Early Details on General Electric’s ‘GE Plaza’ at Fort Point HQ Emerge
A programmable lawn, a coffee bar, and more.
General Electric really wants “GE Plaza” to be a thing.
All throughout company’s first presentation to the Boston Civic Design Commission this week, architect Doug Gensler spoke largely in buzzwords about how the new Fort Point headquarters will embody its transformation from an industrial giant to a digital one. There was even a slide about the “kissing of the new and the old,” illustrated by three weather fronts converging at the former Necco site to form a low-pressure system of innovation, or something.
“GE told us a hundred times, ‘We do not want a cold, glass box,'” Gensler told the BCDC. To this end, the plans submitted to the Boston Redevelopment Authority included a 40-foot cantilever, taking a cue from the nearby ICA, as well as a signature veil composed of solar slats that will let light through, but not before it bounces off their photovoltaic surfaces.
Among the more concrete details presented Tuesday night were those regarding the so-called GE Plaza, a public green space at the heart of the 2.4 acre campus, located between the two existing brick warehouses and the proposed 12-story, 293,300-square-foot tower.
The lawn would be programmed for public and private events, while an “ephemeral light canopy” would extend overhead from the new building to brick facade. The rear corner of the new building would house a coffee bar, while a bistro-style restaurant would occupy the ground floor of the brick warehouse closest to the channel.
While one slide in Gensler’s presentation designated “mass transit access” at the front of the building, GE spokesperson Susan Bishop later confirmed this only means MBTA access is nearby. So if you hope to catch the Red Line, you’ll still have to cross the bridge to South Station.
Gensler said GE plans to line the Harborwalk with a rainwater garden of native, year-round plants, and keep the existing public dock at the site intact. Several BCDC members suggested GE explore ways to winterize the plaza, so that its public utility isn’t lost under a foot of snow for a third of the year.
“We have some lovely four months where it will be useless,” commissioner Kirk Sykes deadpanned.
Commissioner Linda Easley suggested that the museum comprising much of the new building’s ground floor extend beyond its walls, with exhibits showcasing both GE and Fort Point’s industrial history on the extended Harborwalk. Commissioner David Hacin praised the plan’s “exuberance of expression,” and hopes GE will feature works by local artists in the plaza.
“General Electric could make a big statement in the arts district…that GE is a champion of the arts,” Hacin said.