As many of you likely agree with me, most contemporary architecture and buildings in Boston (and in many U.S. cities) is bland and mundane, but there are some projects that really stand out for creative and contextual designs. Tilia in Jamaica Plain is one of the latter! When the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) began accepting bids for the development of an undeveloped linear parcel along Washington Street just south of the Forest Hills T-stop, developers jumped at the opportunity. Urbanica Inc., a local design/development group had the winning proposal which consists of approximately 110‐120 residential units in buildings of varied density ranging from a larger apartment building to more human-scaled townhouses. Led by architect Stephen Chung with Kamran Zahedi as developer, the design for the townhouses specifically is a contemporary nod to the triple-decker form we see so much in the surrounding area. The varied color and recessed sections provide a lot of depth and character to the development along the streetwall.
The Clarendon // 2010
Few architects today continually put out good designs for new construction. One of those firms is Robert A. M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), who designed The Clarendon, a high-rise apartment building catty-corner to the tallest building in New England, the Hancock Tower. The Clarendon rises 32-stories atop a five-story limestone base, which relates to the scale of the base of the Old John Hancock Building (across the street). Above, the building is clad in the traditional Boston palette of red brick and limestone, but expressed in a way that relates to its modern neighbors with two-story recessed masses that break up the sheer height of the building. Above the base, the building sets back to create elevated green spaces and to mitigate wind conditions caused by the John Hancock Tower. Together the design features and materials provide a nod to historical context in Boston, while being unapologetically Modern. Part of the appeal for me is how this building does not command the corner, but adds to the rich layered fabric in this section of the Back Bay.
What do you think of the Clarendon?
Rosebrook Lodge // 2020
Located at the top of Rosebrook Mountain in the Bretton Woods Ski Resort, this stunning modern lodge building provides possibly the best mountain views in New England. After a couple runs on the slopes, I took the gondola up to the top, exiting to a sweeping view of the White Mountains and the iconic Mount Washington Hotel (more on that later). At the top, is this large, well-sited lodge which is perched upon the mountainside, and an excellent example of Contemporary design done right! Appropriately named Rosebrook Lodge, the new building was just completed in 2020 by designs from architectural firm Bull Stockwell Allen from San Francisco, with help from TruexCullins on the interior design. The two-story lodge is constructed from of timber, steel, stone and glass, which complement the region’s rugged natural beauty and provide a sleek space for on-mountain dining or aprés ski. Inside, the building highlights the outside with walls of windows with warm lighting and woodwork that make relaxing effortless.
10 Sullivan // 2016
The Flatiron Building in New York is an excellent example of how New Yorkers maximize any piece of land, no matter how small or what shape, to generate an amazing architectural statement. This skinny lot was previously home to a one-story car wash, serving as an unacceptable entry into the SoHo neighborhood. The tight wedge-shaped lot was envisioned for a higher use and Tamarkin Co. Architects developed one of my favorite recent projects in the city, 10 Sullivan. The innovative design gives me serious Art Moderne vibes with the curving forms and strong horizontal lines. The use of brick creates a feeling of warmth and blends the modern building in with the surrounding historic structures nearby.
Woodshed // 2017
In researching historic buildings in the tiny Vermont town of Pomfret, I was stunned to find images of this stunning Modern design in the town. Designed by the Birdseye Design Firm based out of Richmond, VT, “Woodshed” was completed by 2017 and serves as both a guest house and entertainment space for the main residence down the road. From the firm’s website, “The project is conceptually inspired by the vernacular woodshed, a familiar and iconic element in the Vermont landscape. The residence is composed of two asymmetric gable roof forms, akin to the traditional woodshed, connected by a central entryway”. The common thought on new construction is typically bland and “cookie-cutter” McMansions or boxy apartments, but this project is a testament to thoughtful Modern design found in even the smallest towns in the region!
Levi House // 2001
One of my favorite Contemporary residential designs in the Boston area is the Levi House in Brookline. Completed in 2001, the six-story home is sited in a way to minimize height from the street, but provide ample space towards the rear of the property. Designed by Boston-based architect Jonathan Levi as his own residence, the home showcases how thoughtful Modern design can in fact, contribute to historic streetscapes. Where the site slopes off from the street, a footbridge connects a passage adjoining an existing concrete block garage to the third floor entry level. The tower-like residence is small in footprint and provides privacy on all floors through creative window placement in the wood exterior. The small footprint of the property allows for the natural scenery of the site to take command.
Wellesley College- Wang Campus Center // 2005
Designed by Mack Scogin Merrill Elam Architects, the new Lulu Chow Wang Campus Center at Wellesley exemplifies the bold new designs that are popping up on campuses all over the New England area. The innovative building is 50,000 square feet of space on an extremely difficult site.
From the firm’s website:
[It has been argued that “no single building on the Wellesley campus can claim as much historical significance and general admiration as does the landscape itself, and the buildings best loved within the Wellesley community have aesthetic properties which blend with those of the landscape.” To take its place at Wellesley, the new campus center must be derived from the values which are already embedded in the land. This extends beyond external appearance to the building’s internal structure—its essence, if you will. To become successful architecture, it must be more than a “composition in conformity with topographic conditions;” it must materialize the principles which have guided Wellesley since its inception.]
The building’s namesake, Lulu Chow Wang, is the CEO and founder of Tupelo Capital Management, a leading New York-based investment firm and graduated from Wellesley College in 1966. She named her company after Tupelo Point a scenic point overlooking Waban Lake on campus.