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Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell Receives 2024 Robert H. Kuehn, Jr. Award

Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell

Preservation Mass is pleased to announce that the Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell has been awarded a 2024 Robert H. Kuehn, Jr. Award.

The Edward A. Hatch Memorial Shell is an outdoor amphitheater situated adjacent to the Charles River at the Esplanade along Storrow Drive. The dome-shaped structure is located at the head of an oval lawn, which provides a wonderful venue for outdoor concerts and other events. Best known for hosting summer concerts and the annual Boston Fourth of July celebration with the Boston Pops Orchestra, the Hatch Shell is a cultural and architectural icon in the city.

Since its construction, the Hatch Shell has continued to be a favorite spot for millions of people to relax in the fresh air and enjoy great music of all genres from all over the world. Arthur Fiedler, who conducted the Pops in this venue for almost 50 years called this venue “a dream come true.”

The Hatch Shell dome cladding has gone through many iterations over the years, and the challenge here was to look at it once again, balancing the need for a more durable solution, considering what the original intent had been, and determining what the criteria for a preservation approach should be. The original drawings show what looks to be granite blocks as the dome cladding, but evidence showed that the cladding likely was always a terrazzo-type product with a rustic texture. The comprehensive renovation in 1990 was a concerted effort to match the appearance of the cladding that was in place at that time. We know from submittals in 1990 it took dozens of samples to get the color and texture to match. Still, the 1990 cladding had failed. Matching a failed material, knowing it would again fail after only about 25 years, was not an acceptable solution. The BH+A project team did a series of removals and analysis to determine what the existing assembly was and what caused the failure.

This project was neither identified as a full “preservation” of a structure, nor was it a “transformative” project in terms of some change to the building’s use. The project was initiated due to the visible deterioration of the dome panels, interior water infiltration, and the operational problems with the bronze doors. What was exceptional was the DCR’s attentiveness to planning and carrying out “repair” work in a way that looked carefully at the significance of the structure, studied options both from the standpoint of aesthetics, function and cost, and followed through in a very systematic manner that involved a range of user groups and constituencies. The fact that the site is so popular and shutting down the building particularly over the 4th of July would not have been feasible, made the construction schedule difficult. It was an impressive achievement to complete a very complicated process of field verifications, submittals, and installation in a way that only minimally impacted the use of the site for events.

It is the creative solution to matching the appearance of the dome and the quality of execution and materials that makes this project notable. The ongoing preservation of this site and structure is invaluable to the City of Boston, the larger metropolitan area, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The current steward of the site, the Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) is deserving of commendation for their dedication to seeing that the upkeep of this facility is performed with the utmost of care.


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