Urbanizations: the Blank Building, the U.S. Postal Service at South Station

TThis is the first studio in what is intended to be a series of urban design and architecture studios focusing on the production of urbanity on newly important locations within Boston.It is understood that, in said locations, the quality of their urbanity has been damaged by – or it is plainly lacking due to – a variety of negative factors. These may be, for instance, monofunctional zoning, insufficient population density, or the prevailing and negative architectural character of buildings.In this particular case, the negative factor to be eradicated is a pair of large blank buildings, the United States Postal Service Buildings, east of South Station and facing Fort Point Channel. By \”blank\” we refer to a hermetic, impenetrable, unresponsive, and essentially unpublic building condition. This major institution will be relocated to a less prominent location in Boston, one where its potential damage to its surroundings (i.e. intense truck traffic) will be less noticeable. As a result of this relocation, and of the many significant projects recently built and being planned in the vicinity of our site, it will become a center -where there was an edge – presenting major opportunities for the re-imagining of a key area of downtown Boston. The studio will explore the possibility of combining the Postal Service site with air rights over South Station–sites previously envisioned separately. This consolidation, in combination with expansion of commuter and intercity train service(Acela), would open up possibilities for a transit-oriented \”mega project\” scaled closer to New York\’s Rockefeller Center than any project yet built in Boston. In all, nearly 6 million square feet of mixed-use development could be located on a site where ample transit could support it.Significant concurrent projects to be considered adjacent to the site are: the Central Artery, the new Dewey Square, the Boston Horticultural Society, the South Boston convention center, the new underground Silver Line, the Gillette expansion, improvements to the Leather District and Chinatown, the new development area south of Kneeland Street, the Bus Terminal, etc.The program to be deployed calls for a variety of building functions (office towers, residential buildings, hotel and commercial spaces, etc.) and various types of public places and streets (a promenade along Fort Point Channel, connections to South Boston, such as the completion of Dorchester Avenue, pedestrian arcade(s) through South Station, links to Interstate 93 and Atlantic Avenue, etc.). Besides the obvious and well-defined urban design consideration, the studio will also concentrate on architectural design and landscape issues and it will be visited often by members of the many city and state agencies which have an interest or jurisdiction on the site.