Boston 2.0

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Shadow play on the Stata Center

At nine in the morning I headed back to where the Highline begins because it turned out that is where Megabus picks up their passengers. It took a while to get on the bus and then out of Manhattan because of traffic. I did not arrive in Boston until 3 o-clock! Part of me felt silly for going to Boston because I wasted a perfectly good day, but I was determined to make the most of it! The last time I was in Boston was when I had an amazing couch-surfing experience during my solo trip to visit graduate schools. It helped that I already had a good idea of where to go once I arrived at the bus station. From the South Station I hopped on the subway to Kendall station in Cambridge and met Andrea, Kristie, and Christian who are colleagues I know from my work at PBAI. They generously took time to show me the MIT MediaLab and the Stata Center. The MediaLab was particularly impressive because of the breadth of ideas they are exploring. The Stata lab was interesting because it is in a Frank Ghery building (apparently it has had its share of lawsuits from issues like leaks and falling ice) and the computer science research involves testing their software on robots. Kristie and Christian left early and Andrea and I went to go visit the MIT Chapel by Eero Saarinen before parting ways.

For dinner I had planned to go meet my old classmate Dan at a restaurant he had selected which was conveniently a short journey from MIT campus. I went and waited for twenty minutes at the restaurant only to learn from texting Dan that it was not a one-off restaurant and that he was at another location! I felt stupid because I should have known that the restaurant would be in Boston and not up in Cambridge! Google told me it would take a half hour to get to the other location, but I missed the bus by a hair and so it actually took over an hour. By the time I got to the restaurant it was closing and Dan was nowhere to be found! It turns out he was worried because there was apparently a THIRD location (although the one I went to turned out to be the correct one)! I told him I would just come to his house instead. So during all of this running around I got to see Boston by night. The area in South Boston where this restaurant was (the Orinoco), was very quaint with older brick homes, brick sidewalks, and lampposts that gave it a European feel. I didn’t arrive at Dan’s place until 9pm but we made the most with the time we had. By the time I got to his place he had already picked up some groceries so that we could make Hawaiian sloppy joes. Yum! We also had a nice time catching up on our lives.

The next morning I could sleep in a bit because I was able to let myself out after Dan was already gone to work. I walked to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum that was nearby that has an addition designed by Renzo Piano (this is the most I’ve seen of his work). Another reason I was interested is because I’ve heard it is an impressive collection and it is currently exhibiting an installation by Philip Beesley Architect Inc. that the team installed several months ago. I was sad to discover it was still closed and would not be opening for another hour yet. It was raining and I was in no mood to hang around, so I got a good look at the building from the outside (a common occurrence on this trip) and then headed off. It looked as if the whole day would be rainy and so I took the train back to the South Station, put my suitcase into short-term luggage storage, and went off to see more of Boston. This time I decided to take a suggestion from Dan which was to follow the Freedom Trail, a path through the city that brings you past historical monuments and shares some of the rich history of the city. I enjoyed the walk and also liked that it didn’t require too much thinking because there was a clearly marked brick or painted brick trail on the ground and medallions that marked the special sites. I visited some of the oldest graveyards in Boston, churches that had box pews that were owned by congregants (I had never seen churches designed that way before), and meeting houses where big historical events happened like meetings of the Boston Tea Party that were the beginnings of the American Revolution. I saw the house of Paul Revere who was a silversmith, engraver, and industrialist, but is most known for his midnight ride to alert the colonial militia of the approach of the British before the battles of Lexington and Concord. Lastly I crossed the Charles River to Charlestown to see the Bunker Hill Monument, erected between 1825 and 1843 to commemorate the battle of Bunker Hill that was fought there in 1775, and the USS Constitution, a navel vessel from 1797.

I had an hour left before I had to leave for the airport and so I decided to go quickly back up to Cambridge to see the Sean Collier Memorial on the MIT campus. It was built in 2015 in the honour of Sean Collier who was a police officer killed in the line of duty while pursuing the suspects of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing.  I heard about this project by a lecture at ACADIA by the designer J. Meejin Yoon who is also a professor and department head of architecture at MIT. It follows a star shape that represents an open hand, and the walls act as buffers from the street and draw you into the monument and also locate the site of the shooting. The stone walls of the star act as buttresses that lift up a thin stone vault in the centre. The details of how it was made are quite fascinating as they involved age-old techniques partnered with digital fabrication technology. I think that the arrangement of the space and use of material have informed a meaningful experience for people passing through. I was glad I went to check it out. Even though it made me more nervous about cutting things too close at the airport, it turned out that my flight ended up being delayed anyways!

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The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

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Old State House

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The Paul Revere House

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View from the Bunker Hill Monument

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The Sean Collier Monument

 

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