Pier 4

Pier 4 is a landscape specific to the working waterfront of Boston Harbor and the contemporary emerging urban district around it. Photography courtesy of Sahar Coston-Hardy.
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Against the backdrop of the live-work-play district that is Boston’s Seaport, Pier 4 is a haven embraced by coastal vegetation and responsive to the dynamics of the tides.

For over fifty years the home of the iconic restaurant Anthony’s Pier 4, rooted in its location at the end of a working pier but choked by surface parking, the site we inherited buried distinctions between made-land and pile-supported pier under layers of asphalt and miscellaneous structures. Gradually uncovering the tangle of approaches to “wharfing out” that transformed Boston Harbor in the nineteenth century, we committed to transforming them into an opportunity to reconnect visitors with history and place. We honored the site’s history as a working harbor through the use of granite seawalls, stone revetments, wood pilings, and wood decks. Knowing that the Seaport has been built at an elevation bound to be inundated, we intentionally broke down the seawalls, creating space for water to move in and out of the site with reduced force. We created opportunities for infiltration and treatment of water to protect the harbor during heavy rainfall, chose plants that thrive in these conditions, and built soils and irrigation systems to shed salts quickly after the storms we know will come.

This tectonic vocabulary of these sloped, suspended, and carved surfaces also invites visitors and residents to experience the dynamic waterfront in ways found nowhere else along the urbanized harbor edge. From most of Boston’s Harborwalk, the primary experience of the water is as something to be viewed from above. In contrast, at the end of a dramatic approach from the city, people step down a series of Tidal Terraces that dissolve into the water at high tide. People float out over the Harbor. They climb up to a panoramic promontory, and they gather in a public plaza and play on a sunny lawn that tilts up towards East Boston on the horizon. Dialogue between feeling enclosed and protected and feeling exposed and panoramic emerges from this collection of moments. Pier 4 structures a new dialogue between city and sea.

Situated at a unique juncture along Boston’s 43-mile public Harborwalk, this project mends a missing link in the experience of the water’s edge, reconnecting historic downtown Boston with South Boston and the emerging mixed-use neighborhood along the industrial edge of the waterfront. We leveraged the Harborwalk as a vital tool to invite the public to enter the site and to encourage gathering along and interacting with the water. Weaving the Harborwalk into the grid of the city and hybridizing the materials of the public sidewalk with those native to the pier, we sought to break down as many perceived boundaries as possible. These moves transform a privately developed landscape surrounding a residential development into a public-facing plaza and park, while still providing for the needs of those working in the office building on the south end of the site and supporting active ground floor retail and dining along both buildings.

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