Jacob Shell, 2003

This project imagines an alternate planning timeline for the city of Boston MA, starting around the 1920s. Unlike the real city, this “alternative” Boston has no airport in the middle of the harbor; and instead of a Central Artery expressway slicing its way across the downtown area, Alt Boston has an Inner Belt expressway circumventing the urban core (similar to the highway pattern one finds in many European cities).

With the airport removed and the expressways realigned, Alt Boston is much more oriented around Boston Harbor, with new waterfront parks in East Boston and along Dorchester Bay.

I created this map by tracing a photocopy of a 1920 map of Boston, and imagining new street infill in areas like the Dorchester Bay waterfront and the South Bay end of the Fort Point Channel.

Alt Boston – Inner Belt Expressway. Jacob Shell. 2003.

The map below presents Alt Boston’s core urban public space, Adams Square. In the real Boston, up until the urban renewal period of the 1950s, the downtown area culminated in three interconnected squares: Scollay, Adams, and Dock. Scollay and Dock technically still exist, though as little more than nondescript crosswalks surrounding the modernist City Hall Plaza. Adams Square, however, was completely eliminated during the the modernist redesign of the district.

In Alt Boston, Adams Square remains in place as an open space linking Faneuil Hall to a new government building (in purple), which is mostly surrounded by older commercial buildings.

This map was created by tracing a Sanborn Fire Insurance map from the 1920s.

Alt Boston – Adams Square. Jacob Shell. 2003.

Below, real Boston’s City Hall Plaza and (further down) expressway configuration with harbor airport.

The Alt Boston map's "base map" was this tiled-together photocopy of a 1920 map of Boston (at 1:15000 scale).