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Photo Essay: Demolition at the Marais

Marais Pre-demolition photo by Christopher Dydyk

On the South End’s Father Gilday Street, H+A has designed 8 apartments in a wing of a 1850’s French Second Empire style building. 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. Senior Associate Aaron Weinert and Associate Jeffrey Kloch are working with the developer Mitchell Properties on this project. Renovations are expected to conclude by fall 2011. See the Marais website for more information and unit layouts.

In this brief Photo Essay, Aaron Weinert documents his thoughts on what is uncovered after the interior demolition of what will become the Marais.


After sitting abandoned for over 20 years, the wing of this building was gutted of the institutional finishes put in place when it served as a detox center. I walked through and was fascinated by what remained: patterns in old brick, ghosts of materials and architectural elements long gone, and the patina created by years of silent moldering and weathering.

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Central fireplaces and chimneys being removed to create more open living areas

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Looking down through the voids created.

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End chimney removal shows the blackened flues running up the brick walls. Batt insulation separates the Marais wing from the rest of the building, while decommissioned sprinkler lines criss-cross the ceiling.

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Flues at exterior walls branch and multiply as you move upwards through the building, picking up additional ones at each level before venting out through the roof. The straightforward forms express the essence and simplicity of 19th century building systems.

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Ghosts of old flues are punctuated with metal rods tying the brick façade into the building; at only one brick wythe thick, these areas are inherently weak and required additional support.

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The rhythm of old stud framing and lath is contrasted by the imprint of stair framing on the other side of the wall. Interior framing and blocking create overlapping patterns now that wall surfaces are gone. The effect is akin to a contemporary art installation.

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Various flooring and partitions from different areas form a compelling graphic effect. Rot caused by years of water from an old shower was revealed after the removal of old bathroom tile. Floor boards in each hotel room form a patterned border; the rough wood inside was covered by carpet.

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Sloped roof joists alternate with horizontal members used to create a flat ceiling.

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A stripped down old dormer awaits the future.