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boston MAPPING

Focus on urban change

This issue of TheCityPlan goes back across the Atlantic to explore Boston, one of the most innovative and dynamic cities in the USA. Boston is also New England’s most populous city, with around 4.8 million inhabitants over its metropolitan area. As usual, our analysis is based on a series of GIS maps. Starting with the population density map, two customary features emerge: high residential density in the central core and lower density of the outlying metropolitan areas. However, the maps also evidence high densities north of the River Charles in the area of Cambridge, home to Harvard University and MIT, and in the adjacent area of Somerville. Likewise, the worker density map shows the usual concentration in the central city neighborhoods but also two distinct worker clusters north of the river, one centered on MIT, the other more to the northwest corresponding to Harvard University. Boston originated as a fortified island built by the British. The area - no longer an island, on account of enormous landfill works down the years - is now the Central Business District (CBD), with the high residential and worker populations already noted. The area is crossed from north to south by the Interstate Highway 93, which in 2007 was turned into an underground freeway thanks to one of the most ambitious infrastructural projects ever completed in the USA, known as the “Big Dig”. The natural contour maps show Boston to lie on an extensive plain crossed in the middle by the River Charles - flowing from west to east - with the River Mystic lying to the north. This huge stretch of flat land is the result of centuries of landfill projects that gradually joined the many islands of the area to the mainland. This manmade character of much of central Boston is clearly visible in the very regular coastline, starting from the airport to the north, built entirely on a landfill north of the mouth of the River Charles. Services and amenities are unsurprisingly...

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© Maggioli SpA • THE PLAN • Via del Pratello 8 • 40122 Bologna, Italy • T +39 051 227634 • P. IVA 02066400405 • ISSN 2499-6602 • E-ISSN 2385-2054