When the John Hancock Tower was being built in the 1960s it had immense architectural issues. It’s famous blue reflective glass kept falling on windy days, smashing down onto the concrete from heights well beyond 20 stories. The owners of the building kept getting sued and the issue took years to fix.
While not the brightest story in Boston’s architectural catalogue, it shows the ambition that went into designing much of Boston’s architecture. Boston’s architecture is controversial and eclectic, consisting of everything from turn-of-the-century granite skyscrapers to modernist inspired commercial buildings.
Many people still complain to this day about City Hall’s brutalist design, although some have come to accept its flaws as a reminder of the past. In terms of residence, Boston real estate features everything from modern townhouses to old colonial hotels and buildings that have stood the test of time.
In such an old and historical city as Boston, the clash between old and new is ever persistent. That’s why we’ve curated this list of our six favorite architectural buildings to better understand Boston.
Located in Back Bay, Trinity Church has long been considered an architectural achievement by critics around the world. This massive cathedral was named by the American Institute of Architects as one of its “Ten Most Significant Buildings in the United States.” With its beautiful stained glass windows, massive wall murals, and rough stone arches, Trinity church looks like it was plucked out of Moscow’s city square or the Vatican itself.
Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, it was considered entirely original in his day. Instead of turn-of-century gothic revivals, he featured a Greek cross plan. The building is considered a part of “Richardson Romanesque.”
John F. Kennedy Federal Building
With a bill totalling over $25 million, the brilliant cross-sectional design of the John F. Kennedy Federal Building was completed in the 1960s. It was designed by none other then the brilliant Walter Gropius, founder of the Bauhaus School of architecture in the early 1920s. What many people don’t realize is that this building is actually one building, consisting of two high-rises on a shared 4-story foundation. In total, the federal building is about 26 stories high and 839,000 square feet.
Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge
Crossing the Charles River, this unique, cable bridge replaced the old truss Charlestown High Bridge and instead expanded to include 10 lanes. Using the harp-style system of cables, it is considered the widest cable-stayed bridge in the world. Reflecting the unique polychromatic lights of Boston’s downtown, the Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge is a feat of architectural design and purely spectacular to see from outside of Boston.
Boston Public Library: McKim Building
Aptly entitled the “Palace of the People,” the Boston Public Library McKim Building is an architectural treat. With its grand renaissance-inspired coffered ceiling and massive inscriptions, the building is both massive in its size and scope of work. The interior features murals from famous artists like John Singer Sargent and Edwin Austin Abbey. While it may look like the stock exchange from the outside, it looks like a grand cathedral on the inside.
MIT’s Ray and Maria Stata Center
Designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Frank Gehry, the building has been declared an absolute masterpiece, as well as a disaster by critics. Constructed using deconstructed angles, column tilts, and seemingly random curves, the building is both an absolute wonder and terror to look at. Constructed with brick, brushed aluminum, and other contemporary materials, perception of the building is mixed, although we can agree that it is ambitious in its scope!