Context – Central Artery

It’s striking how fast bad design is forgotten once it’s been replaced.

I’ve taught a design studio at BU for the past few years, and each semester we do a precedent study focusing on pavilions in and around Boston. Inevitably, discussions about the Rose Kenedy Greenway come up. It surprises me that most students assume that stretch of land has always been a park. Most are shocked when they see pictures of what stood there as recently as 2007.

The students themselves are not entirely to blame for this lack of info. The Central Artery has become this easily forgotten structure that exists mainly in old books and records. The fact that it’s been largely forgotten is ironic, given its size and impact on the city. It’s even difficult to find good photographs of the space. Street level views looking up at the raised, green decks are hard to come by.

It’s certainly a good thing that our collective memory can move on so quickly, but without understanding what once stood in that spot it’s hard to appreciate what’s there now. One student critiqued the Rose Kenedy Greenway, as being too open and too wide. After seeing some photos from the 90’s she quickly changed her mind.

Without context, new projects are hard to judge. When they were built and what they replaced are important details in deciding if projects are as “good” as we think.