Boston Architectural College
Janet Marie Smith, Boston Red Sox, Senior Vice President for Planning and Development
Fenway Park is the oldest park in the major leagues - and like other ballparks of the early 1900's was wedged into a single city block, taking on the configuration of the street and block plan of the Fenway neighborhood. Thus was born the geometry of the playing field and the seating configuration which gives Fenway its unique character. That Fenway has survived the multi-purpose era of the 1960's and 1970's and served as a role model for the "retro parks" of the 1990's is nothing short of amazing as it certainly wasn't the most architecturally beautiful structure of its kind. It is, however, a certifiable "classic" park and only one of 2 left in the nation of this era. As a result of the commitment to save the park, and the $100 + million that owners John Henry, Tom Werner, Larry Lucchino, and their partners have made to renovate it, the park is set to celebrate its 95th anniversary this season.
Equally noteworthy is the long shadow that Fenway has cast on both the baseball world, and the discipline of urban design. A figurative shadow that is, as Fenway the original structure was only one story tall! The 1912 park has been the inspiration for 17 new Major League Baseball parks since new Comiskey Park in Chicago debuted in 1991. What's more, as Fenway has survived, so has the neighborhood around it. On literally all 5 sides of Fenway Park, the buildings on the perimeter either pre-date the park, or were constructed in the 1920's. As the uses have evolved from carriage houses for horse-drawn buggies to automotive showrooms to discotheques to apartment living, the area has become a model for a mixed use, transit oriented sport and entertainment center - something virtually every city in America has sought to create, but one that has evolved naturally and organically at Fenway Park.
Out of the Park focused on both the transformation of the historic park into a rejuvenated venue boasting all the amenities of its contemporary brethren. But the evening also focused on the neighborhood that defines the Fenway and the lessons learned as city after city seek to replicate the vibrant and eclectic mix of uses that is home to the Boston Red Sox. From the classic Olmsted Park to the dirty water of the Charles River, the microcosm that is Fenway is a study in urban life.