In architecture and especially interior design, wood as a finish material is used for many reasons, the most common of which is bringing warmth to a space. And with the recent focus on sustainability and recycled materials, we see wood salvaged from old barns or factory floors proudly featured in restaurants, stores, and other public spaces all over the city. Yet casual observers seldom realize just how distinguished a history this material has. Some of it comes out of Boston Harbor.
The warmth that this oak brings — for instance, to the floors of Legal Harborside and the lobbies at 101 Seaport Blvd. and 745 Atlantic Ave. — is entirely unexpected: Before it was reclaimed from the cold harbor, it was submerged for over a century in the form of structural pilings. As old harborside structures and wharves are being demolished or rebuilt, the old pilings come out of the water bearing the mark of not one but two previous lives: one in an oak forest, and another in the salty water. Then, the wood is rescued not once, but twice: first from its long service in the frigid water, and then from a sorry end in a landfill.
After the wood is sorted, dried, cut, and planed, its character emerges: water stains, streaks, and nail holes create the all-important character and patina. Now, it’s beautiful and interesting enough to become a feature wall in a high-end lobby, where it will start its glamorous new life — without straying too far from its past.Victoria Tentler-Krylov is an architect. She was a member of the team that worked on 101 Seaport Blvd.