They are projects that may never be completed, but they offer a fascinating glimpse into what Copley Square could look like with a modern, illuminated makeover. A juried competition by SHIFTBoston, which seeks to inspire new ways of thinking about and designing public spaces in Boston, gathered proposals from architects and firms across the globe to cast a new light on Copley Square. SHIFTBoston believes that with unique, creative illumination, the park could become an evening destination.
The proposals offer a striking juxtaposition of modern design alongside landmark buildings such as H.H. Richardson’s Trinity Church.
“We want to make Copley Square one of the greatest spaces in the world using light,” SHIFTBoston president Kim Poliquin wrote in the call for entries. “We want light that is playful, respectful, purposeful, and rich.”
The three finalists in the competition have remarkably different views of what Copley Square should look like at night. The winning firm, to be chosen next month, will receive a $1,000 prize, and its entry will be submitted to the city’s Parks & Recreation Department for consideration.
By Robert Levit, Rodolphe el-Khoury, and Lindsay Hochman
of the Toronto firm Khoury Levit
This project, a giant crystal chandelier illuminated by LED lights and powered by hidden wind turbines, would be suspended over Copley Square, said architect Robert Levit of Toronto.
“It’s an important center of the city. But it’s not so well-defined in many ways,” he said. “Many of the streets are coming in, we wanted to somehow reinforce its quality as a public space rather than a passage of many streets.
“It’s to stabilize and create a place where people feel like they could pause and gather rather than pass through. And so we thought that something like this outdoor chandelier would reinforce that sense of it as a room. The chandelier is a centering device that would draw everything around it into a circle.”
By Jessica Colangelo, David Alf, Charles Sharpless, Sara Schonour of Cambridge and Los Angeles
“Urban Aurora” is a proposal that would allow Bostonians to imagine stars at night, but those constellations would glow from the ground rather than the sky.
“The idea was to build hills in the square,” said Jessica Colangelo of Los Angeles. “The metaphor is that you’re up on a mountain, but instead of looking up at the sky, you’re looking at this lit plaza.”
In addition to the new hills, which would be about 15-feet high at their peak, landscape up-lighting would highlight trees, solar-powered lit pavers would form a random pattern across the square, and a fiber optic “starscape” would be embedded at the bottom of a shallow pool as a focal point for the plaza.
“In the daytime, the pool would reflect Trinity Church and some of the Hancock Tower,” Colangelo said. “And at night, the fiber optics would come alive — programmable to replicate a starry night or to celebrate special events and seasons.”
By Raluca Buzdugan of the firm of Vlad Simionescu & Associates of Romania
Architect Raluca Buzdugan explains that her Bucharest-based firm wanted to make its entry a sculpture that would send light down into the square rather than up into the sky, and stay in proportion to the buildings surrounding Copley Square.
“In the many pictures that we saw, Copley Square was heavily populated with very intense activity,” she said. “So we wanted to do something that stayed above all of this and wouldn’t interrupt the activities. It’s something that floats in the air.
“It will give a certain glow to the square,” she added. “You can make the light brighter for a show, or you can put in colored lights and create shows and spectacles such as ballet and theater. It’s glowing, but it’s not throwing any lights in the sky, because you still want to see everything in the sky. We didn’t want to create any additional light pollution.”