The Boston Museum Would Be a Great Idea, Assuming Someone Can Pay for It

Construction on Broadway in Boston from l e o via Flickr Creative CommonsBoston – Public presentations from development groups hoping to build on downtown Boston’s “Parcel 9” took place during the week ending May 4th, according to The Massachusetts Department of Transportation, which owns Parcel 9, shall now make a decision as to which project shall receive approval to go forward. Parcel 9 is one of many special plots of land that were formerly occupied by highway and are now open spaces thanks to the Big Dig. This particular parcel is even more special because it does not lie on the Rose Kennedy Greenway and can thus be more readily approved for development. Specifically, Parcel 9 is directly adjacent to the section of the Greenway across from Hanover Street in the North End, putting it near Faneuil Hall, Government Center, and the Haymarket. It is, in short, a piece of prime Boston real estate if there ever were one.

Of the four Parcel 9 building proposals designated as ‘finalists’ by the State, the most architecturally ambitious, and almost certainly the most favored by the local population at large, is the “Boston Museum.” The Museum would, as the name perhaps suggests, showcase Boston’s history and culture, as well as that of the surrounding towns. Because the Boston Museum was originally approved as a part of the Big Dig itself, its developers have already invested heavily in preconstruction work. We therefore have a fairly complete idea of the museum’s proposed appearance. This can be reviewed at the Boston Museum website.

The Boston Museum’s architectural merit is sure to invite debate, but I will leave that mostly aside. Instead, I would like to point out that those state officials who have expressed reservation over greenlighting the Museum have overwhelmingly made reference not to its architecture, but to its cost. Their concerns are well grounded: The Museum’s developers say they would need to secure about $75 million in funding before construction could begin. If they receive approval from the State to go ahead but later prove unable to raise this daunting sum, they will either have to reduce the Museum’s price tag post hoc or simply abandon the project. Both possibilities are highly undesirable from a public perspective. Therefore, if the State approves a competing project based on credible concerns over the Boston Museum’s finances, informed citizens should begrudgingly accept this. The idea for the Museum is not going anywhere. It is far preferable to wait a few more years than to risk visiting yet another construction financing debacle on a downtown that has already seen its share.

Photo by Lucy Orloski, Flickr Creative Commons, construction on west broadway

Profile photo of Max Brown About Max Brown

Max Brown is an intern architect currently living in Boston. He was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and lived there for 18 years. Though he probably met at least one architect during that time, he can recall none of them, and did not even properly understand the existence of a profession called 'architecture' until a few years after graduating from Indiana University with a degree in Economics and Philosophy. Upon considering a career in architecture, he immediately concluded that this was his life's calling, and that economics was not. However, Max had a certain degree of trouble finding a graduate school of architecture that would consider him for admission, what with his total lack of architecture knowledge and skill. He did eventually find one, the Boston Architectural College, which granted him a Master of Architecture degree after many years with only a moderate amount of arm-twisting. Max has worked at different times for Maugel Architects, Helicon Design Group, and Bergmeyer Associates, primarily creating construction documents and presentation renderings for commercial projects. He is currently working as a small part of a large team performing on equipment and clothing design as a contractor for the US Army.

Max focused his Master's Thesis on the subject of energy efficiency and interior environmental comfort, specifically asking how architecture might be used to persuade building users to be less aggressive with the thermostat. Matters of energy efficiency, cost, and general building functionality continue to be his primary architectural interests (which is to say, he is less concerned than most architects with how a building looks in a photo).