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Paris / Boston: Parallel histories inspire renovation

Nicole_fichera_boston_change over time diagramThis map was built by layering historical maps of Boston to show the growth of Boston's landmass over time as the city expanded — the dark red/orange areas are the parts of the city that were built on landfill.

Much of the Boston is built on areas of seashore and marshland that were filled in the 18th and 19th centuries. With the exception of the thin Washington Street neck that has always connected the Shawmut Peninsula with the mainland, the South End is almost entirely built on this type of landfill.

On the South End's Father Gilday Street, H+A has designed St. Elsewhere opening credits 8 apartments in a wing of a 1850’s French Second Empire style building [the one seen on the opening credits of the 1980’s medical TV drama “St. Elsewhere”!]. The building overlooks the historic South End Burying Ground and Franklin Square, and is located along the Washington Street corridor. Like much of the South End, this area has recently undergone a great transformation after decades of neglect, and is now a buzzing, vibrant neighborhood.

Stylistically, the building echoes the Second Empire buildings of urban France and even some of the details of the Place des Vosges, located in the Marais district of Paris. Le Marais [French for "marsh"] is an area in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements that bears remarkable similarities to the South End. Like the South End, it was built upon former marshlands bordering the Seine; likewise, the Marais has transformed from a derelict area to a stylish urban neighborhood, with lots of restaurants and shops. The similarities to South End history were so striking that H+A suggested that the apartments be named after the Marais.

Aaron Weinert and Jeffrey Kloch are working with the developer Mitchell Properties on this project. Renovations are expected to begin soon with completion of the Marais in the fall of 2011.

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