Every month architects and industry insiders share their recommendations for the best exhibitions and events to visit in Boston.
June is when plans are made to take some time off and get away from it all. Before venturing too far afield, take some time to appreciate the unique history and activities available in your own backyard. In less time than it takes you to drive to the Cape, you can learn about when cows grazed in Boston Common and NASA almost set up a headquarters in Kendall Square. Plus, no waiting in TSA lines to start your adventure!
Begin by experiencing Boston during its early expansion, when the city’s growth was made possible by filling in areas of its waterfront. The city was originally a peninsula 9/10 of a mile running north-south in Boston Harbor. The large west estuary of the Charles River was filled in to create the Back Bay, a well-known historical footnote. Less known is that there was also a “Front Bay” created during the same period when the east estuary of the Neponset River was filled in. Boston By Foot’s Crossing the Peninsula Walking Tour allows the imagination to travel back in time to witness the cows being banished from Boston Common and the hills of the city “shorn of fifty or sixty feet” to build Charles Street and the North End.
Breathing Room: Mapping Boston's Green Spaces, an exhibition at the BPL shows how Boston recognized the environmental and social benefits of green spaces and ensured that the growth of the city didn’t come at the expense of public space. From Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace to the Boston Common and the Esplanade, Boston boasts some of the nation’s most recognizable and cherished green spaces. Visitors will learn how Boston Common, the country’s oldest public park, grew from a grazing pasture, how innovative landscape architects fashioned green oases in the midst of a booming metropolis, and what the future holds for Boston’s open spaces.
If the integration of the city and nature interests you, you’ll enjoy NatureStructure at the Boston Society of Architects’ BSA Space Gallery. NatureStructure is an overview of dozens of projects that show how man made designs, structures and systems are being designed to support and nurture nature in urban environments. From Boston’s own Best Bees Company and their vision for how Boston could become a more bee-friendly city, to Sydney, Australia’s “Fish Apartments” which allow sealife to return to the heavily developed Sydney Harbor, NatureStructure shows that the future of sustainable cities isn’t about battling natural forces, but playing on the same team as nature. (Full disclosure: I am the curator of the exhibition.)
Once home to distilleries, electric power plants, soap, and hosiery factories, Kendall Square was pretty much a ghost town in the 1980s that offered little more than a quiet walking route from the T to the Garment District. The Kendall Square Walking Tour brings people through the arc of the area’s history, from its industrial origins through abandoned plans for it to be home to NASA's Electronics Research Center, and into its current status as home to offices for Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, and of course home to MIT.
So before sacrificing valuable vacation time for standstill traffic and lengthy airport check-ins, be sure to take advantage of the deep history and rich offerings available practically next door.