Figure Ground Boston

This is an article in the middle of a series on figure ground studies. Currently, we're looking at large scale developments, namely cities, to understand how relationships of space and form can be manipulated to achieve design goals. Previously, Savannah was noted for its planned developmental pattern around a concept of smaller units, called wards.

The city of Boston is a great study in contrast to Savannah because it was developed without a central plan. Boston grew out of need for defense and in response to geographical and cultural interests for trade. It is unique because of its centuries of earthmoving in vast areas surrounding the original town.

Boston Sketch

Boston Sketch

Born as the defensible Shawmut Peninsula about 1630, a single road crossed the isthmus into the town through fortifications. A second road across the opposite neck to Copps Hill intersected the first in the center of a settlement of church, government, and trade. Before long, warfs began extending from the seaward edges. One, named "Long Warf," was fully a third of a mile long created to bridge out into deeper water for the largest ships.

Boston Fills

Boston Fills

The crowded peninsula quickly began to grow through warfs and solid landfills (diagrammed in red). Its five hills, once advantageous for defense, were leveled and used as material to fill the adjacent water. By 1880, numerous bays had been filled.

The marshes and upstream rivers began to stagnate. Which leads to Boston's most interesting planned feature...

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