Last week, one morning, I was in the Studio at City Hall looking at onto the plaza, as I do most days. I watched as the Equipment Building Services (EBS) crew rolled around the plaza in a blue motorized latter – it was light maintenance day. They stopped at one of the globe light fixtures and inspected it for a second. I grabbed my camera and raced out to capture them, but alas, I was too late, they had rolled on. Instead, I recognized something. The globe lights…ooooowww. I had noticed them before, but never stopped to look at them; inspect them, find out their story. Why was EBS inspecting it today, had they intentions to replace it?
I walked around and took photos of the glass globe shells. I started with the one that EBS had inspected and began snapping shots. It wasn’t until five or so pictures in that I realized I was taking pictures of broken or dirty old globe lights. Eventually I found a pair that wasn’t broken, that wasn’t too dirty, and was possibly a replacement. I wondered why the other ones hadn’t been replaced? Money was the obvious answer, which was later confirmed when I talked to the EBS crew, but there was also another reason – design.
Design?!? Yep. A few days earlier I had been talking with Sally Rodriguez with Parks and Rec. Sally has been working for the City for over 30yrs. Our talk was mostly about who owned the plaza and who would I need to talk to in order to propose changes – that talk was very enlightening. It turns out, that the plaza is “maintained” by several parties. The fountain under the care of the Convention Center/Special Events, the green area by Parks and Recreation, the Henry Moore Sculpture and Big Red balls in the fountain by Cultural Affairs, and the plaza itself, concrete, flag poles, and globe lights are maintained by EBS. Additionally, the plaza is also patrolled by plaza security.
So, though the plaza is owned by the City at large, there are all these entities and systems that govern and shape it. Embedded in our conversation, we talked about IM Pei, the architect who designed City Hall and it Plaza. Pei also designed Boston’s City Hall and Plaza, which has a very similar, large, concrete inactive plaza. Apparently, Pei had written very specific instructions not to change anything about the design at Boston’s City Hall, and that was much of the reason why it had stayed the inactive over the years. Looking at the globe lights, a remnant of the late 70’s, and wondering if they were the original globe lights, I couldn’t help but think, why haven’t things changed?