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IDeAS Boston features Francine Houben of Mecanoo

Faneuil Hall
1 Faneuil Hall Sq Boston, MA

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On May 6 and 7, the City of Boston will bring together designers, community leaders, developers, city officials, and academics in a two-day event called IDeAS: Innovative Design Alternatives Summit. Francine Houben will be a guest of Mayor Martin J. Walsh and speak during the plenary session on Wednesday afternoon.  

About IDeAS      

The summit is intended to initiate an inclusive, interactive visioning process, to imagine the collaborative planning process, and to learn how citizens and visitors will experience Boston’s physical and cultural environments in the years 2020 and 2030.

IDeAS has emerged in response to the design challenge raised by Mayor Walsh in his December speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, in which he encouraged developers and the design community to “reach beyond [their] comfort zone” and “take design to a new level” to build inspiration into Boston’s emerging urban landscape.

Organized by the City of Boston, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), and Boston Society of Architects (BSA), the events are free and open to the public. Interested attendees are encouraged to register for one or both days.

IDeAS

About Francine Houben

"Architecture must appeal to all the senses. Architecture is never a purely intellectual, conceptual, or visual game alone. Architecture is about combining all the individual elements into a single concept. What counts in the end is the arrangement of form and emotion."

Francine Houben, architect and creative director at Mecanoo, began to formulate the three fundamental concepts of her architectural vision whilst studying at the Technical University in Delft, the Netherlands.

Designing primarily for People, constructing spaces that are relevant to Place, and forging connections that give a building Purpose have remained consistent, underlying values to Mecanoo’s practice over the past three decades. 

Always seeking inspiration in the details of specific sites and locations, Francine bases her work on precise analysis coupled with an intuition built over three decades. She interweaves social, technical, playful and human aspects of space-making together in order to create a unique solution to each architectural challenge.

Francine combines the disciplines of architecture, urban planning and landscape architecture in an untraditional way, with a profound sensitivity for light and beauty. Her use of materials, which often contrast in a complementary way, are the sum total of her creative expression. One of her projects was the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Boston;

Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building, Boston

As a testimony to the vision of the late mayor Thomas M. Menino, the Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building stands proudly over Dudley Square. It was Menino who decided the City of Boston would develop the vital plot of land by consolidating 500 civil servants from the Boston Public Schools department into a new municipal office building for education, in conjunction with a community centre and retail space.­­­

The building’s second floor is home to the Roxbury Innovation Center, initiated by Mayor Walsh. Mecanoo and Sasaki’s design embodies the City’s vision of a symbol of change that is freely accessible to all, celebrating the history of Roxbury and inaugurating a new era for the neighbourhood. Since every student and parent in the state will visit the BPS at least once, the building is designed to be friendly, healthy and inspirational to people of all ages.

Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building

It challenges what an office building is, proposing new ways of working and promoting collaboration and transparency through an open layout. The existing historical facades of the Ferdinand, Curtis and Waterman buildings have been comprehensively restored and stitched together into a bright new building.

Referencing these original buildings, the central volume to new municipal centre also embodies a time-honoured approach to craft in construction. As a Bostonian building with a Dutch touch, a contemporary interpretation of classical layering manifests itself in the brick work encompassing a number of different masonry techniques from running bond, to stack bond, to soldier bond.

Elements in relief cast intricate shadows across one another in a playful, ‘jazzy’ rhythm. The vitreous properties of the bricks reflect light in different ways depending on the weather conditions. Designed to have a transparent plinth on ground floor level – known as the “New Dudley Square” – and a beacon-like crown at the very top, the form of the building defers to the urban grid.

Visitors will also marvel at the fifth floor with its roof terrace that is, uniquely, accessible to all and offers vistas across the metropolis towards downtown and the water beyond, signifying Dudley’s reborn presence at the gravity point of the city of Boston.

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