Watching the Government Center bunker replaced

Concrete Plaza has daily views of the work to replace the old Government Center T stop, from somebody who works across the street.



Free tagging: 


Like Medusa, the shear

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Like Medusa, the shear ugliness of City Hall caused the camera feed to die and turn to stone.



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After spending the weekend up there at Boston Calling, I feel even worse about how ugly that space is. Just cement and brick as far as the eye can see. No real seating, very little shade, such a waste.


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A few benches/trees would prohibit it's use as event space? What type of events do they hold now that they'd be unable to hold with the addition of some greenery and places to sit?


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Throw a couple of lines of trees across the plaza and the space is broken up into smaller parts.

The plaza at Government Center is smaller than the parade ground at Boston Common, yet people will gripe about the openness of the former but not of the latter. The difference, in my opinion, is the turf. That said, were the city to hold events on the parade ground constantly, the turf would be torn up in due time, making it downright ugly. So yes, a big, open, concrete or brick space has it's purpose. The problem is that it is barely used for its purpose.

What purpose

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Parades? how many major cities have "parade grounds"? Does NYC? Chicago?

Military parades

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Okay, I'll be more obscure. I'm talking about the place where St. John Paul II said Mass back in 1979.


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We should leave it as is, so once every 40 years or so the Pope can come say mass.


You know you're arguing against yourself

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But fine, let's turn the Boston Common into a forest.

Look, I get it. You're agoraphobic. That's cool. But let's leave the open space at Government Center for concerts and the like and the open space at Boston Common for passive recreation.

That space is used repeatedly....

... during the part of the year that outside events are feasible. Way too many events to transfer to the Common. (I work right next to this -- and it is rarely left unused for long during late Spring through mid-autumn.

I defer to expertise

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The claim is that Government Center is some barren wasteland. At one point, people were clamoring to use the Common, where Government Center is the better place.

To be honest, I am happy to be contradicted, since that means Government Center is being used for what is was mean to be used for.

To be sure...

... some of the uses are not to my taste (an unimbpressive rib fest, skateboard exhibitions) -- but I would rather have them on City Hall plaza than on the Common.

It IS a wasteland in wintry weather -- but one can't really have a plaza for nice weather that turns into something else in winter. LOTS og parts of Boston are wasteland-like in the depths of winter.

A calendar of events this summer (probably not yet complete):


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9-10 events scheduled for the summer....and all of those events could still be held there if there were some trees planted and some benches installed.

There are things that need big spaces

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Rallys, concerts, you now, the thing you were at over the week-end. I love trees, but they do block things. Copley Square is a treeless area.

I will once again call you out as an agoraphobe.

I was at the same festival

There are numerous reasons to have more places to sit and more places to take shelter (not that I minded being 20 feet off the stage during the Decemberists Downpour ...).

I would argue that the organizers and vendors be required to provide these accommodations, however, rather than have them be set in concrete. Say, a minimum of two or three hundred additional seats and a certain square footage of tarps or awnings.

I think they should also be required to provide water stations and an obvious, well marked first aid station with a big farking red cross on it! A gal next to us collapsed during the Tegan and Sara set and it took me more than five minutes to find anybody who could summon aid for her! Not. Acceptable. (they brought in EMS guys to hang out after that ...)

Permanent seats, etc....

... would make setting things up just about impossible. You are right that organizers should have to provide more amenities (and have first aid available for big events).

I think swirly is thinking differently

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It seems like she is looking at the event in particular. I would say it is odd if there were no seating. To go against my views on the subject, if they are going picnic-y on the event, have in on the grass.

This does have me thinking. Could the City, or that trust set up decades ago, if it is still around, put up movable furniture at key points on the Plaza. It would be good ?on those days when nothing is going on. However, I still stand with you that permanent items would destroy the very thing, and perhaps the only thing, that is good about the Plaza.

BTW -- there are trees and benches

A good-sized section of trees and benches running parallel to the low rise section of JFK Center -- and there is a cute new gazebo (or such like) on the Congress St edge of the plaza (right past the area with benches and trees).

The epicenter of local

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The epicenter of local tyranny? Or at least that's what the architecture suggests.......

Common vs Gov't Center

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Boston Common is surrounded by diverse mix of active, all-day uses for the most part. It's also got the advantage of history and culture. People find reasons to be there or nearby there at just about any time of day.

Government Center is mostly surrounded by, well, government centers. In other words, miserable places that everyone runs away from after 5 pm and nobody really wants to be there (except politicians, I guess). The plaza suffers from "civic center-itis." There's some decent buildings in the Sears block/crescent but for the most part the shops there serve the business crowd, which is also gone after 5 pm. Same goes for Center Plaza. So after the 9-to-5ers leave the only crowds left in Government Center are either there for some programmed event (when that happens) or are passing through on their way to or from Faneuil Hall area. And they're probably hurrying, because who the hell wants to be near that horrible monstrosity lurking over you.

So yeah, that's how two large spaces can be so thoroughly different in character. And it has nothing to do with grass.



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But while actually on either for an event, the difference is the turf.

I will say that the Parade Grounds are not surrounded by much in particular (the Public Garden on the other side of Charles Street, some houses on the other side of Beacon Street, and 2 sides taken up by the rest of the Common), but I have to concede that after 5, one is much more inviting than the other.

I know I'm in the minority, but there is something to be said for having a place like the Government Center Plaza. They have places like that all over Europe that get used. Plazas have their purposes. That ours is not being used as it should is the problem.

Oh, and my comparison to the Parade Ground comes from the fact that at one time, activities that should be done on a brick and concrete plaza were taking place there, while the plaza was empty.

Nothing against brick and concrete plazas

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They can be quite well done and well loved as public spaces. The Italians may be the best at creating such piazzas, e.g. Piazza Navona to pick one:


Americans have often sought to duplicate such success but have often failed. Why? Well, Americans typically miss all of the actual reasons and just claim that it's about grass. For whatever reason, early successful American public spaces often involved grass and I guess it stuck. But it's a coincidence.

Look at the example piazza above: the space is large, but not TOO large; it is surrounded by active ground floor uses on ALL sides; it is geographically a natural meeting point for people traversing the city by foot; there are places to sit; it has history and art; and the architecture is generally beautiful in a classical sense. And no grass! There are some tasteful, unobtrusive flowering plants alongside a building that add color and beauty without taking away from the piazza.

Compare that to Government Center:


The space is too large for human comfort; it is mostly surrounded by inactive uses at most hours, places that people do NOT want to be, except for Faneuil Hall; it is a decent natural meeting point; there are some places to sit if you don't mind stairs (nothing wrong with that); it has a tiny bit of history but most was obliterated -- people would rather go over to Faneuil Hall for that; the architecture is the most horrible style ever devised -- intended to scare, humiliate and brutalize people into submission.

Government Center feels like a glorified parking lot and apparently is often used as a glorified parking lot, as you can see in this picture.

You could probably get away with a lot of mistakes made, and even ugly architecture, as long as you get the scale and the diversity of usage right. Problem is, Brutalism usually requires inhuman scale -- to oppress the masses -- and it requires lack of diversity -- to avoid sullying the vision of the Master.

But even Brutalism can sometimes succeed, maybe by accident. Look at Christian Science Center. Admittedly the construction of this thing destroyed a neighborhood, but at least the plaza is used by people.


The scale is ostensibly too large but that is countered by the fact that most of the space is occupied by a really cool, unique feature that attracts people from all over: the reflecting pool. It is not entirely surrounded by active uses but there are very active places at both ends: Mass Ave and Prudential Center, plus a few things on Huntington Ave. The plaza is a natural way to walk between Mass Ave and the Prudential Center and a good meeting place. There are places to sit, and yes, even the grass is quite popular at one end. It has a little bit of history but again, had mostly obliterated what was there before. The church itself has quite nice architecture and is notable, the rest of the buildings are ugly modernist crap, but they can be safely ignored.

True but

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Again, this started as a critique of the Plaza in of itself. It has a barren quality when nothing is going on there.

I like to think of the Grote Markt in Brussels as an example of how something like the Plaza at Government Center works, and it is from medieval times. Still, get it at the wrong time and it is barren. Get it at the right time (like on Market Day) and it is full of activity. Yes, there is activities at the edges, which would be good in Boston, but the center is the point.

I'd be in favor of some shops or whatnot along Cambridge Street and perhaps at the base of City Hall (if it can work at the BPL, why not City Hall), but to speak to what the original poster claimed, trees in the middle of Piazza Novana, Grote Markt, the Christian Science Center, Government Center Plaza, or any grand space would oddly destroy the purpose of the space.

Yes, it is barren most of the

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Yes, it is barren most of the time, and one of the reasons is that there is no base level of activity provided by the surroundings.

I agree with you about trees, not because trees can't work (they do have them in Christian Science Center, btw) but because the installation of trees would be just as pointless as the American infatuation with grass. Both are missing the larger point, which is that unless there is some reason for people to be there, and want to spend time there, they probably won't. And unless we're talking about something really amazing, trees and grass don't provide that reason, alone.

All about utilization

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That was my, or to be fair Michael Kerpen's, original thing. If there was constant activity, or activity most days, it would work. CSC isn't exciting in January, mainly because there is nothing there.

Make Government Center the place to be and it will be the place to be!

The CSC plaza is about to be

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The CSC plaza is about to be renovated with much more green space and flowering trees replacing the barren swathes of brick. Same layout but with softer surfaces, shade, and some seasonal color.

Frankly, that sounds like

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Frankly, that sounds like unnecessary meddling caused by the very American obsession with "greenspace" that I mentioned earlier.

But my guess is that it will probably be fine, either way.

Obvious title

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...for a final collection of these photos in timelapse form: "Debunked."