Architectural beauty - more than "green"

The Globe's architecture critic Robert Campbell writes today about the The Genzyme Center winning the Parker Medal as the "the most beautiful piece of architecture, building, monument or structure within the limits of the City of Boston or the Metropolitan Parks District."

In Allston we know Stefan Behnisch, the architect of The Genzyme Center, as the architect of Harvard's Science Complex under construction on Western Ave. And like the Genzyme building, I am sure that Harvard's buildings will be lovely on the inside, with features that save energy and create a beautiful working environment.

From a distance, some people may consider the Genzyme building to be beautiful in a modern sort of way. But I think a crucial consideration when judging a building's aesthetic must be how the building appears to the pedestrian who walks past the building, up close and from the outside. I took a walk around the Genzyme building in the summer of 2007 to try to get a sense of what Behnisch might offer to the Allston public realm. Unfortunately, the building up close isn't much to look at.

You can walk around the building using Google Maps or look at these photos from my visit and see that street-level windows are covered with boring white shades and the interesting architecture elsewhere in the building is nowhere to be found.

This might well be the "greenest" building in Boston, but I don't see how the person who walks past it could ever think it beautiful. What is coming to Western Ave seems likely to be from the same mold.

(As commenter che9194 notes on the Globe website, the Globe is incorrectly using an image of 675 Kendall Street, the Vertex Pharmaceuticals building instead of the Genzyme Building at 500 Kendall, but that may be corrected on the Globe's site by the time you are reading this.)


  1. I find this building quite pleasing to the eye. Maybe that's just me, but people do have different preferences.

  2. I don't have a problem with how it looks from a distance. It looks like they didn't care at all how it looks at street-level.

  3. I think they idea was for a shop and/or restaurant to occupy that space, but it never happened. If you look at the white shades from the inside you will see stories of all of the patients that are treated with Genmzyme's life saving medicine. Now that is true architectural beauty!