Master Plan

BSA president-elect Tim Love talks architecture, planning, and the future of Boston.

Tim Love BSA President

Photograph by Jared Leeds

There is perhaps no one with as keen an eye for urban planning and architecture in Boston as Tim Love. The Harvard GSD graduate is a founding principal of the local design firm Utile. He’s an associate professor of architecture at Northeastern, where he’s constantly dreaming up ways to keep the degree relevant. And in December he’ll take over as president of the Boston Society of Architects, a membership-driven nonprofit dedicated to industry professionals. Here, the South Boston resident shares some of his plans for the organization, the city, and the future of design.

So what’s going on with City Hall? I heard there was a redesign in the works.

My firm developed a design concept and it was humming along until the mayor announced he wasn’t going to run again, so it’s a little static right now. The general idea was to not radically rethink City Hall Plaza—I believe every place that has a history has meaning, especially civic spaces. We decided the best thing would be to do what the Red Sox have done with Fenway Park. They’ve made little improvements over time without changing the most characteristic elements. So we proposed keeping the brick paving but adding a dense row of trees along the edges, like a canopy, to make the events that happen there feel more intimate. We’d also like to create a passive rainwater-retention system and reduce the amount of overflow into the harbor, simultaneously making the plaza more accessible to the disabled and elderly. We’re hoping that City Hall Plaza can be a national model for how a civic space can also serve as a storm-water-collection system for a surrounding urban neighborhood. The new mayor will have to decide if he wants to pick up where we left off.

Is that, in part, why you decided to run for president of the BSA?

I want the BSA to become an important advocacy organization once again. Back in the early ’90s, the BSA played a formative role in thinking about the artery project and imagining what would happen if the artery came down. It was quite impactful. Now, with the change of mayoral administrations, I’d like to see it return to that kind of role again.

And how do you think we can get back there?

I think what’s unique about the BSA is that its members are at the intersection of policy, design, and development economics—three key ingredients to deciding what the physical future of the city should be. You don’t want architects only talking to architects. You want politicians there, and you also want development people there. You want all those folks participating in framing what should happen. Through membership, through committees, through panel discussions, the future of Boston is discussed and debated as a physical place.

So how have we gotten away from this? What’s changed in recent history?

I think that architects need to be more entrepreneurial when it comes to development downtown, planning a university, or thinking about what the agenda actually is. Over the decades, a code of conduct—defined by professional standards and contract templates—has evolved that I think too narrowly defines the architect’s role. The framework is there to protect us from the liability, but the result is that architects aren’t trained to think about development—the need for a building or landscape and how to implement it. Someone else identifies a problem or a need, writes a project brief, and then the architect gets involved. In addition, technology and the digital revolution have dramatically changed the practice in the past 10 years. People in their thirties now are more entrepreneurial than I was at that age, and this is forcing bigger firms to rethink how to assign leadership positions and how to run their businesses. So one of the things I want to do with the BSA is hold a series of panel discussions on how the practice is changing, take a half-step back, and reposition the role of the architect as part of the larger equation.

Civic Arches prototype by Utile Design

Photograph courtesy of Utile Design

Utile’s “Civic Arches” prototype depicts a Long Island garage situated in a downtown setting. The design, created for a competition, anticipates a time when cars no longer rule the city: With its flat floor plates, flexible column grid, and higher-capacity structural system, it can easily adapt to other uses.

And how do you approach this as a professor? How is Northeastern combating low placement rates for architects?

We are thinking very hard about how we can adjust our undergraduate program so our students will be prepared for a wider variety of professions, while still providing an excellent core curriculum in architecture. First, we’re looking at the way metrics and data analysis inform design. It’s a fundamental question: Who decides what to do and where? Who decides that a university needs a new lab building, and what info are they using to decide that? We want architects to be leaders in this area. We want our students to be qualified to go into fields where the translation of data into meaningful, action-oriented information is paramount. We’re also looking at the relationship between buildings and larger urban-planning issues. Our students should be able to succeed in other fields, like landscape architecture and urban planning, if their interests end up taking them in that direction.

Speaking of urban planning, what are some of the challenges of being an urban designer?

Urban planning requires storytelling skills as much as it does good design. The truth is you need a master narrative before you start designing. What if there were a series of three-story residences along this street with a café at the corner and a dog park across the way? Later in the process, after the proposal, feedback will enrich the main story line by bringing in other narratives or characters, as in: This guy is heading to the park after buying a latte; that woman is walking to the dry cleaners. He’s off to work; she’s pushing her daughter to daycare. The best urban places are made up of people doing very different things.

What are some of your favorite spaces in Boston?

My favorite building right now is probably Faneuil Hall. I love the idea of this big barn meeting space where you can do anything. It’s the perfect scale for the mayor to give a speech or to host events. It symbolizes civic life, and it’s the antidote to the generic function room.

Boston Convention Center LED Marquee by Utile Design

Photograph by John Horner

Utile designed the freestanding LED marquee for the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), located on Summer Street. The 76-foot-tall illuminated sign displays the convention center’s ever-changing schedule, as well as its current and upcoming exhibits. 

  • Rachel Mead

    I still remember when Alex Krieger had to correct this guy at his own BSA Skyscraper forum (http://vimeo.com/46587976) Apparently he never fact checks. Case in point; trees at Boston City Hall Plaza

  • Mark Simon

    “New BSA President??” Emily Grandstaff-Rice is the new BSA President. What is wrong with this guy?

    • Nick Guertin

      After this fall’s recent elections, he is the president-elect and a member of the BSA’s Board of Directors, and will be rotated in to a leadership capacity in the future.

      • Michael Sole

        Nick. He stepped over Emily-Grandstaff Rice’s term. After he was elected, he tried to push into nearly every BSA component. This article would have been appropriate in March 2015.

  • Gail Vallen

    Isn’t this the same designer who promoted building South Station in the Fort Point Channel, but didn’t realize I-90 was there?

  • Mike Mattei

    Master builder? For anyone whose seen this guy in action, especially when his grand schemes are rejected by a panel, knows the ego (this story) doesn’t match the person.

  • James C

    If you’re a BSA/AIA member who doesn’t want to fund Tim Love’s urban visions with your membership money, you can transfer to another AIA component if you have a work address in their jurisdiction.

  • Debbie F

    Hey Tim, Here’s an article featuring the actual BSA President. Enjoy! We’re all in this together (http://www.archpaper.com/news/articles.asp?id=7392) Also good job trying to pull a stunt on poor Nick. Not everyone is as lazy as Alan Plattus

  • Leo C

    Darn, somebody beat me to the punch! Tim, was the archpaper feature to your liking, or were you infuriated that the spotlight was off you for a few seconds?

  • Ted C

    Seeing as the Columbia Road team cleaned house last night and overshadowed your Lock Park; has the Alice Brown attack plan commenced? Or, did you hopefully learn something from the Nick Caruso pushback? You’re not the worst designer in Boston, but you’re certainly not the best. The BSA is a TEAM effort T-E-A-M.

  • Mary O

    One thing I cannot bear is another Tim Love tantrum. Hopefully, hopefully, he moves on and takes the criticism.

  • Martha P

    Thankfully BM covered a designer worthy of a full spread
    http://www.bostonmagazine.com/home-design/article/2014/06/03/designer-jane-thompson/
    Mr. Tim, when you accomplish an 8th of what Jane Thompson has, then you can get the praise you dearly demand.

  • Paula A

    Ugh, Tim Love, what the H. Did you apologize to Nick Caruso yet? I think this is now Alan Plattus ‘ 3rd screw-up with Nick. Maybe just like Alan you should look before you leap.

  • Gary K

    Sounds like an apologize from Alan Plattus is more fitting. Will it happen? Ha No. This is a guy who literally has, to keep it PG, a Yale funded “license-companion” at its design outpost to make up for his lack of a license. He is ingrained in Old Yale and gives two craps

    • Sarah S

      Gary, you’re probably thinking of Andrei Harwell. I remember when he tried to give a lecture about urbanism and it was “a little off”. I always thought he was related to a rich Russian oil tycoon {he mentions Russia all the time}; hence why he’s part of the YSOA faculty without the merit. The license aspect explains alot. I don’t believe Alan Plattus is licensed or certified in anything.

    • Kim Q

      Give two craps is right. He treats the Yale “design outpost”, the urban design workshop, as his own private office. His biggest claim to fame is promoting a one-sided peace park in Israel; wish I had known more before getting involved. But the most upsetting thing I saw with Alan Plattus was when he would make fun of how Asian people eat and talk….and he’s in charge of Yale’s China studio. Sad, sad all around.

  • Barbara S

    “Gary” an apology [not apologize] is out of the question [see comments in the link below]. Tim Love will do anything to teach at Yale. Alan Plattus will do anything to suppress a screwup. http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2014/05/07/mayor-walsh-mayor-rome-meeting-talk-transportation/

  • Barbara S

    And for Yale itself, a man believing in women’s rights is such a threat, they’ll go to great lengths to tarnish his name.

  • Eric Y

    I relayed information about the new forum. Ed Mitchell cannot access it. If you look through your data, his material shows up. Ed is Alan Plattus’ underling; does the dirty work

  • Mike S

    Did anyone catch Tim Love’s latest ego-trip, the “Beacon Yards Urban Design Workshop”? Hopefully the Harvard-BU reps keep it under control. In the meantime, call it what it is. The “Tim Love Urban Design Workshop” subtitled “Because Tim Love believes he’s the Master Planner of Boston (link to this article) Sponsored by the Tim Love Fund

  • http://batman-news.com Cory C

    Hear Yee Hear Yee. King Love requests your free labor to promote his personal agenda. We kickoff the latest ego fest with the traditional “Love didn’t check” ritual. The rail yard is called “Beacon Park Yard” not “Beacon Yards”…

  • http://batman-news.com Cory C

    In all seriosuness, its time to fire Eric White. The BSA has become a playground for a single trust fund architect

    • http://batman-news.com Ann L

      If he is allowing the Tim Love dillusions to pass, then yes, it merits firing him. 1. Love has tried this in the past, the director should have done his homework 2. you’re allowing your youngest most impressionable members to be used as free labor

  • Jamie I

    Time to fire Eric White indeed. setting up #FireEWhite, will email everyone. Even before Timmy’s latest ego event, we can make the case.

  • Jamie I

    Also sending info on how to switch your AIA chapter membership

  • John C

    The BSA/AIA is broken. A trust fund architect is advocating for its youngest designers to work for free on his behalf…and the BSA/AIA SUPPORTS IT! Director White should know better

    • Judith U

      Director White doesn’t know any better. He isn’t an architect nor has any design experience. He supervised Sturbridge Village {a local Wiliamsburg} before being booted. Time to boot him again

  • http://batman-news.com Ann L

    As an Allston resident, I am enraged that this ego boy-king is being allowed to push his personal Beacon Park Yard dillusions yet again. He tried this with Yale a few years ago, and frequently mentioned that it wasn’t a waste of money because of his students, or as he referred to them several times “his free labor”.

  • http://batman-news.com SammyG

    Tim Love is the biggest egotistical maniac this city has seen in quite some time: and this article reinforces it. As mentioned prior, Tim is a “boy king”, in other words, Boston’s very own Joffrey. I pray for the BSA staff, who in Timmy’s worldview, are his servants. Its so, so sad.

  • Maggie M

    http://bostonherald.com/business/real_estate/2014/08/redesigning_for_hip_tenants

    Timmy! Emily Grandstaff-Rice, the actual BSA president who you’ve been trying to overshadow since the winter, had a mention in Boston’s weekend media. How could this happen! How dare she besmirch your authority as the leading divine oracle of Boston design! You are not the delusional ego boy king that everyone marks you as. You are the best and almightiest designer to ever step foot in Boston! The nerve of some people to be noted that are not you. The nerve!

    • Mark W

      Oh lord, I can only imagine the Timmy trantrum that ensued when he saw a BSA media reference that didn’t include him. There were probably multiple reports of a toddler screaming “but I’m the master planner of Boston!, I’m the master planner of Boston!” Still, Mr. Love shouldn’t fret, one cronyism call to Eric White will fix everything. Get ready for the future ArchitectureBoston article “Why Tim Love is the master designer of Boston and why we should adopt his glorious visions”

      • Kristen R

        Cronyism call is right, Ever since the BSA/AIA moved ABX to the BCEC, the wife of a BCEC exec is at the BSA “working”. I believe her name is Sheryl. If there’s ever a “Real Housewives of Boston” she could play the lead.

  • http://batman-news.com Dean R

    I looked into this Eric White character. No wonder the BSA has turned into Timmy Love’s playground. The guy phones it in from Charlton….CHARLTON!, the I-84-I-90 intersection town!, and when required mega-commutes by car into Boston. So much for conveying a green urban sustainable image at the BSA. Probably the greenest thing the BSA could do is fire its distant director

  • http://batman-news.com Carol A

    Harvard is spending thousands of dollars analyzing Beacon Park Yard with top paid professionals. Why exactly do we need a BSA charrette with unpaid students focusing on a well-reviewed parcel? Oh yeah, I forgot, its Tim “Look At Me, Look At Me” Love. BTW, the BY Urban Design Workshop, is this tied to the “Yale Urban Design Workshop”? If so…yikes, it would be the perfect storm of mediocrity and ego. Both Alan Plattus and Tim Love are tantruming babies who hate to be eclipsed: and stoop to horrible levels when they’re beaten out by women. If you think Love’s outbursts are bad, you should have seen Plattus’ meltdowns (yes plural) after being passed over at MIT.

    • Lisa Y

      You hit it right on the head with Timmy (ie Boston Complete Streets). What a vindictive little creep

      • http://batman-news.com Mary L

        I share your concern. for Mr. Love, everyone is an underling, nobody is an equal.

    • Jamie C

      Since Tim’s election, the BSA has experienced a financial tailspin. Wouldn’t be surprised if he takes down the entire chapter. His urban fantasies mean more to him than the fate of the BSA. As for Alan Plattus in NH, I think he intentionally stretches the limits of tenure. Between the racial jokes, gender jokes, and divorce jokes; I can’t imagine anyone wants to work with him at this point.

      • Matthew N

        Considering who is divorced at Yale, I’m amazed he’s still around. He’s literally making fun of his own boss. Hopefully just like with Timmy Love, Yale and Boston communicate in the future and show Alan the door.

  • Matthew N

    Since Timmy’s election, AIA members have been shifting their funding and resources elsewhere. Several individuals got a taste of what to expect under King Timmy’s rule in November right after the vote. Timmy tried to push every existing consultant off of a Barr Foundation transportation initiative and replace them with a Northeastern-centric team. After a few weeks of working with the inept Northeastern team, Barr shifted back and fulfilled the contract of each original consultant. Another Timmy ego-push…another Timmy bomb. Expect more of the same next month until Timmy is either removed or he bankrupts the BSA.

  • http://batman-news.com Mary L

    Love’s latest Beacon Park Yard ego charrette is hitting some rocks. Offices don’t want their youngest staff members being exploited for Love’s personal agenda.

  • Eli Fe

    If you pick up a copy of Yale’s 08-09 Retrospecta Publication, you’ll come across Tim Love’s first “Beacon Yards” ego-fest. Throughout the semester he called the students his “free labor”

  • Marcello

    Tim Love is a decent local graphic designer that tries so desperately to be featured as a divine virtuoso of Boston design {this article} How many screw-ups and ego-flexing can the community take? As a trust fund architect, Tim has no sense of reality. We don’t need another Tim Love ego-charrette