In this column, landscape architect Bill Thompson, FASLA, takes a look at the shortcomings of Boston's City Hall Plaza as a public space and what he feels are misguided efforts to preserve it.
"Project for Public Spaces rated it the worst urban plaza anywhere, and while PPS is controversial among landscape architects, in this case it has plenty of company. Ever since the 11-acre plaza was built in the 1960s, Bostonians have repeatedly called for its demolition."
"Imagine my surprise, then, to read an appeal by Boston architect and architectural historian Gary Wolf to preserve City Hall Plaza. In the Cultural Landscape Foundation's e-newsletter, MoMoMa (www.tclf.org), Wolf calls the plaza 'a grand civic forum' and suggests that any perceived shortcomings could be remedied by 'improvements' to the existing design along the lines of an arcade that was installed in 2001. (In my observation, it didn't help much.) Mayor Thomas Menino has proposed more drastic solutions for the space, from building a hotel to setting up a wind turbine. I personally like the wind turbine idea, but why not a whole wind farm? It couldn't make the place any worse."
"Rather than proposing little tweaks to the existing plaza, a better line of questioning might be: How could landscape architects and others transform City Hall Plaza into a human-scaled, inviting downtown park for the people of Boston?"