Coming In From The Cold In Springfield

Jan 16, 2018

If you've ever experienced the transition from a frigid wind beating on your face to the embrace of a warm indoor space, you'll know how wonderful coming inside can be. 

Our built environment includes our homes and our workplaces, of course. But if we’re lucky, we have “third places” where we meet up with friends, and are entertained.

Springfield has an astounding assortment of these -- including grand historic auditoriums, re-purposed commercial spaces and modern steel framed arenas.

As a monument of City Beautiful Classical Revival architecture, Symphony Hall is spectacular. The performances of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra are perfectly suited to the gilded reliefs, mahogany wainscoting and brass finishes of this warm and elegant space.

Just across Court Square is the wonderfully Brutalist MassMutual Center. The enormous steel beams have been painstakingly painted black, as have what used to be the giant '70s-era rectangles randomly placed throughout. Underneath lie hideous oranges, reds and yellows. The new look is more dignified, but the tribute to psychedelia was more fun!

The Basketball Hall of Fame and the atrium of the Sheraton came later. They're smaller than the MassMutual Center, and less elegant than Symphony Hall. But take the time to get as close to the top as you can, and be wowed by the chasms created by each of these spaces. 

In the Robyn Newhouse Hall and the CityStage auditoriums, Springfield has remarkably contrasting spaces to experience the performing arts. Newhouse Hall is a re-purposed bank lobby -- the Art Deco interior, its mural, and fabulously colored ceiling are as inspiring as the music created by the students of the Community Music School. By contrast, CityStage is pure black-box. The descent into this subterranean space centers the attention of the audience precisely on the stage -- where it needs to be.

There are more, of course: 19th Century churches; the auditoriums at Commerce High School and the former Classical High School. There's even news that the Baroque wonder that is Springfield’s Paramount Theater may, someday soon, be renovated and open to the public. Its lavish murals and stunning chandeliers are too spectacular to stay boarded up forever. They're part of the legacy that this city's creativity, wealth and innovation have left for us to experience and explore.   

Steve Shultis lives in Springfield. You can follow his blog at Rational Urbanism