Urban thinkers warm up to ideas for improving a cold city

With its northeastern coastal location, Boston can be an uncomfortable place in winter. Days are often gray and gloomy. Brisk winds off Massachusetts Bay help to sink the average low temperature in January to a bone-chilling 21.6 degrees F. Snow that can begin falling as early as mid-December normally amounts to a depth of 3-1/2 feet. OK, so palm trees wouldn't survive there. But the "Hub of the Universe" doesn't want to be thought of as an icebox either. So the Boston Society of Architects asked readers of its magazine, ArchitectureBoston, for their thoughts on ways to make the city more pleasant in winter. What came in response were several futuristic ideas, some more practical than others. A sampling, from the current issue:

Bridges to warmth: Plexiglas wind barriers up to 15 feet high and equipped with overhead heaters to shield pedestrians as they cross

Hot arcs: 7-1/2-foot-high arching heating elements over sidewalks in high-traffic areas

Light rooms: translucent outdoor enclosures for up to 12 people with simple benches whose users are bathed in soft lighting

Snow shine: lighting embedded in sidewalks that would make accumulated snow glow

"Diamond necklace": a series of steel-and-glass nature gardens connected by concourses, new thoroughfares, and the subway system. Could be opened to the elements on nice days.

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