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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

GREG GALER
Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

A Modest Modern

March 27th, 2012  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The Boston Five Cents Savings Bank / Photo credit: Boston Preservation Alliance

Boston’s Mid-century Modern buildings get a bad rap. They’re big, bulky, and sometimes just look like bullies on a playground trying to boss the city’s quaint, little brick buildings around.

But the 1972 addition to the Boston Five Cents Savings Bank in Downtown Crossing (designed by Kallmann and Mckinnell, the same architects responsible for Boston City Hall) is something different entirely. The gentle curve of its facade embraces the public plaza in front of it. Its stainless steel and glass curtain wall, set back from a concrete colonnade, creates a transparency that welcomes visitors and draws them inside. Its human scale makes it feel like an approachable cousin to the historic buildings that surround it.

Since Borders Bookstore closed a few months ago the lower stories of the building have been vacant and it sure has been looking glum. But the Boston Redevelopment Authority has recently announced that a new tenant will soon occupy the building. A rebranded Walgreens flagship store will include not only the usual drugstore staples, but a wide range of luxury goods and services, from sushi to a hair salon.

Only time will tell whether this use will be befitting of a building that the architects viewed not just as a commercial space but as “a city room…entirely transparent to the life of the city street.”[1]  That’s why we at the Alliance are already talking with the Boston Redevelopment Authority about this building, and hope soon to chat with its owner, to make sure that the important features that make it such a positive contributor to the public life of the area are retained and preserved in the long term.


[1] Kallmann, McKinnell & Wood Architects. www.kmwarch.com Accessed 22 July, 2011.

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