Brookline Place project: three concept plans

A design advisory team for the Brookline Place development met for a second time Monday, September 15, starting at 7:30 pm, in the first floor south meeting room at Town Hall. Six of the eight team members met with four senior members of the project team working for Children’s Hospital. They were joined by Polly Selkoe, assistant director for regulatory planning, and one neighborhood resident–a small turnout in a large meeting room.

Sam Norod and Tim Talun of Elkus Manfredi Architects, Mikyoung Kim of Mikyoung Kim Design and George Cole of Stantec Consulting presented three design concepts–all similar to the initial concept presented August 26. They differed in the outline of the main, 8-story office building, as it affects adjacent open areas bordered by Pearl St. and lower Washington St.

Although at the August 26 meeting Mark Zarrillo of the Planning Board, who chairs the team, had asked for “a list of amenities that were to going be provided,” negotiated with a Selectmen’s committee, no such list was produced at this meeting. The project team appeared to have focused efforts on a small plaza, interior to the development, to be located between the new office building and the current building at 1 Brookline Place.

Three concepts: The project team called its three design concepts “Boulevard,” “Rooms” and “Green.” The big differences were between “Boulevard” and “Rooms.” The “Boulevard” concept features curved walls and a serpentine path between the Green Line stop and Washington St. The “Rooms” concept features flat walls, sharp corners and a path broken into segments. The “Green” concept somewhat resembles “Rooms” with more grass than paved open space.

BrooklinePlaceConcepts20140915

Mr. Cole said the project team sought a design that “allows you to adapt it to different events”–suggesting that Children’s would allow individuals or groups to organize temporary uses of the outdoor space. Arlene Mattison, a design team member, said she saw the space as primarily a meeting space, maybe hosting art exhibits, but not a performance space. It should be “something that we don’t have in Brookline now…pleasing, welcoming.”

Critiques: Design team member Steve Lacker, an architect, expressed a strong preference for the angular “Rooms” concept. Its urban feel, he said, was “more in keeping with the surroundings.” Linda Hamlin, also an architect, who chairs the Planning Board, was not so sure. “Too much of a pinch point between those buildings,” she said. Design team member Edith Brickman, a Precinct 4 town meeting member, asked, “How does that work with snow and ice?”

Mr. Norod explained that a motive behind the curved walls of the “Boulevard” concept was to admit more light to the interior plaza and perhaps also reduce velocity and turbulence from winter winds, which will often blow northwest to southeast across the open space.

Mark Zarrillo, a landscape architect and Planning Board member, argued for open space away from streets, making it more flexible. That would seem to disfavor the “Green” concept, which places more open space on Washington St., now a pedestrian wasteland. Mr. Zarrillo said he would prefer the “Boulevard” concept with a “more formal appearance”–apparently meaning more of the flat surfaces and angles that Mr. Lacker favors.

Design team member Cynthia Gunadi, an architect, said she was “wary of calling curves warm” and said she wanted to see an approach that provided “flexibility: a farmers market, an office lunch, a kid’s birthday.” Ms. Brickman spoke up for adding and showing benches, saying that “every single bench is in use most of the time now.” Ms. Hamlin wanted the “possibility to have more delight, some playfulness. I can see a child running through it.”

Next steps: Members of the design advisory team asked the project team to discard the “Green” concept and work over the “Boulevard” concept, making it more angular, and the “Rooms” concept, somehow opening access to the interior plaza or, as Mr. Zarrillo put it, “softening” it. Mikyoung Kim, chief landscape designer for the project team, cautioned that they are “very different schemes…you can’t merge the two or you’ll have nothing.”

The next meeting was tentatively set for Thursday, October 11, 7:30 pm, at Town Hall–an evening when there is expected to be no Planning Board meeting.

–Beacon staff, Brookline, MA, September 16, 2014

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