A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Beautiful Modern Building

I couldn't leave Boston on Friday without stopping by Trinity Church. Hard to resist; you can't get to the T station from Copley Place without going right past it. I have a particular interest in Trinity Church these days, because it was designed by Henry Hobson Richardson. Richardson also designed the church next door to me, whose spire I can see through one of my skylights as I type this.

Springfield's North Congregational (now the Hispanic Baptist Church) was completed in 1873; Boston's Trinity Church, four years later. Richardson's very first commission, in fact, was in Springfield, just two blocks from my house: the Church of the Unity (completed in 1869; demolished in the '60's by--who else?--Mr. Demolition himself, current Mayor Charles V. Ryan).

Across the street from Trinity Church is I. M. Pei's Hancock Tower, a shaft of bluish glass which reflects mostly sky and so seems to disappear into the landscape. Leaving aside the engineering problems (for years, glass panels were popping out and endangering pedestrians; excavation for the foundation damaged the church and other nearby structures; and until the building was stabilized, it swayed so badly in the wind that tenants got seasick), it's an architectural masterpiece. And it only took about a hundred million dollars--more than the original cost of the building--to fix all the issues.

What I like most about the Tower is that it reflects the Church so beautifully, rather than just blotting it out. When you stand on St. James Avenue, between the two buildings, you see Trinity Church whichever way you look. That's the way new buildings are supposed to work with old.


Blogger Ben said...

But when you drive in from Storrow Drive, you see the old Hancock Tower reflecting in the new Hancock Tower...

Steady blue, clear view.
Flashing blue, clouds are due.
Steady red, rain ahead.
Flashing red, snow instead.
Except in summer when it means the ball game is postponed.


6:47 PM  

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