In Boston, Forgotten Dreams of a Floating Neighborhood

An exhibit remembers the days when the Boston Redevelopment Authority dreamed enormous dreams and asks: have we lost our ambition?
July 30, 2012, 11am PDT | rachelproctormay
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They could have called it the Slippery End: a brand-new, ultra-modern neighborhood floating in the Boston Harbor. The idea -- the dream -- was to build a 690-acre grid on floating platforms and use it to host the Bicentennial Exhibition in 1976, and then transform the site into housing for 45,000 new residents. The young director of the Boston Redevelopment Agency, which drew up the plans, intended it to be an urban laboratory demonstrating the most advanced ideas in open space, transit, and mixed-income housing. And a gigantic, climate-controlled geodesic dome!

Was it so crazy it just might work? Or just . . . so crazy? We'll never know. The proposal, which in one 1969 poll enjoyed the support of 77 percent of Bostonians, also generated powerful opposition. Although the mayor supported it, the City Council did not, and the plan ultimately fell apart.

Now, the Boston Society of Architects has unearthed the plans for the floating neighborhood and put them on display. The exhibit is intended to stimulate a conversation about whether, in reaction to the excesses of the urban renewal area, we've lost the ability to think big.

Thanks to Rachel Proctor May

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Published on Sunday, July 29, 2012 in The Boston Globe
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