backbay - The Back Bay: Winning the Battle, Losing the...

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The Back Bay: Winning the Battle, Losing the Water The Charlesgate Traveling west on Beacon Street, just crossing Massachusetts Avenue, one will find that suddenly the street is not quite as well drained. Water pools at corners of intersections, blocking pedestrians from crossing. The gutters fill up almost to the height of the sidewalk. The next day the water is still there and it does not look like it is moving one bit. This is the Back Bay Fens of today. It is an area of Boston filled with beautiful residences, nice restaurants, a few fraternities, and yet upon closer inspection, an area that seems to always be at odds with the water in and around it. Evidence in and around the Back Bay provide information about its present, past, and future conflicts with water. Further down Beacon Street, there comes an abrupt end when the street meets up with the Fens itself. This is probably the most important piece of the puzzle, the Charlesgate. At that point, all of the water from the rest of the Fens meets the Charles River. It can provide beautiful and refreshing contrast to the scenery of the city when properly maintained. Of course, it has not been properly maintained and is currently in the process of being dredged up. So it provides more of a dirty construction site feel to the area. Even without the current dredging, it fails to add much to the area as the small park area around it is filled with bizarre looking benches that have not been sat on in years, and street lamps that have not been lit in just as long. Much of the storm sewer runoff also merges near this point. Because of this, when the Fens is particularly full, or there has been a large amount of rain or snow melt, the storm sewers do not empty out and, in extreme cases, the Fens can backup into the storm sewer. Thus, the Charlesgate region of the Fens sets the stage for the entire Back Bay, and does it poorly. The problem of drainage is felt throughout the Back Bay. Because much of the area is sloped toward the Charles, sites on the north end of the Back Bay receive far more water after storms. The parking lot shown provides a good example of this. It lies on the far north end of the Back Bay and thus receives a disproportionate amount of runoff. So much more water flows there than was expected by the builders that they had to put in a second drain at the low point of the lot. This particular lot also shows evidence of damage to the asphalt due to water. When drainage is insufficient, water pools around the drains. Some of it gets into the asphalt, then freezes, cracking the surface of the lot. The process then repeats over time, making cracks larger and potholes deeper. The builders in this case forgot to take into account not just the amount of rain that will fall on this area, but the water that naturally flows to the area as well. Similar situations are seen throughout the Back Bay, contributing to the decline of the street and alley surfaces of the area. In the case shown at left, the drainage was properly planned
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This note was uploaded on 11/10/2011 for the course ARCH 4.101 taught by Professor Williamhubbardassn during the Spring '03 term at MIT.

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backbay - The Back Bay: Winning the Battle, Losing the...

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