Domes to dot City Hall Plaza for innovation-themed festival

A rendering of 2017's HUBweek.
A rendering of 2017's HUBweek.

It was a futurist from another era, R. Buckminster Fuller , who helped make the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal an iconic event by designing one of his giant geodesic domes to house the United States’ pavilion. The soaring Fuller dome, which entranced fairgoers, stands on the fairgrounds to this day, as a museum dedicated to the environment.

Next month, HUBweek organizers might be hoping for a bit of the Fuller magic when they build six geodesic domes of their own on Boston’s City Hall Plaza as part of an effort to turn the barren, brick expanse into a futuristic staging ground for a weeklong festival devoted to art, science, and technology.

The third edition of HUBweek, which aspires to be Boston’s high-tech answer to South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, will feature talks by entrepreneurs, scientists, and journalists, as well as video projections, music, live art performances, and a “robot block party” with more than two dozen robots, including a solar-powered garden weeder.


Organizers on Wednesday said that Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Alphabet, Google’s parent company; the commentator Van Jones; Colin Angle, chief executive of iRobot; and Sheila Marcelo, founder of, had been added to the list of speakers.

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Other events will feature Malcolm Gladwell, who will interview a fellow New Yorker writer, the surgeon Atul Gawande; Deepak Chopra, the wellness author; and George Church, a Harvard geneticist who has drawn attention for his efforts to resurrect the woolly mammoth.

In the past, HUBweek events took place at venues around the city and region. This year, the six domes, along with 80 shipping containers, will form a central gathering place, dubbed the Hub. The area, which resembles a Martian base in an artist’s rendering, was designed by CBT Architects, a Boston firm.

“We wanted something multipurpose and exciting that would capture people’s attention and get them to experience a familiar place” in a new way, said Brendan Ryan, HUBweek’s executive director. “Everyone’s been to City Hall Plaza. Most of us like to complain about it.”

The idea of using domes came from an official at the Swiss consulate who was interested in bringing a dome from Switzerland to the United States, Ryan said. Initially, HUBweek planned to have four on the festival grounds. Now, six are planned, next to the concrete behemoth known as City Hall.


David Nagahiro, a senior principal at CBT, said the domes — the largest of which is 100 feet in diameter — are light enough that they will not exceed the weight limit for structures on City Hall Plaza, which sits above MBTA subway lines. The domes should also provide a dry place for events, he said, if the fickle fall weather turns nasty.

The festival, Oct. 10-15, was founded by The Boston Globe, Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Globe’s managing director, Linda Pizzuti Henry, is chairwoman of the HUBweek board. The festival has drawn 20,000 registered attendees each year since 2015.

Michael Levenson
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