SAND has submitted the following comment letter in response to the recent Notice of Project Change filed by the Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA).

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December 12, 2002

Dear Mr. Durand:

Please accept this comment letter to address the recent Notice of Project Change (NPC) for the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), a civic component of the Fan Pier Development project.

The Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design (SAND) supports the ICA's design proposal for its new building on Fan Pier. We endorse the cantilevered design with reservations, because we understand that the space needs of contemporary art and exhibition practices exceed the small footprint of the building lot. One issue that needs to be addressed is whether the proportional relationship of building and Harborwalk may create an uncomfortable pedestrian space in its vertical and horizontal expression. Will light levels, resonance of sound, and building materials lead to a successful experience of this space? SAND also voices its concern that buildings that might encroach on the Harborwalk will not become a prototype for pending and future development. Last but not least the proposed design scheme requires careful review of context and relationship to surrounding buildings and spaces.

The large staircases will offer inviting opportunities to sit and enjoy views of the harbor. This anticipated public use must be predominant. Universal design principles should be applied to expand access for different mobility needs.

As major cultural attraction on South Boston's waterfront we envision that the new ICA will complement New England's largest and oldest arts community in neighboring Fort Point. SAND staunchly advocates for the permanent presence of artists, the arts and culture in Fort Point and we would encourage the ICA to join these efforts, because proximity of location is of mutual benefit. Opportunities for partnership and coordination of programs arise.

Calls for an overall cultural plan for Fort Point and Seaport districts have been made, but such a plan has yet to be developed. SAND salutes and supports your own recommendation in both the Municipal Harbor Plan and the Fan Pier Final Environmental Impact Report, which call on the City to "begin expeditiously its commitment to a civic and cultural uses master planning process for the South Boston waterfront and the Fort Point Channel." Resources need to be committed to create an action plan.

Some early initiatives have been launched. Among them, a spring 2002 think tank of artists, arts administrators (including the ICA), City planners, architects, and corporate representatives at Mobius. The follow-up document and public record of opinion, A Fort Point Vision for Public Art, is enclosed. This document is intended to provide a point of departure for a broadly inclusive conversation about cultural uses, integration of the arts and artists into overall planning, and calls for the development of a cultural master plan. Variety and quality of cultural programs and attractions are a major factor in creating significance of place, would add to the area's overall draw, and benefit the attractiveness of real estate. Public art, the artist community, and arts and cultural institutions could serve as a vehicle and centerpiece of neighborhood identity. Public art would enhance the environment, establish connections and create ambience.

We welcome the ICA to the neighborhood and the Fort Point arts community and look forward to continuing the conversation on the future of an integrated vision for a comprehensive neighborhood design, where the arts and culture will have significant presence.


Christina Lanzl
Seaport Alliance for a Neighborhood Design

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