Chiofaro Chopped

East
Thursday, October 15, 2009
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Don Chiofaro has agreed to reduce the height of his Boston Arch project, including losing the skyframe that gave its distinctive look. Now, it will look closer to his International Place project seen at left. (Courtesy the Chiofaro Company)

Don Chiofaro has agreed to reduce the height of his Boston Arch project, including losing the skyframe that gave its distinctive look. Now, it will look closer to his International Place project designed by Philip Johnson and visible at left. (Courtesy the Chiofaro Company)

The news out of Boston this morning is that developer Don Chiofaro has bowed to community opposition (pun intended?) and will reduce the height of his harborside Boston Arch tower complex, designed by KPF. Formerly at 1.5 million square feet, the building will shave off 10 to 15 percent of its bulk, including the loss of the distinctive “skyframe” that gave it its name. The frame, which rose to 780 feet, is gone, leaving the towers behind, also at reduced heights. The slenderer residential and hotel tower will now rise to 625 feet, instead of 690, a Chiofaro representative told us today, and the 560-foot office tower will also shrink. Final designs are still in the works. Not to say we didn’t see this coming.

Indeed, when we first wrote about the tower back in June, we expected as much:

Then again, this is how most real estate deals get done: propose the most extreme possible project, and work down from there. Chiofaro said he had toiled for months on getting the project just right, revising its scale, composition, and components. “The geometry of the buildings begins to be set specifically by what goes inside of them and what we’re trying to achieve on the ground,” Chiofaro told AN.

[…]

The only problem was that against the skyline, the two towers looked somewhat muddled, which is how the arch was conceived. “Not only does it create an icon, a real gateway,” said Andrew Klare, an associate principal at KPF, “but with that addition, it actually makes the scale break down.”

According to Chiofaro, the height reductions were provoked by Massport, which oversees the airport and apparently did not feel safe with anything taller than 625 feet near the Logan approach, and thus the reduction. But could it also be that the arch was originally conceived as a folly to make the building look taller than it actually is, only to be cast aside later to assuage the concerns of the community? When we suggested as much, Chiofaro’s people demurred. Now we’re left with two stepped towers with some sort of retail base—not unlike Chiofaro’s first major success, the nearby International Place, designed by Philip Johnson. And now, onto round two, as we wait to hear from the BRA on its Greenway study, which was advocating for something in the 400-foot range at the extreme.

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