Pier 4

The pier draws visitors out into the Harbor, connecting them to the water’s edge and offering unrivaled views of downtown Boston and the harbor. Courtesy of Hao Liang.
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A nineteenth-century pier in the heart of Boston’s Seaport District is rebuilt as a contemporary waterfront where a series of tectonic moves at once evoke the city’s material history and guard against future climate risks. This landscape draws visitors and residents to the water’s edge and through a series of native plantings that capture the character of New England’s coasts.

For two centuries, Boston has built, repaired, rebuilt, and extended its waterfront. This reshaping and rethinking of how a coastal city relates to the water — an ongoing and increasingly complex process in this era of rising seas — is revealed and leveraged in the Pier 4 landscape.

In a city that identifies strongly with its industrial heritage, Pier 4’s landscape is contextually sensitive, bringing into focus Boston’s history of wharfing out, a period of building seawalls, and filling water with land. In the aftermath of its life as a working waterfront, the site was home to Anthony’s Pier 4, once the nation’s highest grossing restaurant. We inherited a pier that was a rag-tag assemblage of sea-wall repairs, reinforced piles, ill-fitted restaurant expansions, and structural shoring-up. But we were interested in sustaining what had come before; we wanted Pier 4 to seem at once new and familiar, thus making use of granite seawalls, stone revetments, wood pilings, wood decks. Today, though, that hardened edge is challenged by a changing climate. So we applied the familiar in novel ways. Suspended boardwalks, sloped and planted revetments, and zones that accept inundation manage the dynamic force of water. Pier 4 structures a new dialogue between city and sea.

Pier 4 is simultaneously connected to and set apart from Boston’s emerging Innovation District, capitalizing on panoramic views, an intimacy with land and water, and incredible proximity to cultural and civic landmarks. The project finds expression in bridging these different elements, drawing people from the grid of the city to the prospect of the pier. It is a place where city life is integrated with the rough-hewn textures of the coast and the dynamic action of the tides.

In a neighborhood rapidly embracing the culture of the twenty-first century, Pier 4’s tectonic vocabulary contributes a stimulating identity for this signature public space. Visitors float out over the Harbor. They step down to the water’s edge. They climb up to a panoramic promontory. They connect to the 47-mile Harborwalk, and they gather in a public plaza and play on a south facing lawn. Pier 4 invites visitors and residents to experience the dynamic waterfront in ways found nowhere else along the urbanized harbor edge.

At this hinge between the city and the harbor, Pier 4 negotiates the urban realities of vehicles while privileging the experience of the pedestrian. It provides for the needs of those working in the office building on the south end of the site, supports active ground floor retail and dining along both buildings, and shapes a quiet, park setting for the northern residential building. And it reiterates the character of Boston, with street trees and urban elements, while integrating the rough coastline with reclaimed seawall stones, naturalized plantings, and simple but robust material choices.

Location

Boston, MA

Dates

2014-2019

Size

4 acres

Leadership

Team

Recognition

  • “Living on the Edge,” by Marni Elyse Katz, Boston Common , Winter 2017
  • “Trying to dish up a friendlier waterfront park” by Tim Logan, Boston Globe, December 13, 2019