Client: Boston Properties
Location: Boston, MA, United States
Completion date: 2016
Mikyoung Kim Design
Located in the heart of Boston’s historic Back Bay neighborhood, Prudential Center Plaza is a sustainably designed civic space inspired by the site’s wind patterns. Inspired by the wind patterns on site, landscape elements include “wind swept” carved granite planters and 44 color-changing light columns topped with sculptural wind vanes. Together, these “light vanes” transform this central urban plaza into a living wind diagram. This plaza completes the LEED Platinum 888 Boylston Street tower, the highest performing office buildings in New England, featuring green roofs, rain gardens, wind turbines, and solar panels that help power and irrigate the landscape.
The plaza design transformed this unsuccessful windswept plaza into a vibrant destination. The redesigned plaza had to withstand high pedestrian traffic flow, as well as provide space for flexible programming in all seasons, including New England winters. The challenge of the new design was to provide five points of access to various entrances from the plaza.
The landscape and architecture create a self-sustaining system and develops a green strategy for the whole mixed-use development. The wind turbines on the roof of the tower, lit with similar color-changing lighting as the plaza’s light features, provide energy for lighting within the plaza. Storm water collected on the building’s green roofs provides irrigation for the plaza’s plantings.
This project enhances the streetscape experience along Boylston Street with colorful light masts that provide visual interest for visitors, sculptural planter walls that offer copious seating opportunities, and lush woodland planting that screen the busy vehicular streetscape from the plaza. With improved access to adjacent offices, retail and restaurants, this plaza has become a public epicenter of community events and civic activity.
Through a site analysis, it became clear that the existing urban site was not being used effectively and didn’t draw the public into the space. The project began with a wind study which showed that throughout the seasons the most intense forces occur at the edges of the property. Through that analysis, the design emerged, inspiring both the aesthetics of the design as well as the custom wind vanes which signal the intensity of the wind load on the site.
Utilizing the fluid movement studies through this new landscape, the team integrated planters around natural eddies, movement corridors, and thresholds on the site. These undulating raised granite planters that anchor the site were sculpted into light, wind-swept figures using the latest technology in 5-axis CNC technology. The entire plaza is situated on top of an existing parking garage structure, resulting in strict weight limitations that posed unique challenges in the design of the monolithic stone planters. The granite walls fluidly emerge from the ground and transform into unique sculptures that provide planter walls, seating, and signage opportunities.
The wind vanes, sculpted to rotate in the wind, work together with the LED lights. An anemometer signals the lights to change color according to the intensity of the wind in a gradient that is defined by NOAA wind data; cool blue hues, emerald green hues, gold hues, red and magenta hues. At night, these beams of color changing light are reflected off the mirrored wind vanes to create playful patterns of light across the ground plane. Visitors interact with this colorful wind diagram and track the velocity of the wind through these beacons of light.