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  • ArchitectureWeek Author James McCown - 01
    James McCown

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    MUSEUM OF MEDICAL HISTORY

    One particular drawing speaks volumes about the task that faced the architects of the new Russell Museum of Medical History and Innovation at Massachusetts General Hospital. That drawing is a simple study of the density and urban configuration of the building's Boston surroundings. — Published 2012.0523

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    MAKI'S MIT MEDIA LAB

    For an academic unit that produces such forward-thinking projects as electronic ink, humanoid robots, and a digital opera, one might expect an edgy, geometrically wild building by Zaha Hadid or Coop Himmelb(l)au. But for the new building for the MIT Media Lab, Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki designed a serene example of classic modernism — a glass-and-steel form wrapped in an elegant aluminum screen. — Published 2010.0602

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    CAMBRIDGE PUBLIC LIBRARY

    A stunning new addition has opened at the Cambridge Public Library in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Using ideas of transparency, inclusiveness, and efficiency as starting points, William Rawn Associates designed the glass-and-steel addition as a modernist foil to the original 1888 library by Van Brunt & Howe. — Published 2009.1209

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    RESIDENTIAL RECLAMATIONS

    It's a spacious, imposing Los Angeles residence that has a central courtyard with lush vegetation and a cooling fountain. But don't look for palm trees or swimming pools or movie stars — this is no stereotypical Southern California abode. — Published 2008.1008

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    BOWDOIN COLLEGE MUSEUM OF ART

    Museums today aspire to be open, transparent, and welcoming. However admirable these qualities appear from our 21st-century viewpoint, it is instructive to remember that at the height of the Gilded Age, when the American museum was ascendant, the opposite was true. — Published 2008.0618

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    CAST GLASS CENTERPIECE

    Take a spicy mixture of the visual and performing arts; add a wide range of support from university, government and civic sources; cover with an unusual application of glass and stir; serves 250,000. That's the "recipe" for the Shaw Center for the Arts, which Baton Rouge, Louisiana is counting on to lift its civic profile. — Published 2005.0615

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    HOUSING BY HOLL

    A new dormitory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology seems tailor-made for the school's super-geek culture. The building by Steven Holl has been compared variously to a giant Rubik's Cube and a 1950s computer punch card. — Published 2002.1120

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    BOSTON AIR RIGHTS

    Creating urban land where none existed before seems to be a Boston tradition. Dredging of the Charles River and leveling of hills in the 1800s transformed a shallow backwater into the stylish Back Bay neighborhood. Now developable "plots" are being created by leasing of "air rights" over the portion of the Massachusetts Turnpike that traverses downtown. — Published 2002.0904

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    BOSTON RECONNECTING

    As inconceivable as it may seem today, a wide swath of downtown Boston including vibrant ethnic neighborhoods, historic pre-Revolutionary buildings, and a tangled but charming street pattern was mowed down like weeds in the mid-1950s to make way for an elevated highway.

    This was decades before the Boston-as-perennial-boomtown that we've known recently. A master plan prepared in 1956 by I.M. Pei and Associates stated darkly: "Stagnation and resultant blight are the condition of the Boston peninsula." — Published 2001.0912

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    James McCown

     

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