Letter: What was the T Thinking With the Flat Roof for New Busway?

The new Washington Street busway. URS architects and engineers ( Now Aecom).

Richard Heath

The new Washington Street busway. URS architects and engineers ( Now Aecom).

Dear Editor,

I have been reading your ongoing reports about all the changes taking place in the Forest Hills area with great interest. I take a bus each work day to Forest Hills in order to continue on the subway to work in Boston. I appreciate your news reports, since the MBTA has been in no way forthcoming about the changes to the station.

The images which you provided of the renderings for the new station are so very sad. The new look is dull as ditch water, in no way maintaining the unique architectural character of the old station. But even worse, after this last, extremely snowy winter, what were they thinking to design the canopies with such a wide expanse of flat roof? Is it because it is cheap to build? But how cheap will it be to remove the snow? Or do they just plan to leave the snow there to increase in weight with each subsequent storm, putting all of us who must use that station at risk?

Thank you again for your very informative and well-written articles.

Barbara Nachtigall

Roslindale

[Editor’s note: Above and below are renderings of the design for the upper busway that Nachtigall references in her letter.]

The busway will extend on a platform over the Hyde Park Avenue parking lot. Foundations for the supports have been completed and the posts will be built this fall.

MassDOT

The busway will extend on a platform over the Hyde Park Avenue parking lot. Foundations for the supports have been completed and the posts will be built this fall.

The new Washington Street busway and canopy in the location of the former MBTA parking lot. Designed by URS architects and engineers ( now Aecom Corp.,Los Angeles. ) Louis Free chief designer. It is in 30% design stage

MassDOT

The new Washington Street busway and canopy in the location of the former MBTA parking lot. Designed by URS architects and engineers ( now Aecom Corp.,Los Angeles. ) Louis Free chief designer. It is in 30% design stage

See all our Casey Overpass/Casey Arborway coverage here.

  • Hugo_JP

    Personally, I like the look based on the renderings – clean, simple and modern and I didn’t think the old ones looked very good. I’d like to believe that the architects were smart enough to design the roofs to be strong enough to hold a large amount of snow/ice load.
    A pitched roof has its own problems – snow/ice avalanches falling down on pedestrians so there might not be a perfect solution.

  • Mark Tedrow

    Flat roofs have a long and proven track record if properly engineered. The Architects/engineers at URS/AECOM know this and know how to properly design flat roof structures. Flat roofs are very common, even here in New England, and are used in a great many institutional, commercial and industrial buildings. The roofs that failed last winter were, for the most part, not properly designed to handle drifting snow. For the past 10 years or so, the Mass Building Code/IBC has been explicit in requiring the loads from snow drifts to be accounted for in the design of all roofs. And, yes, the roof will have drains to drain rain and meltwater.

    Aesthetically, I don’t have an objection to this at all. At the very least, it denies pigeons a place to roost.

  • David Flatasplain

    Barbara, not to be (too) snippy, but did think to do a little research before you lambasted the flat roofs in terms of snow load?

  • Monster

    Nearly all commercial buildings have flat roofs, and they don’t collapse en masse each time we have a snowstorm. FWIW, I think the new station is a huge improvement over the dilapidated mess that it’s replacing.

  • AlanThinks

    Where are the solar panels?

  • jenuphoto

    i second the question: where are the solar panels? perfect place for them.

  • Lynn McSweeney

    My comments on the earlier article seem to have disappeared, but they basically echoed Ms. Nachtigall’s concerns regarding snow removal, as well as noting the architects are situated in sunny California. I also think this looks like a gas station, and is even less prepossessing than the previous version, which at least tried to integrate its roofline with the main building’s design. Why can’t we having soaring arches at our public transit centers the way so many European countries do? No official ever takes the long view. What would we design if we thought it would stand for a hundred years or more?

    • Monster

      It does indeed look like a large gas station…I noticed that as well. However, I don’t dislike it, and I think it’s an improvement over the current station. I think it does look like many suburban-ish transit stations in Europe…not the lavish central ones, but the function-over-form commuter stations, which is exactly what FH is.

    • Mark Tedrow

      Lynn, while URS/AECOM may have it’s worldwide headquarters in California, they do have a Boston office.

  • Pingback: MassDOT Says Flat-Roofed Forest Hills Busway Will Handle Snow | Jamaica Plain News()

  • Lynn McSweeney

    Just find it odd that no attempt was made to reproduce the very-expensive architecture we the taxpayers signed off on when Forest Hills Station was first designed a mere 30 years ago. The original architects, Cambridge Seven Associates, evidently intended all the rooflines to resemble a glass greenhouse, as a nod to the Emerald Necklace. All those who are confident in the new design must not remember how the previous design started leaking when it rained almost immediately. The building codes then were pretty explicit too; that nonetheless did not improve real-world performance of the structures. Hence the expressed concerns about snow for this new structure: history teaches us such valid doubts of the MBTA’s process. Also, Forest Hills is not a “surburban-ish transit station” (a poor apology for accepting terrible design anyway); it is an “intermodal transfer station”, a hub for many modes, and is in Boston proper. Hence the ballyhoo about being the Gateway to the Arboretum for all those surburban commuters as well as the city’s. Some commentators seem to like the new “gas station” aesthetic, but to most of us, it is an example of the sort of cheap, functional Brutalism that has long been inflicted on our cityscapes and has equally been long-despised. In the past decades there has been a national revolt against such utilitarian design, but alas, once again the MBTA seems ignorant of such concern. The new bus canopy plan also stands in sad contrast to the main station, and with absolutely no relation to it, aesthetically.