BLC approves first portions of City Hall Plaza redesign

After Mayor Martin Walsh announced his plan for reimagining City Hall Plaza in 2015, global design firm Sasaki was hired to make the idea a reality. The Boston Landmarks Commission (BLC) on Jan. 28 approved the first portions of the project, which are set to commence this spring, as the team said they are in the final stages of the construction documentation. Before the BLC on Tuesday evening was a proposal for the main entry to City Hall, as it will be getting a revamp and an accessible ramp, as well as changes to the North Entry and the addition of feature walls. These are just the first few of may components of the entire redesign.
A member of the project team said that the existing plaza has “severe physical limitations,” and the redesign as a whole is focused on creating a plaza that is accessible by all.
The current main entry to City Hall Plaza has inaccessible ramp-stairs, stairs across the main entry, and a ramp that is wrapped around the egress stairs, with he flagpoles and the speakers corner over to the right of the building. The Sasaki team is proposing to move the speakers corner closer to the entry of the building, as well as create an accessible walkway to the fourth-floor terrace. The speakers corner will feature stairs and seatwalls to its left, and the stairs to the main entry of the building will be removed in favor of an accessible walkway. The relocation of the speakers corner allows for a better backdrop during a speaking event, the team said.
The existing North Entry was closed in September of 2001 due to security concerns, and currently has limited security options and a non-compliant ramp. The team hopes to re-open the entrance as part of the redesign, create a fully accessible ramp, install new security screening equipment/scanning devices, and have a personnel turnstile entrance.
“We’re imagining a newly revived and illuminated North Entry,” the team said. “We believe that it works really well with the existing architecture.”
Additionally, the existing vestibule at the North entrance will be demolished and moved over in order to put a security and information desk in, and there will be “dynamic and inviting lighting” added to the new vestibule, according to the presentation.
Also presented to the BLC were proposals to alter the existing high brick walls near the North side of the building, on which public art will be added to make them seem less overbearing, the team said.
The pieces of art will be made of a bronzed structure with the text “All Are Welcome Here,” and will feature rotating public art panels within the structure. This will be located at the current MBTA vent wall at what will be next to the the Civic Pavilion in the future.
There will be another feature wall at the amphitheater, and also one at the North Entry, both with the bronzed metal structure on the existing brick.
These feature walls will “provide human scale and interest to the walls of the plaza,” the project team said.
“I’ve always been a fan of the plaza,” said BLC Commissioner David Berarducci, praising the proposal. The. BLC approved the changes to the main entry, the North Entry, and the feature walls, calling the proposal “great.” Joe Cornish, Director of Design Review for the BLC did recommend that the project proponents report back to staff with material samples so the materials that will be used can be finalized.

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