I get a little sad every time I pass by the Filene's basement building, located at 426 Washington St in Downtown Boston. Designed by renown architect and planner, Daniel Hudson Burnham, the Filene's building was built in 1912 to serve as the flagship for the Filene's Department Store. In 2006, the buyers of the building planned to build a 38 story tower on the property. The $700 million high-rise designed by Elkus Manfredi would feature retail and office space, 140 residence, a 207 room boutique hotel, and a health club and spa. I was looking forward to the completion of the project as I thought it could play a large role in transforming the Downtown Crossing area. Alas due to the economy, the project was halted in November 2008. The Filene's building is among quite a few local projects to be stalled during construction. Other projects include the Harvard Science Complex in Allston, the Longwood Center Biotech Lab and the Columbus Center in the South End. According to this article by Casey Ross and Jesse Nunes of the Boston Globe, the city is challenging designers and artists to re-imagine these eye sores to once again incorporate them into the fabric of the city. Take a look at some of the projects and choose your favorites. And Boston.com is welcoming submissions of your design ideas as well.
The most provocative designs shown were for the Filene's building. Coming in first for me was the Filene's Design #1 by Howeler + Yoon Architecture and Squared Design. The building would be transformed into an algae-powered bioreactor. While I won't pretend to understand the technology - the design involves robotic arms and pre-fabricated modules or "eco pods". I was struck by the creativity of the design.
A close second is the Filene's Design #4 by Neoscape. The design incorporates a large interactive screen that can be controlled by visitors on touch screens on the fencing along the site perimeter. The designs were all impressive and I am glad that the city is taking steps to make these abandoned projects more aesthetically pleasing. While some of these designs are quite innovative, I began to worry about cost as that was the problem in the first place.