Design New England

Beauty in the public’s eye


Nic Lehoux

Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was recognized as most beautiful by public votes around the world.

The votes are in! Thursday night at the Boston Society of Architects 2nd annual awards program, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum addition, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, won over the public’s hearts and was honored with the People’s Choice Award sponsored by They voted on the four buildings nominated for the Harleston Parker Medal, an award founded in 1921 and co-sponsored by the City of Boston to recognize “the single most beautiful building or other structure” built in the metropolitan Boston area in the last 10 years. A jury of 10 design professionals saw things differently, however, and selected the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab, designed by Fumihiko Maki and Leers Weinzapfel Associates, for the Harleston, proving that though architecture and beauty go hand in hand, beauty is indeed in the eye of the beholder. What the public considers beautiful often interestingly differs from what experts in the field consider worthy of note.


Nic Lehoux

The main staircase at the Gardner’s new wing is invitingly open so there is a constant view of the historic original museum building.

When the more than 1,600 votes submitted from around the world were tallied, it was the Gardner’s new concert hall, special exhibition space, cafe, gift shop, greenhouses, and living room, which together double the museum’s footprint, alleviating stress from an increasing number of visitors without distracting from the history and importance of the original building, that won the day.



Fumihiko Maki with Leers Weinzapfel Associates

Technically advanced and beautiful, the MIT Media Lab was awarded the BSA’s prestigious Harleston Parker Medal.

In addition to the Harleston Parker Medal being awarded to the MIT Media Lab, which features open research areas, a central atrium, event space, and a winter garden, the BSA competition, sponsored by Design New England, singled out remarkable architecture in healthcare, housing, interior architecture, planning, small projects, and unbuilt categories. The top winners will be featured in a special promotional section in the March/April issue of DNE. The BSA’s Award of Honor went to Jane Thompson for her lifetime achievements. To learn what some of them are, read our Winner Does All September/October 2010 story on her. Thompson, an icon in the world or architecture and urban planning spoke passionately to an audience of both accomplished and burgeoning architects about turning points in the history of Boston’s design, stressing the importance of staying enthusiastic about architecture and its place in the city. We sure will.

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