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Conservators Annual Dinner Meeting
May 31, 2006

Smith, Wolff Tell Conservators: Greenway Healing City

Twenty five years is a long time to pursue a vision. The vision for the Rose Kennedy Greenway has always been to replace the hard steel and asphalt of the Central Artery with open space. The vision is nearly achieved. Architect Peter Smith of Newton, Principal of Global Urban Solutions, and Lynn Wolff, President of Copley Wolff Design Group, both provided design services for the Greenway. They spoke at the Newton Conservators’ annual dinner on May 31. They guided the audience on a computer-animated tour of the new park. Within a year, the speakers told the Conservators, what are still hard surfaces will become a sculptured urban landscape. The new park will knit Boston’s downtown and its waterfront together again.

 
  Also at the dinner ...  
     
   

The park that we have today that best resembles the new space at the Greenway, said Ms. Wolff, is at Copley Square. There, an urban open space is bordered by surface streets. The park at Copley Square required re-design when an earlier version failed to attract users. The new parks at the Kennedy Greenway will share the surface with roads and walkways. These will connect downtown with the South Boston Seaport district at Congress and Summer Streets and with the North End at Hanover and Causeway Streets.

The new parks are designed with fountains, lawns, seating, and locations for push cart vendors. The landscape architects have done their part to make this a lively urban environment, said Ms. Wolff. The hope is that it will work as designed.

Computer animation gave a striking vision of the Greenway:

  • a linear park built in sections, to address the needs of different communities
  • definition of each neighborhood section with a different species of tree
  • a promenade along the edge of the North End, where buildings that once turned their backs to the Central Artery are undergoing redesign to face the park
  • a large, outdoor urban “room” for civic gatherings near downtown
  • a museum built as a ship’s hull with its ribs exposed, by architect Moshe Safdie
  • indigenous plantings
  • plenty of gardens, fountains, and seating
  • winter lighting, to make the park more user-friendly in the dark months
  • use of evergreens, trees with berries, and trees with interesting bark
  • a new Massachusetts Horticultural Society museum, with a display garden
  • strong Chinese design influences in the area near Chinatown
  • reestablishment of the grid pattern of streets at the Bulfinch Triangle near North Station
  • connection to existing parks at the Christopher Columbus Park on the North End waterfront and the new esplanades on either side of the Charles River

The Central Artery served its function for fifty years, but at a cost. The cost was that it severed the North End from Boston and Boston from its waterfront. Massachusetts invested heavily – in money, in time, and in the disruption of construction – to take it down. Finally, we got it done. The payoff is the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

If the reality is anything like the computer animation, we will be glad we did.

    Eric Reenstierna

 

Special Thanks

Thanks to Newtonville Camera for their technical support of photographic presentations at the Conservators annual dinners.

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