Boston City Hall Plaza
History and museums
City Hall Plaza in Boston, Massachusetts, is a large, open, unadorned public space in the Government Center area of the city. The architectural firm Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles designed the plaza in 1962 to accompany Boston's new City Hall building. The multi-level, irregularly shaped plaza consists of red brick and concrete. The Government Center MBTA station is located beneath the plaza; its entrance is at the southwest corner of the plaza.
The siting of the plaza, the City Hall, and other structures in Government Center was the responsibility of I. M. Pei, commissioned by Edward J. Logue, then development administrator of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The plaza and City Hall were constructed between 1963 and 1968, on the former site of Scollay Square, which despite its vibrancy and historical interest, was considered a seedy area by some people. Other streets removed to make way for the plaza included Brattle Street and Cornhill.
The 1962 design was reportedly modeled after Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy.
Reaction to the plaza has been mixed. Some praise City Hall Plaza for being cleaner and more appealing than Scollay Square, and for the simple fact that it was built at all—with the cooperation and compromises necessary of any complex, multi-agency government construction project. Others dislike City Hall Plaza for its anti-social aesthetic and failure to address unpleasant weather effects (such as wintertime cold, wet, and wind, and summertime heat, dust, sun, and wind). The Project for Public Spaces ranked it at the top of the organization's list of "Squares Most Dramatically in Need of Improvement in the United States" in 2005, and has placed the plaza on its "Hall of Shame."
Since the plaza opened in 1968, ideas for improvements to the public space have been put forth by citizens, students, architects, politicians, and others. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had several ideas for improvement. In 2007, Emerson College students used the virtual world Second Life to re-imagine a better design; the project was sponsored by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, among others. A 2011 study commissioned by the United States Environmental Protection Agency made recommendations for the "greening" of the plaza.
Work began in 2011 on plans to redesign the plaza and the Government Center MBTA station. The new MBTA station opened in March 2016 after two years of construction. Extensive landscaping and accessibility improvements to the plaza are scheduled for completion later in 2016.
Nearby Boston Common has long been used for public events, including a 1969 peace rally that drew an estimated crowd of 100,000 and the 1979 mass celebrated by Pope John Paul II. But damage to the park from such large events led city officials to limit future events on the Common, relocating many to the paved City Hall Plaza.
Annual events held on City Hall Plaza include Boston Calling Music Festival, Big Apple Circus, The Jimmy Fund Scooper Bowl, the Boston Pride Festival, the African Festival of Boston, Boston GreenFest, Boston Techjam, and the Boston Cycling Celebration.
Occasional events on the plaza have included Boston's 350th birthday celebration, art exhibits such as Strandbeest; large rallies in honor of the New England Patriots, the Boston Red Sox, and the Boston Bruins; political demonstrations; an exhibit of "street pianos"; a beer festival; and a "Roller Disco Tribute Party".