Sunday, April 01, 2007

Birds and cowbells


With two city planning degrees from MIT, I think of myself as a well-trained observer of the urban scene and streetscapes in particular. But every now and then, I miss something so dramatic that it makes me want a partial refund on those degrees.

Driving into town the other day on Beacon Street, I saw a rather large bird perched on a street lamp fixture. "Wow," I said, "Look how calmly that large bird is hanging out in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city." Then, it didn't move. And, as I got closer, I saw that it was a sculpture attached to the lamp post. Then, I noticed there was one on each lamp post at Audubon Circle (the junction of Beacon Street and Park Drive).

"Must be something new," I thought. WRONG! They have been there since 2005, as part of a civic art program encouraged by Mayor Menino. I have attached pictures, for those of you living out of town. For those of you in town, if you haven't seen these, take a gander (!). They are a wonderfully whimsical addition to the streetscape. And, thanks Your Honor, for brightening up our city. (And thanks to a good friend for taking these pictures yesterday. Oddly, I could not find any public images of the collection on the web.)

But cowbells, you ask? I won't give this one away just yet, but there a several cowbells hung in very strategic public places in the vicinity. Submit your nominations here.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aha, more nerdiness. This one I know, but only because this fellow city planner took your classes.

The cowbells are hung on the (rubber) signs at Storrow Drive entry underpasses. Now do I get a prize?:)

Paul Levy said...

Damn, too easy. I should have excluded my former students. OK, wise guy/gal: Who was the MDC commissioner who did that?

Also, extra credit if you can find me a picture to post.

fm said...

Bill Geary:)

Paul Levy said...

Yeah, so what's his home town???

Anonymous said...

Quincy. What statewide political office did Bill run for?

Paul Levy said...

Lt. Governor, of course.

While we are working on his resume, with which brewery was he affiliated after leaving public office?

Anonymous said...

Ironically, I went thru the exact same experience about two years ago when I first noticed those wonderful whimsical sculptures and thought "they must have JUST gone up." I guess we are two birds of a feather....

Anonymous said...

did someone say something about there being a powerful mind at work here?

Anonymous said...

Paul;
This may be off-subject (and I am not from Boston so I am lost on the commentary), but do you mind my asking, what is your specific background? You mention in an older post that when you came to Harvard as administrative dean, you were not from the hospital industry?
I ask because you seem to have an unusual grasp of clinical issues (I am a retired doc); if you came from another industry I will be even more impressed!

Elliott said...

Some additional pictures; you can see the birds on some of the lampposts in the background.

http://auduboncircle.org/news.html

Paul Levy said...

Dear Anon 11:05,

No hospital experience. Here's the short version of the career path, in reverse order, for the last 20 years:

2002-present: CEO of BIDMC
1998-2002: Executive Dean for Administration at Harvard Medical School
1992-1998: Adjunct professor at MIT + independent consultant on energy, water, telecom, business strategy and negotiation
1987-1992: Executive Director, MA Water Resources Authority
1983-1987: Chairman, MA Department of Public Utilities

Lyette said...

1) Do you mean 1995 instead of 1975? I know it seems like Menino's been mayor forever, but I don't think it's really been that long.

2) I rode the MASCO shuttle through Audubon Circle every day for two years and never saw those. Amazing.

Paul Levy said...

Oops, thanks. Fixed.

Anonymous said...

Paul;

I'm anon 11:05. Very, very interesting, and pops one of my balloons about hospital adminstrators having to have medical experience. I guess you did get some from 1998-2002, but this still supports the idea that good CEO's don't necessarily have to come from the industry they are "chairing" in. Thanks for the info.

Paul Levy said...

Actually, very little from 1998-2002, as HMS does not own a hospital . . .

Blog, MD said...

Paul: I didn't know you had a background in city planning. This gives me the occasion to tell you what is likely to be the only city planning joke in existence:

Three professionals were discussing the human form - an architect, an engineer and a city planner.

"Clearly, God was an architect," said the architect.

"What do you mean," asked the other two.

"The symmetry, the use of curves, the strong infrastructure encased in an aesthetically pleasing exterior ... can't you see that God designed the human form using an architect's eye?"

"I disagree," said the engineer. "God was clearly an engineer."

"Why do you say that?" asked the other two.

"Look at the integration of systems, the failsafes and redundant structures ..the nervous system is the most efficient wiring system I've ever seen. The skeleton uses materials that are lightweight but strong and durable. Clearly, God designed the human body with an engineer's eye."

"You're both wrong," said the city planner, "God was a city planner."

Once the other two stopped laughing, they asked, "What in the world would make you say that God was a city planner?".

The city planner replied, "Who else would run a waste pipeline right in the middle of a recreational area?"

Anonymous said...

Actually the birds were installed in October of 2005. They were a joint effort between Audubon Circle Neighborhood Association and the city. See more at www.auduboncircle.org

Paul Levy said...

Right, corrected again!

Kathy Greenough said...

Hello Paul,
I am delighted you enjoy our birds in Audubon Circle! I tried to send this note yesterday, but apparently it didn't go through. I have lived in Audubon Circle for 35 years, and, with other neighbors, founded the Audubon Circle Neighborhood Assn. in 1978. I have been on the ACNA Board ever since and, of course was involved with this bird project, which we call Artwing. The neighbors who spearheaded this project were the designer, Mark Favermann, and Robert Canterbury. They were indeed installed in 2005, at a ceremony attended by Mayor Menino, of course! I met you last October at the groundbreaking ceremony for 1330 Boylston St. Judy Glasser introduced us --she and I worked together at the City of Boston over 20 years ago. Thanks again, Kathy Greenough