Every month architects and industry insiders share their recommendations for the best exhibitions and events to visit in Boston.

February 2018
Jay Wickersham FAIA
2018 BSA President
Noble, Wickersham, & Heart

Last month I was privileged to serve as co-host of the BSA’s annual design awards gala, along with Peggy Fogelman, director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  At the gala we glimpsed images of compelling and sometimes startling new buildings. How were they created? Three events this month provide some insights on the design process.


Let’s start with two continuing exhibitions at the Harvard GSD. In “Baroque Machinations,” drawings by professor Cameron Wu and his students explore and elaborate upon the geometries of three famous 17th century churches. “Feminine Power and the Making of Modern Architectural History,” organized by the student group Women in Design, documents the careers of Jaqueline Tyrwhitt and Alison Smithson, two pioneering architects, planners, and theorists.


For an enlightening contemporary perspective, on February 27 you can hear from a BSA-award-winning team, the principals of BOS UA, Paxton Sheldahl & Silvia Illia-Sheldahl. They are this month’s speakers in “Project to Practice,” a series sponsored by the Architecture Department at the Wentworth Institute of Technology.


Last year the city of Boston, under Mayor Martin Walsh, adopted Imagine Boston 2030, the first new citywide masterplan in over 50 years. Creating the plan was an achievement; putting it into practice will be a much greater achievement. This month, three talks will explore the challenges of planning and running today’s cities.


On February 7, Karilyn Crockett will be at the Boston Public Library to talk about her important new book, People before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making.  Crocket, who is the City’s director of economic policy and research, will describe the revolution in community-based activism that transformed our concepts of planning in the 1960s – and that continues to shape us and our cities today.


To compare Boston with another major American city, on February 20 you can go to the Harvard GSD to hear Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel in conversation with Dean Mohsen Mostafavi.


On February 22, award-winning UCLA professor Ananya Roy will offer her incisive perspectives on race, inequality, and freedom in the contemporary city. Roy’s appearance at the MIT School of Architecture is jointly sponsored by the school’s chapter of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students (NOMAS).


Finally, wherever you are this month, take some time to explore familiar or unfamiliar architecture – aided by the AIA Guide to Boston Architecture app on your IPhone. If you’re in Back Bay, make sure to visit the Boylston Street wing of the BPL, winner of the BSA’s 2018 Harleston Parker medal as Boston’s most beautiful building. The architects, William Rawn & Associates, have transformed an often-maligned work of mid-century modernism into a light-filled and inviting palace of knowledge.  It’s an apt metaphor for what architecture and urban planning can aim for – turning past mistakes into future possibilities.

Past Editors