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Bostonians like to think they are smart. Maybe they’re right—they are certainly smart enough to know when to ask other people for help. On October 29, the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Boston’s mayor, Martin Walsh, announced a major international design competition called Boston Living with Water to address the threat of sea-level rise and coastal flooding. The competition, which is open and meant to be interdisciplinary, will unfold in two stages and focus on three sites representing three scales of challenge: Building (a condo structure in the North End), Neighborhood (100 acres in the Fort Point Channel District), and Infrastructure (Morrissey Boulevard, a multiuse transportation corridor). Phase 1 entries are due January 29, 2015, after which finalists will be selected to advance to the second stage. An award ceremony and exhibition will be held in June, including the award of $20,000 to the first-place team and $10,000 each to second- and third-place teams.

International competitions aren’t launched every day, but what was more unusual about the kickoff was its context—a new mayor, only 10 months into his first term, assuming regional leadership on climate change. The cities and towns of Greater Boston believe firmly that good fences make good neighbors; regional cooperation is pretty much nonexistent. But, as Walsh noted, “climate knows no municipal boundaries,” which makes his concurrent announcement of a regional climate initiative including 13 metropolitan area mayors seem downright historic. The mayor spoke at ABX, the annual building-industry convention hosted by the Boston Society of Architects, where he was surrounded by the city managers of Cambridge and Chelsea, as well as by the directors of seemingly every city and state agency in any way involved with climate, planning, or infrastructure. It was a scene that would have been unimaginable a year before Sandy. But then, even if Bostonians aren’t always quite as smart as they think, they are certainly quick studies.

Elizabeth S. Padjen is an architect and the former editor of ArchitectureBoston magazine.

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