Why cobblestones were ever a useful means of creating roads I'll never know. Sure, there is a quaint charm to the clickety-clack sound that wheels make when they go over them. And there can be some rollercoaster, stomach-in-your-chest appeal to the jostle that is riding over them. But, practically speaking, they must have been hugely destructive.
Take a look at this street in the Beacon Hill area:
Nevermind driving over this in an all-terrain SUV - which, despite modern luxuries, has to still have some degree of unpleasantness attached to it. (Off-roading in the city, anyone?) Now imagine going down this hill in a horse-drawn cart. Don't forget that you have wooden wheels and no suspension. This would tear your wheels right off! Essentially, by the time you crossed the base of the hill, you would have a really nice horse-drawn sled.
But it does look pretty, that's for sure. Were I living at the turn of the 20th Century or before, I think I'd take my chances with the wooden wagon, too.
Did you ever notice that Boston is a true "dog city?" People here are passionate about their pups, and many even share their canines' affections with passersby - oh, to pet a friendly dog! And finally - total bonus - this city fares verywell on the sidewalks-clear-of-dog-doo-meter. (Not so well on the clear-of-goose-poo-meter.)
Take a look at these two pooches, forever enjoying the landscape of the Bean:
I know that the Big Dig has been shaded in varying degrees of awe and controversy over the years, and I do not mean to fall on one side or the other or to fuel any fires. Although, I suppose whether or not Boston's new, grand entrance and thoroughfares appeal to you, this link is very interesting. Follow it to learn what you can do with $20 million -- an everyday experience for most of us, I'm sure.
In the meantime, enjoy the view the from the train!
Here is a neat piece of design from the Copley area:
This photo is looking up from a side entrance. I like how it cuts into the entire building. The pattern, too, is a very nice touch - I like that the diamond shapes inside of the tiles form an alternating pattern of the dark and light tans.
Actually, the more I look at this, the more pleasing it is. I love that it is a simple (but creative) shape that is also adorned with moderate intricacy. I am especially in awe of the proportions: notice that the rest of the building's height continues from the center line of the curvature.
And, finally, it reminds me of the half-pipes that filled the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater videogames. "Like, dude! Twenty trick combo!"
In all seriousness, though, rad points to this building - a fantastic example of the appeal of modern architecture. (And I didn't even mention the incredible windows and pillared frame yet!)
Here is a quick taste of Paris that can be found in the Back Bay. It's not an exact replica of the Metro entrances found in the land of fromage and vin, but it certainly seems to be inspired by them. Bon!
Follow the link for images of the Parisian Metro and some interesting facts. The style is called Art Nouveau, which is apparently very difficult for me to define. It predates Art Deco - but only by little. In addition to the preceding example, it includes the architecture of Gaudi. And that's really all that I know about it.
If you'd rather an informed opinion, this link defines it as a "cluster of self-consciously radical, somewhat mannered reformist chic." I prefer the quoted definition, though I do not have the aesthetic chops to back it up. However, I do know that when I look at this picture above and read that quote, I think, "Yeah, that's about right."
There will be a post soon on the weather spire that tops the Berkeley Building. I am going to take a little bit longer to write this one. Why? Because I tried to write it last night, but I didn't do all of my research! I got some simple facts about it wrong, and rather than issue multiple updates, I scrapped the post. When it is rewritten as factually accurate, I will share!
Until then, enjoy this picture of one of my favorite pieces of the Boston skyline!
"Do anything you want to do, but,
Honey, lay off of my shoes
Don't you step on my blue suede shoes.
You can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes."
(Thank you lyricsfreak.com)
There are plenty of people who don't want to have their feet stepped on. Historically speaking, there two effective options. First, like Elvis Presley, you could write a song about it. But who wants to do that? You can't sing 24/7, and whenever you stop, you'd be liable to have your shoes stepped on.
So consider this, shoe-preservationists -- make your feet scary. And is there anything more frightening than a dragon?
I sure as heck wouldn't step on this sign's feet. Would you? No way! You'd be mauled! You say you're not intimidated by the fearsome jaguar-dragon that guards an (apparently) important lamp in the Copley location of the Boston Public Library?
Well...then take a look at this!
AAAHHHHhhhh!!! It's a human head! For crying out loud! This is probably what happens when you step on the feet. This man-dragon can be found guarding a lamppost on Commonwealth Ave.
Of course, historians may remind us that these kinds of animal mash-ups aren't that uncommon. Consider the Assyrians and their penchant for carving human-headed-winged-lions between the 7th and 9th Centuries BCE (thanks metmuseum.org). Let's hope these carved beasts don't come roaring to life.
As it turns out, the previously posted statue is of none other than William Lloyd Garrison (proof below).
Living from 1805-1879, Garrison was a well-known abolitionist and supporter of women's suffrage. The Boston area was, for quite some time, his home, and he is buried in Jamaica Plain.
In his lifetime, he was the founder of the newspaper The Liberator, where he made his views quite plain to see. It was here, in his words, that he stood for social justice. Moreover, he is one of history's few individuals who possessed the ability to admit wrongdoing. By the end of 1830, he had publicly denounced his previous support for colonization, instead wholeheartedly supporting emancipation (source: wikipedia page).
For his more direct impact on the Boston area, he is a bit (read: much) more fitting a statue for the Commonwealth Mall than Alexander the Great Leif Erickson, who may not have even reached Beantown (and happens to look a lot like classical depictions of Alexander the Great).
It should also be noted that Wikipedia claims that as a boy, Garrison sold lemonade (though I cannot confirm this). To all you lemonade-stand-entrepreneurs: you are in good company. Unless, like me and one of my good friends, you tried to sell lemonade on a dead-end street.
Well, I wish I could tell you just who this statue is, but I didn't take a look. I was too distracted by the ladder. Either this man is notorious for tipping backwards in his seat, and the city of Boston has finally found a way to solve this troubling dilemma, or this is the perfect setup for a colossal noogie.
As a side note, I can now confirm that Leif's boat, as depicted in the previous entry, will not float.
Yes, as you may have surmised based on yesterday's teaser, the newest entry on design in the city of Boston is... Leif Ericson (who will be referred to intermittently as "Viking-Man").
First Question: Where is he? Leif Ericson can be found at the very end of the Commonwealth Mall (towards Kenmore).
Second Question: Who is he? This is an excellent question. Walking down Comm Ave, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who is not directly associated with Boston and/or American history. Even at a quick glance, it's easy to see that the vast majority of these immortalized (and heftily carved) figures are wearing outfits that range from the colonial to the slightly more recent. That is, until travelers stumble upon the figure at the end (or beginning) wearing plated armor. That hasn't been in vogue for, what, centuries? Unless it's about to make a comeback, in which case, Leif totally rocks it.
Aside from his ability to "make it work" (potentially copyright Tim Gunn), we still have to beg the question why someone so seemingly out of place has become a permanent structure in the city.
Well, the answer may just surprise you...if only because it still doesn't make any sense.
After extensive research (read: Wikipedia and the sources it cites -- so consider all info sourced to the Wiki listing), it is apparent that our good friend Mr. Leif, the Viking-Man, has left a big of a legacy. Long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue, Erickson and his fellow Norsemen sailed to North America (almost 500 years before, to be more precise).
That said, it is generally agreed upon that Leif was born in Iceland, though it seems that this is inferred and not factually known. He also traveled to Greenland, Norway, and the currently Canadian regions of North America. In any event, the landmasses that are Greenland and Iceland had both been found by Vikings before Leif was born.
In addition, Leif didn't land in Boston! It has been suggested that Leif landed in Newfoundland. I tried to Mapquest directions from Boston to Newfoundland, but the site "had trouble" finding me a route. No doubt Leif did, too.
So, why is he here? I'm not too sure on that one, but his history is definitely interesting.
And so is his statue -- especially when dramatically back lit.
I like his stance -- mostly because I remember taking a series of photos posed just like him at the beach. Symbolically, yes, he is looking at Newfoundland. I think. Literally, though, I think he is focused on Fenway (and the current 6-3 Sox-Blue Jays game), or thereabouts.
My favorite part of this statue would have to be the pedestal on which it stands. This is obviously because it's a tiny, top-heavy boat. I have a friend who works with such buoyant travel devices, and I'll double-check with him, but I'm pretty sure that it would never float -- nor would anyone be able to stand tall atop it, even the first explorer to reach these shores.
Welcome, everyone, to the new blog. Hopefully with a little bit of elbow grease and a hefty dose of regular posts, this blog will take off quickly.
In case you were wondering (which, if you got here, you probably are), the intent of this blog is to capture odd and interesting architecture all around Beantown. These items will be the types of things that if you never look around, you just might miss (hence the title "Don't Look Down" -- so clever). From time to time, I may pepper in some interesting sights from my travels, so expect some upcoming posts from London, Dublin, Athens, and NYC, and other places I have been.
Lastly, why Boston? Well, admittedly, it comes down to me being so darn close to the city. On the other hand, there is also the sheer architectural irregularity of the city. It's binding structure seems to be the brownstone, but take one look around the city, and you'll see the overwhelming variety of style.
For instance, take a quick look below:
So -- from the Commonwealth Mall, we are looking over at the very end of Newbury Street, where it meets Mass Ave. (via its rooftops). We can see traditional brownstones (lower right), a spire (obvious), and a really, really industrial-looking building that is currently home to a Best Buy. Architecturally, this seems as un-uniform as you could get.
It is largely because of this variety that Boston is such a fun place to explore.