North Square Stories public artwork emphasizes the many intertwined stories embedded in the fabric of North Square and the extraordinary variety of peoples that have called the Square their home. There is no single linear history culminating in now, nor is there any one group of people who can claim the Square as their own. Though more than 32 North Squares would fit into Fenway Park, North Square has a big history as the site of countless notable historic people and moments. North Square Stories taps into four narrative threads: pre-industrial Boston; maritime stories; stories of immigration and habitation; and cultural feasts and ceremonies. These four intertwined threads are echoed in the varied and significant architectural and physical features of the Square.
Arriving in North Square, one is surrounded by historic facades and is enclosed within an intimate refuge. Looking southward down the slope of the Square, one sees the Boston skyline rise through an aperture between buildings. As a physically small space revealing a big view, North Square provides a unique vantage point onto an ever-changing city. The physical place of North Square is mirrored in its storied history.
North Square Stories comprises a cycle of four sculptures in bronze in hardscaped quadrants. The sculptures are intimate focal points meant to be experienced at close range. All of the sculptures include maritime references, in recognition of the Square’s deep ties to the sea that surrounds it. All take advantage of the physical space of the Square and its historic features; each sculpture gives us a big view from a small space. Looking from the new circle of paving down towards the area bounded by the southern triangular point of the Square, the space opens to a paved plaza that can embrace big groups and multiple functions.
Subjects and motifs include a relief sculpture of an 18th century panoramic view of the Square with wharves and city skyline beyond; a North End map highlighting local features and stories; a diorama streetscape with a viewing window; and a fantastical nautical instrument with discoverable maritime stories.
An engraved ‘N’ in the paving indicates north. A compass ‘N’ appears in North End Story Map and in Fantastical Historical Nautical Instrument, which also has a working sundial. All of the sculptures are placed site-specifically and derive meaning from their orientations and relationships to features in and around North Square. All of the sculptures include boats, and there are many overlaps, connections and relationships to be discovered. We hope visitors will spend time exploring the connections between the sculptures and the history of the surrounding cityscape.
A+J used a range of technologies and fabrication methods in the four sculptures. The relief sculpture 1798 North Square View was sculpted directly in clay. What We Brought With Us was sculpted in clay with CNC milled buildings, and it also includes found objects and luggage labels drawn by local students. North End Story Map was created initially through digital processes with hand finishing work, and Fantastical Historical Nautical Instrument was mainly CNC milled with some additional sculpted elements. All sculptures include braille titles, and there is additional braille in the map key.