Boston in the shadows

  Panorama of the inside of Trinity Church, Boston, built in 1872-77. The shadows from new nearby towers threaten to sometimes reduce the beauty of the stained glass windows.

Panorama of the inside of Trinity Church, Boston, built in 1872-77. The shadows from new nearby towers threaten to sometimes reduce the beauty of the stained glass windows.

Adapted from an item in Robert Whitcomb's "Digital Diary'' in GoLocal25.com

I like skyscrapers for the exuberance (or confidence or arrogance?) they express about a city. I wish we had more in Providence. So the Manhattanization of much of downtown Boston  per se doesn’t bother me. Seeing those towers from Boston Harbor and the shores of the Charles River can be exhilarating. But they don't work everywhere.

Consider that two glorious old churches – Trinity Church, on Copley Square, and nearby Old South Church --  would all too often be put into shadows by a pair of towers (376 and 298 feet tall) planned for atop the soon-to-be-expanded Back Bay train and subway station.

I realize that the taller the buildings the more money the developer can make. But extreme building height can also undermine the very qualities that make a city attractive. Consider that the famous stained glass windows of the aforementioned churches would sometimes be put into the dark on sunny days by the shadow.

Then there’s the 750-foot tower that Millennium Partners wants to build downtown on Winthrop Square (where I worked one summer at the old Boston Record American) — which will put some of the Boston Common in the shade. 

Boston, like all old cities, needs to find a better balance between dramatic height and human scale and between piles of new money and aesthetics. In Houston it doesn’t matter. I suspect that Bostonians would prefer that their old city continue to look more like London than Houston.

Shadows cast by skyscrapers are not bad in themselves. It depends on what’s being put in the shadows.