Boston City Hall Plaza

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City Hall Plaza, Boston, 2009

City Hall Plaza in Boston, Massachusetts, is a large, open, unadorned public space in the Government Center area of the city. The architectural firm Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles designed the plaza in 1962 to accompany Boston's new City Hall building. The multi-level, irregularly-shaped plaza consists of red brick and concrete. As of March 2011, plans are underway to redesign the plaza and adjacent building.[1][2]


The siting of the plaza, the City Hall, and other structures in Government Center was the responsibility of I. M. Pei,[3][4] commissioned by Edward J. Logue, then of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. The plaza and City Hall were constructed between 1963 and 1968, on the former site of Scollay Square, which despite its vibrancy and historical interest, was considered a seedy area by some people.[5]

The 1962 design was reportedly modeled after Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy.

Reaction to the plaza has been mixed. Some praise City Hall Plaza for being cleaner and more appealing than Scollay Square, and for the simple fact that it was built at all—with the cooperation and compromises necessary of any complex, multi-agency government construction project. Others dislike City Hall Plaza[6] for its anti-social aesthetic and failure to address unpleasant weather effects (such as wintertime cold, wet, and wind, and summertime heat, dust, sun, and wind).[7][8] The Project for Public Spaces ranked it at the top of the organization's list of "Squares Most Dramatically in Need of Improvement in the United States" in 2005.[9]

Since the plaza opened in 1968, ideas for improvements to the public space have been put forth by citizens, students, architects, politicians, and others. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino had several ideas for improvement. In 2007, Emerson College students used the virtual world Second Life to re-imagine a better design; the project was sponsored by the Boston Redevelopment Authority, among others.[10]

Image gallery[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Casey Ross (March 16, 2011), "A 10-year plan for City Hall Plaza: New incremental approach starts with remodeled T station, trees", Boston Globe 
  2. ^ "What do you think should be done to City Hall Plaza?", Boston Globe, March 16, 2011 
  3. ^ Thomas H. O'Connor (1993), Building a New Boston, Boston: Northeastern University Press, OL 1737146M 
  4. ^ Laurel Ulrich (1970), A Beginner's Boston, Cambridge, Mass, LCCN 73023868 
  5. ^ Robert J. Allison (2004), Short History of Boston, Beverly, Massachusetts: Commonwealth Editions, ISBN 1-889833-47-9 
  6. ^ The good city: writers explore 21st century Boston. 2004; p.4.
  7. ^ Lawrence W. Kennedy (1992), Planning the City upon a Hill: Boston since 1630, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, OL 1562221M 
  8. ^ Anne Whiston Spirn (1985), Granite Garden, Urban Nature and Human Design, Basic Books, ISBN 978-0-465-02706-4 
  9. ^ "Project for Public Spaces". 
  10. ^ Colin Rhinesmith (2007), Collaborative Design in One Virtual World: Using Second Life to Re-imagine City Hall Plaza 

Further reading[edit]

Published in the 2010s

Published in the 2000s

  • Peter J. Howe. Mayor has new spin for City Hall Plaza; Menino wants to explore wind turbine installation. Boston Globe, Sep 29, 2007. pg. A.1.
  • Christina Pazzanese. Some small things could pretty up City Hall Plaza. Boston Globe, Sep 16, 2007. pg. 2.
  • Matt Viser. Fount of futility finally runs dry; City Hall Plaza eyesore gets a concrete solution. Boston Globe, June 9, 2006. pg. B.1.
  • Jack Thomas. 'I wanted something that would last': At 89, an architect stands by his plan for City Hall after four decades of both condemnation and praise. Boston Globe. October 13, 2004.
  • Talk about City Hall Plaza. Boston Globe, Apr 12, 2003. pg. A.10.
  • Thomas C. Palmer Jr. Effort to improve City Hall Plaza gets new life, group expected to deliver recommendations next year. Globe Staff. Boston Globe, Oct 1, 2002. pg. D.1.
  • Sarah Schweitzer. An unfulfilled urban promise; Menino resurrects a plan to renovate City Hall Plaza. Boston Globe, Aug 8, 2002. pg. B.1.
  • Robert F. Walsh. Some lessons on upkeep at City Hall Plaza. Boston Globe, Apr 15, 2002. pg. A.17.
  • Improving City Hall Plaza. Boston Globe, Jul 17, 2000. pg. A.10.

Published in the 1990s

  • Anthony Flint. City Hall Plaza to get $27.5M renovation. Boston Globe, Dec 17, 1999. pg. B.3.
  • A refuge on City Hall Plaza. Boston Globe, Dec 17, 1999. pg. A.26.
  • Anthony Flint. City Hall Plaza redesign is OK'd; modest makeover to be announced. Boston Globe. Boston, Mass.: Dec 15, 1999. pg. A.38.

Published in the 1960s

  • Walter Muir Whitehill. Boston: a topographical history, 2nd ed. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1968.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°21′37.04″N 71°3′32.91″W / 42.3602889°N 71.0591417°W / 42.3602889; -71.0591417