City, News

Boston City Hall now features exterior lights

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh unveiled a new exterior light installation at City Hall Thursday. PHOTO BY LAUREN PETERSON/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Boston Mayor Martin Walsh unveiled a new exterior light installation at City Hall Thursday. PHOTO BY LAUREN PETERSON/ DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

Boston Mayor Martin Walsh unveiled on Thursday night an exterior lighting system around Boston City Hall to illuminate the building’s entrances and lower levels.

The LED lights, which have a lifespan of 20 years, replaced the Metal Halide fixtures and could save approximately 300,000 kilowatt-hours every year, the city stated in a Thursday press release.

Walsh said in the release that the installment aims to enrich the building’s architecture and increase public safety in the surrounding areas.

“I am proud that for the first time in it 48 year history, Boston City Hall is going to shine,” Walsh said in the release. “Bringing new light to City Hall is symbolic of a more responsive vision here at City Hall, one that is meant to be engaging, inspiring, and serve as a beacon of the city and our values.”

Michael LeBlanc, a principal at the architectural firm Utile, which worked on the project, wrote in an email that the façade lighting, along with the overhaul of the City Hall lobby, are pilot projects that aim to provide feedback for the Rethink City Hall study.  

“The study is intended to evaluate the building for various issues like upgrading systems, finding areas where the building and plaza might need building code related updates, expanding the building and plaza’s accessibility and restructuring departmental use of the building to optimize efficiency,” he wrote.

At the unveiling, the lights were lit pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and blue in honor of the police officers injured in East Boston, according to the release.

Gretchen Rabinkin, the director of civic initiatives at the Boston Society of Architects, said the lights serve a versatile feature for visitors to engage with the building.

“There’s so many things you can do with LED lights now that were unimaginable when the building was first created,” Rabinkin said. “The building can really be a beacon, in both serious and fun ways.”

Mark Pasnik, a co-author of “Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston,” wrote in an email that the building’s original concrete modernist architecture from the 1960s was a “daring symbol for city government in an era when Boston was reinventing itself.”

“Nearly five decades after the building’s public opening in 1969,” Pasnik wrote, “the façade lighting improvements enhance City Hall’s sculptural power and reenergize its dynamic forms at night.”

Greg Galer, the executive director of Boston Preservation Alliance, said the city government has taken cognizance of the building’s significance and architectural awards that had been bestowed upon it.

“It’s really an exciting time for a building that’s been criticized an awful lot but is actually a fascinating building,” Galer said. “Hopefully, the lighting can get people to look at it differently.”

Boston residents said the improvements are beneficial for surrounding areas, especially when dealing with safety concerns.  

Sueann Francis, 25, of Dorchester, said the lights would support pedestrians at night and would increase the City Hall’s aesthetics.

“It’s great,” she said. “I’m not expecting cops to be out there 24/7 because they have lives after all, so I think it’s fine so far. But if they find more innovative ways to do what they need to do, they should do it.”

Helena Glenzer, 19, of Downtown Crossing, said although she seldom goes to City Hall, she applauds the area’s appeal.

“I get out to Government Center, and it’s really cool, and [the lights’ installment] definitely makes it a little safer because it was a little sketchy previously,” she said. “Put a little bit more social areas or stores around it too because it seems a little out there in the middle, and even though it’s right in the city, no one would actually go there for anything unless they needed to.”

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