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About AllianceViews

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.

We want to hear from you — so start a conversation, share a thought or comment, and let us know what you think.

Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

What to do with a Wall

June 20th, 2012  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

The J. S. Waterman and Sons Building in Dudley Square

Planning for the City of Boston’s new Dudley Municipal Building is underway! It promises to be one of the most exciting preservation and new construction projects in the city of this decade. As Sonja Vitow wrote in our most recent issue of the AllianceLetter, the restoration of the facade of the Ferdinand Blue Store after decades of vacancy is going to have a profoundly positive impact on the neighborhood.

But there are also two other historic facades that the team from Mecanoo and Sasaki plan to preserve as part of this project, and one poses a significant challenge. The J.S. Waterman and Sons Building is a handsome Boston Granite Style commercial building that was constructed in 1890. Along with another building next door–known as the Curtis Block, the facade of which is also planned for preservation–the Waterman Building adds nicely to the character and “texture” of the neighborhood.

One of the major challenges in preserving this building, however, is the blank party wall that faces the Dudley Bus Station. Commendably, the City’s vision is to create a welcoming “face” to the station, that invites the many people who will approach the building from that direction into the new municipal complex. The ability to open up that wall and rebuild it in such a way that respects the historic character of the building while creating the sense of permeability is essential to this vision. (Even the staunchest supporters of Boston City Hall–including we here at the Alliance–admit that looming brick wall along Congress Street is not a friendly way for a city government to interface with its constituents! Nobody wants to see that repeated.)

We’ve been so impressed with what we have seen from the architects so far, and have great faith that they’ll come up with an elegant solution, but it isn’t an easy problem to solve. We look forward to seeing their ideas as they evolve!

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