Benjamin Pollak

MArch II

A New Civic Monument for Boston / An Architectural Natural History Revisited

Advised by P. Scott Cohen

He has three choices, which for me is very interesting. Say that one accepts the initial thrust of the site disposition. He can do biography—a modern building, so-called, not modern today, but a modern building within context. Or he can do what he’s done, an historical play on historical conditions . . . The third choice is to go—with all one’s history and one’s biography and all one’s knowledge and all one’s intelligence—and do an exploratory piece of architecture based on the formal premises.1
—John Hejduk, speaking of Henry Cobb’s proposal for the Sainsbury gallery.

How do we work with existing cultural and historical urban fabric to generate new public buildings that are part of the city? Can architecture propose innovative typological strategies to generate a new knowledge institution that caters to the public?

This thesis examines the relationship of three elemental concepts of architecture and their interrelationship: site, program, and one existing building. The project examines a predominant site in Back Bay where the Restoration Hardware building is situated. The site is unique because the building recedes in relation to the city. However, it does not recede enough to have proper future additions. Hence the architect is faced with a predicament if a new building was to be commissioned on the site.

The existing building is unique due to its strong classical language. A second predicament to this thesis is how to work with a building that has a classical plan and facade. Would a new addition adopt a strategy of contrast or seek to blend seamlessly with the existing building?

The building was originally built as a natural history museum and has gone through several different renovations and programs. It is currently a commercial space that sells furniture. The thesis seeks to retain the program of a natural history museum to propose new spatial and typological strategies for this type of knowledge institution.

Benjamin Pollak, MArch II. Interior of a large space, brightly lit, with glass windows and grid-like framing on walls and ceiling.
Benjamin Pollak, MArch II.
Birdseye view of addition and existing building.
Benjamin Pollak, MArch II. Street view of addition and existing building.
Benjamin Pollak, MArch II.
Frontal view showing courtyard gap between addition and existing building.
Benjamin Pollak, MArch II.
View of great hall from mezzanine of old natural history museum building.
Benjamin Pollak, MArch II.
Ground Floor Plan.