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Local Artist Has Ideas For Callahan Tunnel Vent Building

The following post comes from Nathan Swain, a local artist and North End resident, who has some ideas for the Callahan Tunnel vent building as part of the upcoming facade reconstruction. Readers may remember Nate from his work on the Salem St. Powerhouse where he painted large murals on the “windows” of the barren Edison building, making it into a work of art. (See Salem St Powerhouse Boasts New Painted Murals).

I want to start a neighborhood discussion on how to make the current DOT Callahan tunnel vent building design look more like a residential building and less like a vent building. We have a great opportunity to transform one of the ugliest buildings in our neighborhood to better blend in and fit the surrounding architecture.

At the moment most people are concerned about construction disruptions. That is a very valid concern. We must also be concerned about what we are left with to look at for the next 100 years when everything is finished. A vent building does not necessarily need to look like a vent building and scream for attention like the current design does.

Shown above, I did a very rough and quick change to the current design to get my idea across. The current DOT design is very similar to the original design done 50 years ago. The louvers in the current design accentuate the vertical aspect of the building and make the building look taller than it already is. The current design makes the 8 story building look like a 10 story building.  I broke up the louvers to mimic window spacing and I made the louvers a dark color. I also got rid of some of the horizontal stripping on the building.  I made the 8 story building look like a 6 story building.

I am no architect but I know this idea is possible. I do have experience at doing this sort of thing.  As you know, I transformed the bricked up Nstar Electrical Substation building into a beautiful building that looks lived in. We just need to ask for it or we need to demand it. If we could somehow have MassDot do a design revision to make the building look more residential, scaled down the facade elements, have it blend into the back ground but still function as a vent building we will take one more giant step in making our neighborhood more beautiful.

I want to also remind everyone that this vent building is not a private developers proposal. This is the MassDOT. This is our tax money paying for this building. Therefore, this is the tax payers vent building. John Romano knows this since he worked on the Central Artery project with all the design review meetings involved in that project. Fifty years ago, the Highway DEPT got away with no design review but this is 2010 and we do things different now. The North End is the customer in this case.

Nathan Swain welcomes feedback and can be reached at or leave a comment below.

2 Replies to “Local Artist Has Ideas For Callahan Tunnel Vent Building

  1. This is a terrific idea. The vent building certainly looks out of place as it now stands. It can’t be that difficult to use a slightly different design since they are removing the entire sides of the building. I think Massdot’s architects should work with Swain on this concept.

  2. Seriously, I think that MA DOT has better things to do with the $ in their budget then redesign this vent building. I am more concerned with it falling down and hurting someone then with making it look like a residential building.

    With all due respect, the murals you installed on the NSTAR building do make it look much better but it certainly doesn’t look "lived in".

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