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Issue at stake is buildings’ design, not their height

Paul McMorrow’s Sept. 3 column on Boston’s height phobia regarding development (“Scared of heights,” Op-ed) as well as the dismissive responses from readers (“Does Boston’s skyline need a boost?” Letters, Sept. 8) all miss the point. The issue of building tall in Boston is not over economic performance of a given development, or whether a city is successful without height. Boston is thriving, and contains scores of skyscrapers. At issue is whether the city’s planners and development abutters will continue to permit tall construction that is visually undifferentiated — a barrage of concrete and glass, as opposed to an attenuated, architecturally significant and nationally (let alone internationally) recognizable skyline.

The Pru, Hancock, and Federal Reserve towers and the mid-rise Rowe’s Wharf all helped the city come back. However, these landmarks are more than a quarter-century old. They reflect less on Boston as the progressive and transformed environment it is today. The city would benefit by permitting a few aesthetically dynamic and contemporary “sky-rises” in strategic places — North Station, Post Office Square, and Cambridge’s Kendall Square come to mind.

We need new architectural calling cards suitable to the times. Sure, the Massachusetts capital is not New York or Sydney, but neither is it Stamford, Conn., or San Jose on steroids. The region continues to grow. Let’s say so with taller landmark architecture.


Michael J. Tyrrell