An Architect is always learning. The most successful in the profession are those who continually ask questions, broaden their knowledge, and constantly look for ways to improve all aspects of your work.
To that end, I’ve been doing quite a bit of research on some of the public structures I frequent on nearly a daily basis. After months of looking for documents, emailing city offices, and spending time in libraries, I recently came upon a rather unique document that illustrates the process of design. What follows is a conversation, recorded nearly 30 years ago regarding the building of a specific public transportation structure. The names have been changed to protect any unwanted legal entanglements.
City of Boston
March 25th 1983
Alewife Transportation Hub Design Meeting
John I. Oneil, Head of Boston Transportation Division
Ruth McStearny, Public Relations Office Liaison
Gerald Knickerbottom, Outreach Commissioner
Rory Walsh, Division of Public Works
Sandra Middletuts, Scribe
JO: I’d like to bring this meeting to order and begin discussions on the planning and design of the Alewife Transportation Hub. It will represent the future of commuting in the city of Boston, and should become the gold standard for public transit hubs all over the world. Let’s begin with basic design decisions, how about starting with color?
GK: Like super grey. No color whatsoever. People like that.
RM: Hmm. Intriguing, but perhaps some color could positively affect commuter’s moods? Thoughts?
GK: You’re not hearing me. Grey. It’s not black, its not white – it’s like not even a color. People will see whatever color they want, thus everybody will be, like, super happy all the time. They will be the most happy people ever. Biggly happy. Trust me.
JO: Perhaps a little bit of color – a hint, a hue or some other important sounding adjective? A smidgen, yes, how about a smidgen of color?
GK: No fucking color! Grey. Trust me. I’m always right. It’s the best color that’s not really a color.
SM: Somebody is touching my thigh.
GK: My hands are too small to touch anything. I’ve never touched anything ever.
JO: So…I guess it could be grey, perhaps we can table the color decision for a few more weeks.
GK: Good, when we come back to the table let’s make this building grey.
JO: Let’s discuss commuter comfort for a moment. Thoughts?
RM: I was thinking of enclosing the structure and maintaining a comfortable ambient temperature for commuters.
GK: Worst. Idea. Ever.
RW: There must be worse ideas than keeping people warm in the winter and cool in the summer? Like sneak attacks in Yemen, giant walls, and genital groping.
GK: All good things by the way. The best things.
RW: Those are not good things.
JO: Please people, let’s try and focus here. We were talking about commuter comfort and enclosing the station with a building envelope.
GK: Waste of time! You want it to be needle-stingy cold in the winter, and reek of hot genitals in the summer. That’s what the people want. People are coming and going, you want to ensure they don’t want to be there. Why make it a comfortable place to be? makes no sense. Trust me. Biggly.
RM: Sometimes you have to wait for a bus, or a carpool, and it’s nice if you can wait somewhere where the temperature is comfortable. Boston can be quite cold in the winter and hot and humid in the summer.
JO: Very true, Ruth. I’m thinking…
GK: Obviously, none of you are designers nor architects! No heat or air conditioning fits perfectly with my grey lack of color motif.
RW: You are neither of those as well.
GK: I went to Wharton damn you!
RM: No you didn’t, you just took a class there one time, maybe.
JO: I had sex with a man once, doesn’t mean I’m gay…
RW: Wait, what? I think it does actually.
RM: Bi maybe, but I try not to categorize people’s sexuality.
GK: Agreed. Using a completely made up situation, just because somebody urinated on my chest while I shouted “Pee on me!” at the top of my lungs does not mean I enjoy that sort of activity. It was so, so warm…
SM: How warm? It’s for my notes.
JO: Okay, I guess we don’t have to have a closed building envelope and comfortable temperatures inside. So far we have a grey building that’s hot in the summer and freezing in the winter – that’s probably just within our budget. How about we move on to ease of access? Should it be easy to enter and exit the structure during busy times of day?
RW: That makes sense – maybe several exits that help keep traffic flowing during peak times?
GK: Really? Terrible. Sad, actually. You need very few exits, and they should all enter onto the same one laned street that goes directly into a stop light. That way it’s constantly clogged, like my pores.
RW: Why would we want to make it difficult to exit?
GK: People love their cars – so let’s give them extra time to be in them. Imagine how grateful people will be if we keep them lined up and wrapped around the garage like sardines in their cars. They will be so thankful – like super thankful. Why is everybody not as smart as me?
RM: What about incentive pricing plans for frequent users?
GK: You’re stupid. And ugly. Why have complicated plans that nobody could understand? Dumbest idea ever.
JO: Going back to access, what about pedestrian or cyclist access?
GK: They should have to risk their lives negotiating paths that directly cross fast moving traffic. It will make them more nimble and they will all thank me for that.
RM: That could be dangerous and put people at risk?
RW: Yeah – maybe we should separate pedestrians and cars.
GK: Fine. Make sure the pedestrians and cyclists have stop signs when they want to cross the street. Make them responsible for not being hit by cars. Humans were not made to walk, it’s gross. I never walk anywhere, ever.
JO: Bike parking?
GK: Metal fucking batting cages…next!
JO: Looks like we have a grey building that lacks any sort of temperature control, it’s difficult to enter and exit with a vehicle, and pedestrians can access it only by taking their lives in their into their own hands. Anything else?
RW: Smart. Thousands of people will go through it each day, it should have restrooms.
GK: Obviously I like the smell of hot urine, so let’s force people to relieve themselves on the floor.
GK: Fine. One stall for men, and one stall for women – nothing more. Also, make it terrible in there. If nobody uses them we never have clean them – self perpetuating cycle. Saves money. I went to Wharton.
RW: You never went to Wharton.
GK: Whatever. I was too smart for Wharton.
JO: I think we need to wrap today’s meeting up, but just to clarify…
SM: My other thigh is being touched.
GK: Ruth did it.
JO: …just to clarify, the new Alewife Transportation Hub will be grey, uncomfortable, dangerous, and lack appropriate restroom facilities.
GK: I build the best stations.
JO: Great, thanks everybody for being at the meeting. I think we can use this conversation as jumping off point for our next discussion regarding TD Garden and North Station.
End of meeting minutes