendations, after the break.

Latest Issue of ArchitectureBoston Devoted Entirely To Architecture & Design Books

This summer, ArchitectureBoston gives readers a reason to linger in their hammocks a little longer and drift away into the world of architecture and design. The new issue contains extensive and insightful suggestions for book lovers looking to build a personal library of new and important titles. Read on for more information.

ArchitectureBoston's Latest Issue Offers Design Recommendations For A New Boston

Available today, the spring 2014 issue of ArchitectureBoston magazine, Blueprint for a New Mayor, investigates the critical design challenges facing Boston’s first new leader in two decades. The issue focuses on the city’s challenges surrounding housing, transportation, public space, and regionalization, plus offers recommendations for designing a Boston that is more open, safe, beautiful, and fair. Visit architectureboston.com to read the latest issue.