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Charles Square

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1984, Cambridge Seven Associates. University Rd., Bennett St., and Memorial Dr.
  • Charles Square (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)

Dominated by the Charles Hotel, costly housing, and upscale commercial enterprises, including a health spa, the Square and its forecourt have emerged as welcome public spaces. Red brick buildings form the walls of the open court, which is animated by restaurants and cafés and often functions as a venue for musical events in the summer months. An air of festivity begins at street level, where multiple flagpoles and the weekly seasonal farmers' market give it the feeling of a communal gathering place. Broad steps set at an angle leading to the courtyard, together with the surfeit of brick in the surrounding buildings and underfoot, distantly recall the entrance to Alvar Aalto's town hall compound in Saynatsalo, Finland. Although privately operated, there is a public aspect about the entire complex, with its access through the hotel to the upper square or through the two-story skylit atrium marking the retail area. The clarity of the plan succeeds in its separation of different functions and in the provision of open spaces creating a pleasant overall ambience. A beautiful tree-lined path separates the complex from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government and leads to the Charles River through J. F. Kennedy Park, designed by Carol R. Johnson Associates in 1984.

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "Charles Square", [Cambridge, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 337-338.

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