Tag Archives: Machado and Silvetti

Grabbing some inspiration

Looking a bit like the future

Trips to other cities are always inspirational; you can learn firsthand what others are doing to improve public space and to promote good design. First Cambridge, MA, where a huge part of North Cambridge is slated for redevelopment thanks in part to the booming biotech sector cropping up around MIT to the west. Above is the Northpoint development, with recently finished residential midrise buildings facing a park on reclaimed industrial land (designer: Michael Van Valkenburg Associates). While earlier office construction in the area has been criticized for being single-use, with relatively dead streets at night, Northpoint is conceived as a mixed-use neighborhood adjacent to a subway stop and served by bus and bike routes. The feel of the park, and the two buildings constructed thus far, reminded me of Railroad Park here and its own hoped-for future as the center of a mixed-use new neighborhood.

Big thinking

While Northpoint is an example of urban planning on a large scale (model of the proposed full development pictured above), you see results of smaller decisions around Cambridge that also help create a vibrant streetscape. For instance, the city funded the restoration of the sign below in Central Square, deeming it an important part of the urban fabric (the store owner couldn’t afford to do so on his own):

Unique illuminated projecting signs = good

Over in Allston, a Boston neighborhood, Machado and Silvetti have designed new Harvard Graduate Student Housing, a witty reinterpretation of the traditional Harvard Georgian (and neo-Georgian) quad layout. Seen below, Harvard brick is used in a contemporary way, cladding different wings forming a courtyard facing the river. Not too shabby for dorm life.

Provocative architecture bolsters academic reputation

The Institute of Contemporary Art, facing Boston Harbor downtown, is seen in the two shots below. Designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, its relationship to a (foggy) Boston Harbor is pretty sublime.

Mass and light

Amazing view, even in the fog

Finally, our trusted friend Austin, TX. Treated to a very tasty dinner at Lamberts downtown in the thriving 2nd Street District, below is a pic of the restaurant’s patio facing a downtown street. Charming, casual, and open–the patio’s design captures what Austin itself feels like. Next post–back to Birmingham!

Try the bread pudding

[thanks to iskunk for the Northpoint model pic]


Pedestrians dominate the street

I’ve had the good fortune to be invited to Provincetown, MA for an extended weekend. A former fishing town that boomed in the 1800’s, it has since become known as a center for the arts and tourism. With a permanent population not much above 3000, the summer population swells to over 50,000. At the tip of Cape Cod, the town is accessible by ferry from Boston, or by car across the Cape. Once you get here, though, you enter an environment where the pedestrian, rather than the car, controls the public space of the street.

An example of compact, dense New England town planning, Provincetown has narrow streets, houses very close to one another, and multiple services all within easy walking distance. Starting at our friend Joe’s house on Cottage Street, within 15 minutes’ walk east on Commercial Street, we pass restaurants, a hardware store, several coffee shops, many restaurants, clothing stores, houseware stores, art galleries, the Town Hall, public library, post office, tailors, small grocery stores, two cinemas, hotels. Cars on Commercial Street move at a snail’s pace, making way for people constantly crossing and spilling off the sidewalks. Many benches, stoops, and low walls beckon walkers to sit and relax.

The Historic District is filled with beautiful old frame structures, many from the early and mid-nineteenth century. On a rare infill lot, site of the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, the firm Machado and Silvetti designed a wonderful, modern addition to complement the historic, older museum. This is a great example of how sensitive, modern architecture can be respectful and contextual with its historic neighbors, without resorting to overt historicism. The weathered cedar shingles, wood trim, and scale all feel appropriate to this New England townscape.

PAAM: modern contextualism

Beautiful historic architecture; great modern infill; lots of vibrant street life; abundance of independent stores and restaurants; and lots of small-scale charm. No wonder people jam into this community every summer for a New England urban experience that’s pretty darn special.

Best breakfast diner just a block from our house

[thanks to Chris Devers for the shot of PAAM which was, well, just a lot better than my own]