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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Half Dose #72: Macallen Building

On a recent trip to Boston (my first), spotting the Macallen Building was not a problem -- the prow-like building is visible for a long distance in its South Boston setting -- but getting to it was another matter. Approaching it on foot from the west, it was necessary to walk along and then under the elevated expressway, followed by a bridge over railroad tracks (below).

Macallen Building

But once beyond the infrastructure and industry to the west, the building fits into what looks like an up-and-coming residential neighborhood, full of other new developments. But the Macallen Building -- designed by Office dA with Burt Hill -- stands out from the quasi-traditional neighbors in form, scale, and materials.

Macallen Building

The stepped profile is perhaps the building's best-known feature, what makes it recognizable in its urban setting. This form is nautical, but it serves the purpose of providing east-facing terraces for the penthouse units to look at Boston Harbor and the ocean beyond. In this sense the boat-like form seems appropriate, given that city views are eschewed in favor of the distant water.

Macallen Building

The wavy metal skin broken up by vertical fins is the next prominent feature, comprising the north- and south-facing elevations. They help to break up the rather expansive facades, which if articulated as flat skins may have run the risk of utter boredom, even with the apparently random windows and recessed balconies.

Macallen Building

The east-facing facade is more traditional but still a standout from its neighbors. Here brick is the primary material in a checkerboard pattern alternating with windows. A subtle effect is created by the glass being set back further from the brick on each floor, from the second floor to the top (evident in the last photo). On the north side of the building (along the vertical pipes, above, that rise similarly to the building) is a private drive that leads to the three-story parking provided for residents. A mechanical plant underneath be building (a noisy feature on the north side) means not only ducted air to the units but also a clean exterior free of grilles from individual HVAC units.

Macallen Building

Taking in the building and its context on my visit, I couldn't help but think of Dutch housing. The form, materials, and patterning of windows recall residential projects that are more prevalent in Holland than the US, especially Boston. I'm not sure if the architects were inspired by such projects, but there are much worse precedents to be found and few better inspirations to wear on one's sleeve.

Macallen Building

Links:
:: Macallen Building
:: Office dA
:: Burt Hill

4 comments:

  1. the last one is very nice shot!
    ciao, Luis

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  2. I can't say the building blows me out of the water, aesthetically it reminds me of much of the developer led modern-ique flats being built around Britain, especially in the Elephant and Castle redevelopment in London - just a lot more blockier and on a larger footprint.

    Interesting how you noted the materiality and window formation reminded you of Dutch architecture... For me it instantly put Grosvenor Estate by Edwin Lutyens into my head:

    http://www.artandarchitecture.org.uk/images/conway/b17e6f95.html
    http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/809650

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  3. urbanpenguin - I can see the direct resemblance to Grosvenor Estate (not a building I'm familiar with), particularly in regard to the last photo in my post, though the comparison to Dutch architecture for me is more general. For the US this is far above most developer apartment buildings being churned out, though they're a definite slowdown right now. Whatever the city or neighborhood, they tend to be brick with punched openings above a stone base, with some masonry articulated for effect. This one is a standout in that regard.

    Thanks, Luis!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Interesting architecture. The colors could be in a cheerful tone.
    http://www.constructionfamily.com

    ReplyDelete

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