Sunday, December 22, 2013

Winter Evening

December brings short days and chilled evenings.  But what compensates for shivering outside and inside alike (our place is not so well-insulated) is the soft yellow lighting of the later afternoons, as well as the Christmas card dusk light of snow-covered scenes, such as the one on the right in Brookline, just outside of Boston.

The visual treats make the winter evenings of December a special time of the year.

Late afternoon waterscape.   The Charles River near Watertown Square.

A few weeks later, the Charles River is frozen and snow-covered, as seen through the wood near the river bank.

Slightly pinkist hue of the early dusk on a snow-covered December evening along the Fresh Pond Parkway in Cambridge.

Dusk sky above a snowy scene in Cambridge

Even the stop lights show red and green for the coming Christmas season.
For examples of the warm yellow lighting of late winter afternoons, see my post "Beauty in Urban Industrial Photography."

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Views of a Muted Autumn

Perhaps it's been a bit dry, or it was too wet, or the temperatures too warm.  I'm not sure, but the colors have been fairly muted this fall.  

Often we witness truly brilliant colors.  We have the bright oranges and reds of the sugar maples, the brilliant yellows of the honey locusts, birch and flowering pears.  Each tree's timing is a little different, creating a magnificent backdrop of color. 

In past years, the colors were simply more brilliant.  Here are some examples from my blog posts:  Boston's Public Garden in 2009,  Mt. Auburn Cemetery, also in 2009, or this slideshow of fall views around my fair city of Cambridge.

In contrast, here's a few views of fall 2013 in Boston and vicinity.

Early in the season, muted red browns along the Charles River

Some colors mix with greens and bare branches along a busy street in Cambridge.
Going way out to the 'burbs, one can find colorful stands of trees, like these in Methuen.

Nice work by the architect to coordinate the exterior color with the fall hues of the street trees.
Returning to the 'burbs, brilliant oranges of the maples mix with the greens and yellows in Wellesley.
Stand of paper birch near a playground in Cambridge.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Tinging

The first signs of fall are spotting the tinging of the leaves.  Sometimes, on spots the first change of color as early as the last week of August.  And we are a little sad, for summer is ending.

Not only do we have 4 seasons in the Northeast, but we have at least a dozen or more microseasons.  These are the transitions between one official season and another.  I would divide Autumn into three microseasons:
  1. The Tinging (the first subtle shift in hue)
  2. The Glory (brilliant foliage)
  3. The Barren Times (the bare trees before the first snow)

During the Tinging, a subtle shift of hue can be detected.  Here the sycamores near Harvard University in Cambridge have shifted a bit to the yellow side of their summer green.

The tinging may be little patches of color in and around the green, near MIT in Cambridge.

These sugar maples are early changers.  Nothing subtle about their colors!

Muted color along the Charles River in Cambridge.  Cloudless blue skies!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Crystal Cove Harbor in Winthrop at Sunset

Last evening we had the opening public meeting to discuss the design of a harbor walk near Crystal Cove (part of Boston Harbor) in Winthrop, Massachusetts.  The walk would link the public landing with a spit of land we call "the trestle" where trains of the Boston, Revere Beach and Lynn Railroad once ran.

The meeting was held at the new ferry terminal building at the town landing.  We arrived just before sunset, which was quite spectacular off the water.  I was moved to take a few photos before we had to go in and set up for the meeting.
Main Pier at Town Landing.  The ferry to Boston docks here.

Looking to the causeway behind Yirrell Beach, the spit of land connecting Shirley Point and Cottage Hill.
Boats docked in Crystal Cove

Looking south to Shirley Point

Cottage Hill is the backdrop to the parking lot at the town landing.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Deer Island: Urban Wilds, Harbor Views and a Treatment Plant

A few weeks ago, one of my sobrinas (a niece on the Peruvian side of the family) who is also an engineer paid us a visit.  Where to take her?  On a tour of her tia's engineering projects, where else!

After picking her up at Boston's Logan Airport, we took a short drive to Deer Island, which includes some of my projects from the 1990s when the island went through a major decade-long reconstruction.

Historically, the isle was home to the outcast, from a hospital to treat the incoming refugees from the Irish Potato Famine to a prison as well as the city's wastewater treatment plant.  It was not a place to visit!

In the remake of Deer Island, an
urban wild was created to buffer the
wastewater treatment plan.
The 1990s saw an extreme make-over of Deer Island.  The state of Massachusetts was under a court order to clean up Boston Harbor and end the dumping of partially treated (i.e., primary treated) sewage just off the tip of the island.  A brand new treatment plant would replace the prison and old plant.  To hide the facility from the nearby residents in Winthrop, they would take the drumlin (glacially-deposited hill) in the middle of the island and move it to the north side, creating an urban wild to buffer the plant.

The public access plan we developed
called for full-perimeter public access.
This section, designed by a different
firm, shows the perimeter walkway
above the 8-ton revetment that
protects the shoreline.
Many of us civil engineers worked on various facets of the treatment plant and surroundings.  My work was to manage a bit of the design of part of the plant, but mostly involved the sitework in and around the various structures.  While much of the work was utilities buried in the ground, the public access plan and shoreline protection are what is most visible to the visiting public.

The public access plan we developed called for full-perimeter public access.  The views are spectacular:

  • To the east is Massachusetts Bay and the outer harbor islands.  
  • To the west is Boston Harbor, the inner islands, the Boston skyline and Logan Airport.  

A previous effort by another firm said this was not feasible near the marine facility (dock and pier), but our plan moved the pathway landward so as to keep the public away from the hazardous area.

The western shoreline protection at
Deer Island was the product of  a
design that I managed.
I was design manager for two major sitework con-tracts.  The  shoreline pro-tection shown above on the right was designed by another firm, but included in the first of these con-tracts.  In the second con-tract, the western shore-line protection (see photo at left) was the product of our design work.  Along each of these shorelines, public pathways (see photo above) were designed by another firm and build in a subsequent sitework contract.

With With great views from the top of the new drumlin, the design of the buffer included a series of pathways up and around.  The photos below will give you a tour of the urban wilds and the vistas available to the public

Pathways circle and climb the buffering drumlin on the north side of Deer
Island.  The following photos illustrate the views from the pathways.

Large meadow in a nook of the new drumlin, with views of Spectacle and
Thompson Islands and Dorchester on the mainland beyond.

View to the north shows the silhouette of the Town of Winthrop.

Two views of the new treatment plan.  In the view on the right, Long
Island  is visible in the background.

Overview of the treatment plant:  from the foreground is the secondary
clarifires, then the aerobic and anaerobic selectors,  the primary clarifiers,
the grit removal facilities, with the egg-shaped sludge digesters in the

Only 2 miles from Logan Airport, a plane is on a landing pattern over the
nearby Town of Winthrop.

Also visible is the skyline of Boston, only about 4 miles away.

With the dusk settling in, we left Deer Island on the one access road
(designed  by the author!)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Budding Out

Boston's Public Garden
Spring is my favorite of the seasons.  We have the beauty of rebirth to ac-company the warmer days and the end of that season of frigidness and the all-too-many forms of frozen precipitation.

While many consider it a season, but for the observer of the signs in nature, spring consists of many subseasons.   One of the first subseasons is the "Almost Spring" with the first signs of crocuses blooming and  the sign of buds on the limbs of trees and bushes.

Forsythia flowers transition to
green buds.  The forest  prepares
for The Budding Ou
Right now we're come to "The Budding Out."  This is a short 2 to 3-week subseason.  Yet it is the most transformative subseason of the entire Spring.  In these few weeks, bare limbs become enveloped in the new greens of spring. 

Once The Budding Out has transpired, we're just about ready for summer.  Lawns need mowing.  There is shade on those days when the temperature gets up there.  There is no question any more:  spring has come!

The wonderful colors of the budding out:  the delicate yellows and deep red buds.
Forsythia flowering amid the early buds, in a field of bare branches.  It is The Budding Out.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Rising

In the city, they say the buildings rise to reach the sky.  The street-scape is crowded, and buildings touch each other.  The only way to stretch out is up.  And so, from time to time we witness a rising.  Looking east on Massachusetts Avenue, a rising is underway.  Reaching high for the sky, a tall crane lifts up the steel skeleton of this new tower.  Berklee College of Music is constructing "a mixed-use building that will include ... student housing" with "two-story community rooms, practice and ensemble rooms, and a small fitness center. It will also include a 400-seat dining hall and evening performance venue, ground floor retail space, and recording studios and other music technology spaces two levels below grade."

Certainly good for the college.  But its rising will interrup for many generations a view seldom seen of St. Cecilia Church, which was available for a few months  while construction was reaching down to set a firm foundation in the gravely glacial deposits that bordered Boston's Back Bay.  Unlike other nearby towers founded on piles into the muck of the Back Bay, this new tower sits firmly on dry land that's existed since the glacial recession, some 12,500 or more years ago.

Driving Massachusetts Avenue from Cambridge, Boston's two tallest towers rise high above the Back Bay.  The green bridge rail in the forground obscures the height of the typical Back Bay residences.  The contrast reveals what giants these two are, rising so high out of what was once the muck of the tidelands along the Charles River.
The Prudential Tower rises above the tree-lined Commonwealth Avenue.  In the forground, the shorter brick-clad buildings of Back Bay are in the shaddows, while the Pru stretches high and enjoys bathing in the sunshine of a fall afternoon.
The Hancock Tower rises to touch the sky as seen from Bay Village.  Immediately to its right, another rising as Liberty Mutual erects a tower that obstructs the view of the iconic original Hancock Tower, with its lighted beacon.