When I received the January/February 2018 issue of Design New England, I was totally intrigued by the article, “Beneath Quabbin,” by Bruce Irving. This article describes how the 39-square mile Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts came to be, starting in 1927 with the monumental work of relocating every person, building, and farm animal from four entire towns due to plans to submerge those towns forever. When the land and dams were finally completed in 1939, flooding began, and seven years later, the Quabbin Reservoir was full and ready to supply the thirsty city of Boston and surrounding areas.
Here’s the link to the article that caught my interest: “Beneath Quabbin,” by Bruce Irving
And what does this have to do with interior design, you ask? Well, since my daughter is interested in Steampunk motifs for her artwork, and I love historical architecture, in early 2017 we took a trip to the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum in Chestnut Hill, MA on a rare sunny winter afternoon.
Because of this trip I was already somewhat familiar with the engineering challenge of the Quabbin Reservoir and the associated complex network of water pipes and pumping stations. What a design treasure trove, and so unique too…quite unlike any other museum I have every visited. I am quite the design nerd, you know… engineering background and all, and totally proud of it too…
From the interior design perspective, note all the cool details in a 100% metal, stone, and wood functional space. I guess you can’t get more functional than pumping water for millions of people! Note the beautiful brick arches to support the roof over the massive plant, the ceiling wood strips run in a diamond motif, the way the iron on the circular staircase is forged in a stylistic way (unfortunately this is NOT done today in industrial places), and the incredibly large metal wheels that actually pump the water…with the square cutouts that engage with other cogs in this complex system.
Can you tell I loved it all? During our visit we had terrific guide who was retired from the Boston municipal water system, so he really knew the subject matter and appreciated the engineering beauty of the machinery. Truth be told, during the visit I kept thinking about my Uncle Frank, since he was a mechanical engineer who knew how to run and fix this kind of mechanical/magically powerful water plant. He would have loved it, and would have been an awesome guide!
So, if you want to visit someplace in Boston that is out of the ordinary and very HH Richardson in style (Richardson Romanesque architecture on the exterior, just like Trinity Church in Boston), you just have to check out the Metropolitan Water Works in Chestnut Hill, MA. It’s just down the hill from Boston College, and it’s across the street from a lovely reservoir with a beautiful walking path. Here’s a link to their website: www.waterworksmuseum.org
Whatever trips you take I hope you’ve been finding some design inspiration this winter! For a casual space, consider reclaimed wood, herringbone and diamond wood patterns, metal, and other cool details to add to the charm and character of your home. Of course, in my opinion, the perfect situation is if you have a Boston loft with a brick wall as a starting point. If you do - call me ASAP.…but really, you can use industrial design inspiration in many places… even in the suburbs!
Barbara Phillips, interior designer and owner of Center Stage Interior Designs, has delivered impeccable window treatments and design services to both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts since 2001.