What goes up, must come down, Government Center edition

Government Center MBTA station under construction

The current Government Center bunker, um, T stop went up in the early 1960s as part of the transformation of Scollay Square into Government Center.

In the photo above, from Boston City Archives' Government Center photo set, note the parking lot where Center Plaza would go across Cambridge Street. In this view, you'll see the answer to the chicken-egg question of which came first, the subway station or City Hall. Below, that's the low part of the JFK federal building still under construction:

Government Center station and unfinished JFK building

Compare that photo with this MBTA rendering of what the new Government Center station will look like in two years:

New Government Center station

H/t John McLachlan.



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The rendering of new Government Center is nice but I'm wondering if they have a plan to clean all that glass and steel. The design looks like what I suspect Alwife looked like in the drawings some 30 years ago.

Alwife must have looked great on paper -- lots of glass, open spaces, modern brick and truss, etc. Now it's a cavern. There are leaks everywhere. It's impossible to heat so it always feels damp. The floor collects so much condensation it gets slippery. The truss is rusting and the glass is never cleaned giving it that frosted-with-dirt feel. The busway part is even worse -- right out of Max Headroom.

The new Government center is far smaller which will help but I hope they keep the glass as clean and transparant as in the drawings.

Glass and steel

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The T's glass and steel design fetish is one day going to look just as dated as Government Center does today... of course I suppose at that point the headhouse can be torn down and replaced again, but it does make me wonder if the T could build something timeless.

glass placelessness

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it's a running joke in architecture circles - see the comparisons for concept diagram for national pavilions:


very few people really know how to design something both contemporary and timeless (and the T likely doesn't have the budget for it) - otherwise it's weirdly proportioned faux-historical nonsense wrapped around a thoroughly modern use. Or - we could just relocate the old state house - it already has a T stop in it.

How could you complain about

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How could you complain about Alewife? It's one of the few urban rail stations that comes complete with water features -- streams of water spraying horizontally out of the support columns near the passenger pick-up area on rainy days.

I imagine (but don't know)

I imagine (but don't know) that making a design splash with glass is cheaper than using other materials.

I do not like the way that glass "tower" seems to be a giant middle finger to those lovely old buildings behind it. Why does every new project in City Hall Plaza (I'm thinking about that stupid arcade along Cambridge Street where the Farmers' Market goes) need to pretend as if it's not in City Hall Plaza?

I've been roaming that area for a content project.

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And I was puzzled by the glass stuff.

I have an ongoing G+ photo album of area public art and there seems to be some nepotism fashion thing going on that is a by product of curator conceit. These things are often funded by one percent for the arts and the decisions are made by various city, state or T officials depending on who owns the project.

But a lot of the stuff is visually interesting and one might even trace curator fashion patterns. The glass stuff might be seen as Late Period Menino or something while there was an oddball dish disc trend from an earlier period that is found across from South Station at the Fed and a different version in the North Point Park in Cambridge at the Charles mouth.

There is a kind of Townie Social Realism thing with the Red Auerbach statue.

All in all it is one of the more attractive facets of life here

Kenmore Square Busway redux

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...complete with schedule and cost overruns and disruption for anyone trying to do anything in the area. As much as it's nice to see structures that aren't aggressively ugly, I don't think architectural excellence should take precedence over the needs of commuters, who will be inconvenienced enough as it is.

A lot of world class cities have cobblestones

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When I first visited yacht_girl on her studies in Milan many years ago, we were astonished by the ability of the high-fashion Italian women to walk around everywhere on impossibly high spike heels. Milan's got more cobblestones than Boston could ever dream of. There are some other European cities where women are known to wear heels - Paris, London, and Rome come to mind - that have cobblestone streets that make Boston look like the well-paved new world city it actually is.

So the question for this Monday morning: Are Milan, Paris, London, Rome, etc., not world class because they haven't been resurfaced to accommodate modern women's fashion? Or does Nancy need to wear flats?

Or maybe

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nancy could watch where she is stepping

Another Sears' Crescent on Cambridge Street enclosing CH plaza

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The design for the new T stop is dumb and flashy, adding little and taking up space.

City Hall plaza should be enclosed by a building or row of buildings on Cambridge Street opposite One - Two Center Plaza, a concave crescent on the style and scale of the Sears' Crescent, and with an alley between it and Sears' Crescent.

The building(s) would have street level retail, cafes, bars and restaurants. The enclosed new Scollay Square created would have outdoor seating for the restaurants, cafes and bars fronting the entrance to City Hall. The entrance to the T would be built into the buildings, like with the old Filene's building and the Old State House.

You could build another row parallel to the low rise part of the JFK Federal building, but it would not be necessary to make the new square.

This would be a way of healing the wounds shown in the pictures and making a signature space for the city to mock the brutalism of City Hall and end the wasteland known as City Hall Plaza. Literally wasted land. Oh well, maybe in 50 more years.

It's a no win world over at City Hall Plaza.

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If they don't go from the cold war era bunker to glassy glitz then we have world class whining.

But when we have glassy glitz we have glass wash whining.

But if we retain overpaid massholes to keep the glass clean we have right wing tax dodger whining.

And all this whine tasting is aggravated by the importance of being important that afflicts the culture like some collective posturing dementia.

Oh.. and then there will be fashion victims whining about how it impacts their propeller beanies and senseless shoes.

How will beanies spin? How will tits and asses properly thrust out for maximum attention whoring..?

Oh the humanity...

Meanwhile the construction grifter cadre licks their chops at another big grab ready for the plucking as the things they sloppily built over the last 10 or 20 years rust, corrode and rot at a wonderfully impressive rate.

Hell, the punch list still isn't done at Orient Heights and that was finished how long ago?

Like Andrew Station

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Took 5 years to complete, and now a grim rotting cave with stalactites same as it ever was.

One advantage of letting the space out for development is that you could have private money pay for much of the new station.

Two issues with the Government Center re-do

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that the MBTA, the media, and others are conveniently ignoring. First, even after the "bunker" is replaced with an unnecessarily large glass and steel edifice, there will still be only ONE entrance to/exit from the station. Second, even after the station is made accessible, people will still have to dodge all those steel girders at platform level while going to and coming from Green Line trains.

WIth modern engineering methods, and a $80 million price tag, the least the T should be able to do is provide an additional entrance/exit for the station and reduce the number of physical obstacles within the station itself. That would also greatly improve accessibility for everyone, not just those with disabilities.

One question

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and how do you propose that such an exit be added?

Looking at the current layout of the station, almost all of it sits below streets (with the exception of the old MBTA pass office on the Lechmere platform). Even the new egress staircase is going to be not really inside the station, but across the inbound tracks and down a small hallway at the end of the inbound platform.

Not too sure how an additional exit, without digging up half of the plaza, Cambridge street, and redesigning the entire track setup to do this.

Also, if you look at the drawings for the station, they are adding additional staircases (one now will go down toward the old pass office), and the pillar distance between the edge of the platform and the walkway does change in the new station. Its far better than what is there now.

I'm sure engineers have already thought about the pillar issue, and in most cases it 'best to leave well enough alone"

The original plans for

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The original plans for rebuilding GC included reopening the abandoned headhouse at the Bowdoin-bound end of the Blue Line platform. This would allow them to close Bowdoin, saving operational costs, since that entrance to GC would be very close to Bowdoin.

But they quietly dropped this part of the plan at some point.

Not really

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Can you cite this?

Hate to tell you, Bowdoin is slated to be closed period. It's barely open now. (well before GC closed). And if it ever R/B connector is built, it will have to be regardless (as the station would need to be demolished to have the correct grade to connect to a new tunnel to Charles)

And I just re-checked the plans on the T's website, it will be re-opened, but only as an emergency exit. Even if it was to be a full entrance, it would service the blue line only, and its the green line entrance that is really wanted/needed. (Since GC has the most GL boardings next to Park Street)


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"Additionally, a second headhouse with elevator and escalator will be constructed adjacent to the JFK building, leading directly to a new subsurface Blue Line mezzanine and fare-collection line."

"I refer to the proposed modernization of Government Center station (DEIR, p. 3-12)...there are plans for a second headhouse connecting directly into the Blue Line to be located in front of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building, no more than half a block from the existing headhouse to Bowdoin."

This was supposed to happen a few years ago, as part of the Blue Line 6-car platform extension project. But they figured out how to fit 6-car trains on the discharge platform at Bowdoin (though not the boarding platform), so they didn't bother closing it or building the second GC headhouse.

I doubt they're ever going to close Bowdoin (or build the Red/Blue connector).

Egress and layout

There's not much they can do about girders unless they cut service between GC and Park entirely, meaning alot more disruption. They'd have to peel off the roof entirely, and if you're going that far, you might as well adjust the inbound track curvature. Now we're really up into the big bucks.

There will be an egress (emergency only) off the Blue Line platform, between GC and Bowdoin.

They could probably add an egress for both levels at the Court St area, where the vents are. But now you're likely getting into Blue Line disruptions, as well as traffic.

I think they could very easily connect the City Hall egress of State St Station with Government Center via the abandoned Cornhill tunnel. That would be nice. Very little excavation -- but they'd have to add a platform along the east side of the outbound Green Line track.


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my only fear is that, like the tunnel that connects the southbound orange line to the rest of the tunnels at State, it would just be one hellva walk. (which is why I loathe switching to O-line Southbound from the BL at State because its a long ass walk.

Great place for a pyramid or a ziggurat.

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Build a pyramid that could double as a retail mall of multiple levels, including a ride similar to the Tower of Terror (the Ballistic Bean of Boston) (TM) and use the sides nearest the exterior as a necropolis for really important people.

A ziggurat might be nice because the terraces could be used for urban farming.