Wind provides inspiration for award winning landscape
Located in the Back Bay of Boston between the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and the Hynes Convention Centre, this central urban plaza serves as the front door for the Prudential retail and office tower at 888 Boylston. Highlighting the wind patterns of the site, a series of stainless steel woven light columns define the plaza. Wind vanes rotate on the light columns and signal the intensity of wind with changing colour that indicate greater and lesser intensity, turning the plaza into a living wind diagram. All the lighting is powered by wind turbines that define the top of the Prudential Tower and highlight the sustainable nature of this project.
The project has won multi-disciplinary office Mikyoung Kim Design an American Architecture prize in the commercial landscape architecture section.
Designed in conjunction with the new LEED platinum 888 Boylston Street building, the plaza’s integrated landscape systems utilise clean energy and irrigation water collected on site– setting the stage for one of the most sustainable office buildings in New England.
Through vibrant programming, the plaza has quickly become an icon for the Back Bay commercial district; hosting a diverse range of events from bi-weekly folk concerts to large-scale seasonal celebrations. The colourful light vanes provide visual interest for passersby, sculptural planter walls provide copious seating opportunities, and lush plantings provide shade and soften this urban landscape.
The site was previously comprised of a series of stepped, open plazas which weren’t used by the public and exposed pedestrians to harsh winter winds. The updated design was driven by an intensive wind study, which showed that among other things, throughout the seasons the most intense forces occur at the edges of the property.
Each of the light columns are custom fabricated using a single metal strand that wraps around structural rods to create a delicate, spiral translucent screen that is densely wound at the base and gradually opens towards the sky. Utilising the principles of biophilia, these light vanes and seating designs are inspired by the natural world, bringing nature into the city.
At night, colour-changing beams of light are reflected off the mirrored wind vanes to create playful light patterns across the ground plane. The landscape is connected to the sustainable strategies defined in the building design through complementary, colour-changing lights which illuminate the wind turbines on top of 888 Boylston. An anemometer installed on the tower roof provides wind velocity data to the LED light fixtures mounted to the base of each light column.
The anemometer signals the light fixtures to change colour according to the intensity of the wind in a gradient that is defined by NOAA wind data:
Cool blue hues from 1.5 to 2.0 meters per second wind velocity
Emerald green hues from 2.5 to 4.0 meters per second wind velocity
Gold hues from 4.0 to 5.0 meter per second wind velocity
Red and magenta hues from 5.5 to 7.0 meters per second wind velocity
Visitors interact with this colourful wind diagram and track the velocity of the wind through dancing beacons of light. Light is projected upward to illuminate the wind vane’s mirror-finish base that caps each light column and projects a play of light on the ground plane. These reflective light poles also assist in way-finding, ensure 24-hour lighting to the highly trafficked entrance, and offer unique placemaking potential by engaging visitors with colour, movement, and local weather information.