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GROUND Vo l u m e 1 : D i s c o u r s e Issue 1: OUTREACH

IN THIS ISSUE In-house

FEATURES

contributions

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ta l k w i t h yo u r h a n d s An exploration of sketching’s communicative power while traveling W h at i s L a n d s c a p e ? A book review considers John Stilgoe’s encyclopedic exploration of terrain designing for dignity Madison Rogers’ design for a Kenyan school building has just been completed

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follow the leader A round-up of thoughtful and beautiful social media profiles commoncal A curated calendar of Boston’s best art and design events of the fall Photo E ssay Photographer Diego Ferrari contributes a photo essay from the Barcelona Pavilion

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m a r k pa s n i k An interview with an author of HEROIC: Conrete Architecture and the New Boston Get social! Nina Chase on harnessing social media’s role in the design process W h at p u b l i c ? Landing Studio cosiders the evolving cultural landscape of Boston’s waterfront


TEAM EDITOR-IN- CHIEF CYRUS DAHMUBED Cyrus Dahmubed is an MArch student at the School of Architecture, and a lifelong Bostonian. He is the creator and curator of the graduate event series, Common Ground, from which this publication has grown, and the President of Northeastern’s chapter of AIAS. Cyrus holds a BA in the History and Theory of Architecture and Urbanism from Harvard University. EDITOR KAREN YEUNG Karen Yeung is an MArch student in the School of Architecture, originally from Stamford, CT. Architecture appeals to her for its incorporation of art and science, and the creative potential it provides. She recieved a Bachelor’s Degree in Watershed Systems from SUNY ESF. E D I TO R I A L A S S I S TA N T WEI CHEN

1 A S S I S TA N T E D I TO R S H E FA L I D E S A I Shefali Desai is an MArch student at the School of Architecture. She received her Bachelor’s degree from University of New Haven in Interior Design and Architecture. She is interested in residential and commercial design, and the integration of photovoltaic technology with architecture. A S S I S TA N T E D I TO R TAY L O R P L AC E Taylor Place is an MArch student at the School of Architecture and a Common Ground graduate lecture series co-coordinator. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Entrepreneurship and Photographic Printmaking from Suffolk University. Her interests there focused on social justice, which led to her to travel to all seven continents to volunteer and experience different cultures.

Wei Chen is currently an MArch student at the School of Architecture and is from Chengdu, China. She obtained her BA in architecture (first class) from the University of Liverpool. She takes special interest in the interaction between architecture and other design fields.

LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

GRAPHIC EDITOR WILL LANGEVIN Will Langevin is an MArch student at the School of Architecture and a Common Ground graduate lecture series co-coordinator. Having earned undergraduate degrees in International Business and Finance from Assumption College, his interests focus on the relationship between entrepreneurial thinking and architectural design to create a more innovative and integrated built environment. GRAPHIC DESIGN A LY A A B O U R E Z K Born and raised in Sioux Falls, SD, Alya Abourezk is a 3rd-year undergraduate student at the School of Architecture. She is currently on co-op at the University of Cagliari in Sardinia, Italy. GRAPHIC DESIGN RYAN HORTON Ryan Horton is an MArch student at the School of Architecture. He received his Bachelors of Fine Arts at Savannah College of Art and Design. During his free time he dabbles in graphic design and sketches regularly.

MISSION

CYRUS DAHMUBED

Hello, and welcome to the very first page of Common Ground. If you have come in search of simple ideas and small aspirations, I’m afraid we have none. Do not be fooled by the method of our media, this is no local rag. Print, you see, is as alive as our minds and the ideas with which we have filled these pages. We have brought to fruition the first critical publication from the School of Architecture at Northeastern University and have chosen Discourse as the theme for this first volume specifically because, through this act of creation, we have sparked new discourses that already have spread well beyond our academic confines. To address those, the topic of Issue 1, Outreach, interrogates our means as designers to communicate with the world outside of our discipline. How do we articulate our designs

and ideas in order to engage with a public that too often perceives us as aloof academics and incomprehensible intellectuals? Outreach explores the changing paradigms in design discourses and aspires to change paradigms itself. We must come to new terms with all of our capacities of communication and employ them to the greatest effect possible. Social media, photography, and written criticism can be transformative tools and opportunities for modern designers to maximize our impact. Discourse has always been fundamental to the design process; it is inherent within the concept of review, which falters when it tends toward a monologue. Common Ground - the res publica, our commonwealth - has sought since its inception in 2015 as a colloquium series for graduate students to serve as a fostering platform for dialogue well beyond this first volume. We relish the critical exchange of ideas and savor the truths uncovered when accepted norms are subverted. In this issue alone we have challenged authority at the Barcelona Pavilion, argued for the ugly in Boston, critiqued our mentors, worked beyond our expected limits in Kenya, and questioned the boundaries between land and sea – and this is just the beginning.

Common Ground is a representation of our particular school, within its unique context, responding to a particular question at a particular moment. In this way, it is a snapshot of the School of Architecture and its sphere of influence seen twice annually through a critical, unifying lens. We are peer-reviewed because we encourage the dialogue that comes from critical conversations. We are student-run because we value inverting norms in order to remake them. Common Ground seeks to inject new design culture and critical thinking into the School of Architecture and our broader contexts within Northeastern University, Boston, and a rich regional design ethos. We are unabashedly of our place and time, and we learn local lessons to be applied at a global scale.


CONTRIBUTORS

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DIEGO FERRARI

DAN ADAMS + MARIE LAW ADAMS

P H OTO E S S AY: PAV I L I O N P E R F O R M AT I V I T Y

W H AT P U B L I C ? T H O U G H T S O N B O S TO N ’ S WAT E R F RO N T

Diego Ferrari is an artist and photographer based in London. His recent work takes a fine art approach to street photography and the visualization of urban life. His work interrogates the relationship between social values and public spaces, with a particular interest in the relationship between the body and its environment, articulating modes of individual and collective experiences and social relations. He studied Fine Art in Barcelona, completed a Fine Art BA at Goldsmiths, University of London and was awarded an MA in Art & Architecture at the University of Canterbury. He teaches the course on “Photography, Art, and Architecture” at Central Saint Martins and on the BA in Photography at Kingston University. Diego is also co-organizer of the annual Urban Encounters conference at Tate Britain, and a director of the Urban Photographers’ Association (UPA).

Dan Adams and Marie Law Adams founded Somerville-based Landing Studio in 2005. Their work negotiates the intersection of industrial systems and the city through the design of shared industrial and public access landscapes, light installations, demolition projects, festivals, exhibitions, tours, and industrial operations. Dan Adams is an Associate Professor at Northeastern University’s School of Architecture, and Marie Law Adams is a Lecturer in Urban Design at MIT.

NINA CHASE, ASLA

M A R K PA S N I K , A I A

GET SOCIAL! A DESIGNER’S GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA I N T E R V I E W : S P E A K I N G H E R O I C A L LY Mark Pasnik, AIA is a founding principal of over,under, a director of the Nina Chase is the Senior Project Manager at Riverlife in Pittsburgh. Formerly of Sasaki in Boston, Nina works at the intersection of landscape pinkcomma gallery, and a professor of architecture at Wentworth Institute of Technology. He was educated at Cornell University and the Harvard architecture and urban design. Her projects, including the award University Graduate School of Design. In 2013, he was appointed to the winning pop-up park, The Lawn on D, advocate for public spaces and placemaking initiatives as drivers for urban transformation. Nina was an Boston Art Commission, elected to the executive board of the Boston Society of Architects, and selected for the AIA Young Architects Award. Adjunct Lecturer at Northeastern University and currently sits on the With Michael Kubo and Chris Grimley, he authored Heroic: Concrete board of the Landscape Architecture Foundation. Architecture and the New Boston, published by The Monacelli Press in 2015.

The inaugural issue of Common Ground was made possible with the financial support of the School of Architecture Advisory Board and the School of Architecture Alumni and Family Fund. It would not have been possible without the help of Mary Hughes, Kate Zephir, Lucy Maulsby, Emily Neumann, Beth Pugliano, the Boston Society of Architects, the Mies van der Rohe Foundation, and the Enric Miralles Foundation.

Common Ground is an independent group and peer-reviewed publication, run and produced by graduate students at the School of Architecture. All rights revert to the original authors and artists.

Common Ground 151 Ryder Hall Northeastern University 360 Huntington Ave. Boston, MA 02115


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IN-HOUSE F E AT U R E D ST U D E N T WO R K In every issue, we feature work from students at the Northeastern School of Architecture that displays design thinking through differing forms of media as pertains to the issue’s topic. By working between writing, drawing, building, reading, and analyzing we gain a deeper understanding of the full spectrum of the design process and its various manifestations.

E SSAY TA L K W I T H YO U R H A N D S SARA S CHWARTZ It started with a line. A single, most imperfect, “straight” line that I drew. I continued the line down the page and slowly that line began a foundation for more imperfect lines to build upon. I was attempting to sketch the “Dancing House” in Prague when a man who also had a sketchbook approached me. We started talking and I soon learned that he was a graduate architecture student. I expressed to him my interest in graduate school, but not before taking a year off to work in the field. He reciprocated with his own story of how he took two years off to work at Perkins + Eastman. He then proceeded to give me the contact number

of his boss and I landed the interview. It starts with a line, but that is just the beginning. Sketching is understanding where the line on the paper begins and ends. Why does that line end where it does? Does it lead to another line or does it end abruptly? Do these lines communicate? Do the lines tell a story about the construction of the building? The significance of all of this is to use sketching as a form of communication. When I met the man in Prague, sketching was the tool of communication in a most literal sense, but it is much more often the metaphorical bridge between people. Take for instance the two

types of people who we all agree rarely agree with each other: engineers and architects. In professional practice, if the architect is called to a job site for complications, whatever they may be, the architect must be able to sketch out what he or she wants to achieve practically and aesthetically. Then the engineer may pull out his or her own sketch to depict why the architect’s solution will work, or more likely than not, will not work. Despite what the outcome may be, the key is there would be no outcome if either one did not know how to properly use freehand sketching as a tool for communication. In school I often questioned why I

BOOK REVIEW “ W H AT I S L A N D S C A P E ? ” BY J O H N ST I L G O E REVIEWED BY CYRUS DAHMUBED John Stilgoe is not an architect. However, What is Landscape?, like many of his other books are indispensible works for designers of every ilk. Architecture, in particular, is a visual discipline and this book displays there are few greater masters of comprehending and analyzing the visible realm than its author. What is Landscape? delves deeply into an encyclopedic walk in – and out – of the woods that establishes a powerful new paradigm for the communication of landscape terminology and concepts. As his many students know, there is no greater tool for designers than careful observation and critical thinking. This text embodies that and in the process has managed

to provide a new framework for the way we are able to communicate about what surrounds us. As designers, we often turn first to drawing, and only secondarily to words to articulate our thoughts, but What is Landscape? manages to explain through text the very notions and emotions we are frequently try to provoke though too often fail to – when we draw. What is Landscape? might have been a very brief text; its very first line explains that landscape is a noun designating the surface of the earth that is changed and changing through the efforts of human hands. From this simple assertion, it takes readers on an etymological and lexicographic tour of elements of the built

and unaltered environment at every scale and of every nature enhanced by an encyclopedic knowledge, keen eye, and sharp wit. From rivers to roads, streams to city walls, Stilgoe traces the words we use through their histories from English, to Dutch, to Frisian, and often as far back as Sanskrit to truly understand how and why we inherently understand that a “lane” and a “way” are somehow different, even without any articulable knowledge of how they are. More than a mere etymological history however, the book rewards the reader who has observed the world around them closely enough to recognize how inextricable behavior and words can be. Our word choice influences

Sara Schwartz is a first year Master of Architecture student. She received her Bachelor of Design in Architecture at the University of Florida in 2015. Her hobbies are writing, sketching, and travelling. She aspires to one-day step foot on all seven continents.


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needed to learn these skills if I can represent the same idea digitally. It’s a valid question, especially in a world with computers that look like phones and glasses. But there is a certain level of trust placed in an architect who can produce a clear sketch on the spot. It is the same sense of assurance one feels when their accountant can formulate numbers on the spot without frantically searching for his or her calculator. I have sat in meetings with my boss and the client, and the client would ask to clarify a certain aspect of a building. Trust was always strongly assured when my boss would clarify and further sell the idea with a sketch

that was done on the spot. Above all else, my favorite use of sketching is to communicate amongst fellow architects. While studying abroad, my friends and I bonded through sketching buildings like the Barcelona Pavilion, Therme Vals, and the Brion Cemetery. We would learn from our different sketching techniques and discover details and spatial connections that we would not have noticed otherwise. In the professional sense, to be able to communicate ideas with bosses and coworkers is an invaluable skill. No matter where one is sketching in the world, it always garners some sort of attention.

Locals and tourists alike are always intrigued by a person sketching. Some will compliment you, some will critique you, but many will just want to talk with you. Once, while sketching in Greece, an architecture professor from China quipped that my notorious imperfect lines weren’t straight enough. I then proceeded to ask, “How does one draw a perfectly straight line?”. Though his English was broken, he picked up my pencil and sketchbook, drew the most perfectly straight line I have ever seen, and said, “You must draw from the heart”.

And it all started with a line.

everything from how we react to a place to how it is perceived through generations of history. A bog is scary, a marsh less so. Subtleties of action, nuances of dialect, histories forgotten, broken, and recomposed from fact and folklore have all altered and continue to impact our implicit understandings of our everyday environments. In its own preface, What is Landscape? informs its readers’ actions and relationship to place by telling us that it belongs at home. This is not a book for the road, the train, the plane, and certainly not for a walk. Like anyone who has ever heard Prof. Stilgoe lecture knows, there are times to listen and learn and other times to see and scrutinize. This book belongs to the

former category, but proves meaningful within the latter the moment a reader steps outside with open eyes. Why a home and instead not a homestead? Why a farm and not a firm? In our city of rapidly developing and evolving coastlines, urban, landscape, and architectural designers will appreciate and value from learning how deeply rooted is our understanding of the difference between a wharf, a dock, and a pier. Parents will find long-awaited comprehension of why they knew as children, just as their children do now, that bridges – and particularly the act of crossing them – carry with them both a sense of magic and of foreboding.

Our world is increasingly an endless series of high-tech screens that propose to solve our problems, often while only further complicating simple tasks and failing to distinguish between information and knowledge. It has become all too easy to forget to look at simple things and ask not only what they mean, but also why they mean what they do. What is Landscape? is a mastery of the implicit; it is the science of the ineffable and the codification of that which very few observe, and even fewer are able to articulate.

What, ultimately, is landscape?

John Stilgoe is the Robert and Lois Orchard Professor in the History of Landscape Development at Harvard University, an accomplished photographer, and author of more than nine books. What is Landscape? is available for purchase from The MIT Press.


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PROJECT D E S I G N I N G F O R D I G N I T Y: A C O R N E R S TO N E F O R H O P E MADISON ROGERS

A serendipitous encounter in early May 2014 led to an extraordinary journey to a Kenyan mountaintop where my perspective on the social role of architecture was forever changed through the design and construction of a science building for a secondary school for underprivileged girls. Five days after returning home from my sophomore year at Northeastern I was introduced to the founders of the Jane Adeny Memorial School (JAMS). Established in 2011 in Fort Ternan, Kenya, this small boarding school is making a significant impact in the lives of young women. It was here that I spent the next four months working in any capacity I could, getting to know the extraordinary stories of the young women, the instructors, and the passion behind the founders’ mission to provide a transformative learning environment where everyone has the potential to grow with dignity and integrity. Here I experienced life in rural Kenya; coped with the issues of sanitation, access to water, electricity, and transportation, along with the relevance of having a safe environment in which to live and learn in order to break the cycle of poverty.

Though the programmatic elements of the science building were not complex in nature, the real test was maintaining empathetic and realistic expectations that focused on the baseline needs of the students and the school, albeit staying within their limited fundraised budget. I had to adapt my mindset, design methodology, and therefore the resulting architecture to fit within the context of JAMS and Kenyan culture. Building materials, orientation, and site location are imperative in providing a building that catalyzes on passive design strategies to maintain comfort. The hipped roof provides shade, and minimizes solar heat gain, while allowing heat to rise to

the roof’s ridge. The offset window heights allows for cross-ventilation while blocking the predominant southern winds from inferring with laboratory experiments. The site is extremely remote, with electricity provided by solar panels and water pumped from a borehole at the base of the steep and rocky hill. Building materials were locally sourced from a stone quarry near the village market in order to save on transportation costs and allow for the utilization of regional construction methods. This provided the most economical and efficient structure, while offering excellent thermal lag potential for diurnal temperature variations.


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At a time when architecture is always challenging the norm and pushing boundaries, it is important to step back and recognize the proper time and place to do so. In actuality, the JAMS science building’s success will not be measured by its architecture or aesthetics. Its success will be derived from the strengths of the existing community, while reinforcing the mission of JAMS to build a community that inspires, transforms, and champions the livelihood of young women. Its success will be measured on how it provides a safe space for students to learn, challenge themselves, build self-confidence, and create a sense of social agency. It is instilling in them that they matter and deserve a space to learn. The impact of the science building will be larger than its four walls – it will be a symbol to the students and the community that quality education, human dignity, and gender equality are vital to a stable and thriving socio-economic world, thus casting a ripple effect on the generations to follow.

equinox

summer + winter

Madison Rogers is a 5th year B.S. of Architecture student from Chicago, with minors in Urban Studies, and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. She has completed two co-ops at Overland Partners in San Antonio, TX, and ZGF Architects in Portland, OR. She has also studied abroad in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia and Berlin, Germany.


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FOLLOW THE LEADER

Social media has become a tremendously impactful platform for both the representation of art and design and discourses surrounding it. We turn to Twitter for information and Instagram for inspiration. Here, we provide a curated list of accounts that serve as powerful resources and that use their platforms to communicate in unique ways that maximize on the potential of these new media forms.

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CHRISTINE CIPRIANI @CHRISTINECIPRI Christine Cipriani is the coauthor of Cape Cod Modern and is a vocal architecture critic whose Twitter feed often finds her engaging with local design projects and beginning coversations with other designers and critics.

BOSTON SOCIETY OF ARCHITECTS @BSAAIA Following the BSA will guarantee you’re constantly up-todate with all of the city’s architecture and design events, large and small. They also feature design competitions and the enthralling exhibits put up in their gallery, BSA Space.

MASCONTEXT @MASCONTEXT MAS Context is a Chicago-based, quarterly, not-for-profit journal that tackles issues within the urban landscape. Their feed is filled with design resources that will provide you with a strong foundation in current critical discourses.

B L D U P. C O M @BLDUP BLDUP is a reliable resource to check-in on the planning and progress of nearly any project in the Boston area. Just a quick glance will guarantee you’re in-the-know on all of the city’s most significant, and occasionally controversial, projects.

BOSTON PLANNING + DEVELOPMENT AGENCY @BOSTONPLANS The former Boston Redevelopment Authority’s account will keep you updated on how to get engaged in the planning process of local projects as well as local development events.

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ALEXANDRA LANGE @LANGEALEXANDRA Architecture critic wunderkind Alexandra Lange posts stunning photos from her travels to the most singificant projects in art and architecutre, both new and old. As a bonus, her Twitter account provides witty, brief criticism.

B RU TA L A R C H I T EC T U R E @ B RU TA L _ A R C H I T EC T U R E Brutal Architecture highlights Brutalist and concrete architecture from around the globe, including very unknown or long forgotten projects representative of this unique and largely misunderstood architectural style.

KYLE BIANCHI @BIANKSY Northeastern University student Kyle Bianchi posts stunning photos, primarily of his adventures around Boston, making this account a must-follow for those both familiar with and new to the city.

H AC I N + A S S O C I AT E S @ H AC I N A S S O C I AT E S Local architecture office, Hacin + Associates posts everything from their beautifully designed details and projects and insights into the design process, to exciting local architectural events and even the occasional cute dog.

D A I LY O V E R V I E W @ D A I LY O V E R V I E W Daily Overview features exquisite satelite imagery of some of Earth’s most fascinating urban and natural places and patterns. An eponymous book has recently been published and boasts 288 pages of perspective-changing overviews.


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INFOGRAPHIC D E S I G N BY N U M B E R : R A N K I N G L A N D M A R K S BY H A S H TA G A LY A A B O U R E Z K As one of the most popular social media platforms, over 80 million photos are posted to Instagram every day. We selected 10 architectural landmarks to compare based on hashtag data from the over 40 billion photos that have been posted to Instagram. The data reveal patterns in cultural norms and social media habits that offer insight into how we consume architecture. Some trends surprise, while others seem cliché.

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COLOSSEUM

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EIFFEL TOWER

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TIMES SQUARE

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TOWER BRIDGE

GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

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Paris, France 2,900,815 #’s

New York, USA 2,083,441 #’s

San Fransisco, USA 2,036,850 #’s

Milan, Italy 1,825,321 #’s

DUBAI MALL Dubai, UAE 1,700,236 #’s

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Rome, Italy 1,317,555 #’s London, UK 986,114 #’s

Barcelona, Spain 335,885 #’s

SAN MARCOS BASILICA

Venice, Italy 311,990 #’s

ST. BASIL’S CATHEDRAL

Moscow, Russia 31,749 #’s


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PAV I L I O N P E R F O R M AT I V I T Y DIEGO FERRARI with assistant, Michael Frank

1 In the summer of 2016 I directed a creative workshop entitled, Photography, Art, and Performativity for Northeastern University’s monthlong Dialogue of Civilizations program in Barcelona run by Prof. Xavier Costa I introduced the students to the Enric Miralles Foundation, which serves to preserve the work of the great Catalan architect who died in the year 2000, and which also graciously served as our studio and gallery. We also conducted a photographic workshop in one of Mies van der Rohe’s iconic buildings, the Barcelona Pavilion.

S PA C E + B O DY

Designed and built for the 1928-29 International Exhibition and a monument to modernity, van der Rohe’s pavilion is an ideal creative studio to put into practice a conceptual approach to photography. The photographic work displayed here takes its inspiration from the relationship between three disciplines: photography, architecture, and performance. Our focus was on the synergy between the natural phenomena of the pavilion space, the symbolic power of the body, and photographic representation. Students were asked to consider how, since the Modernist period, the body has become both a repository and signifier of lived experiences. The body not only expresses physical manifestations of being, but also has its inner psychological reality. The conceptual underpinnings of the workshops are to be found in phenomenology and theories of embodiment, which focus on the body as a critical tool. No individual exists without a body, and no body exists without an unconscious. In addition to reflecting on embodiment, students were tasked with examining the cultural, political, and philosophical forces that inform the body’s experience in the world. Public and private spaces are key elements of the imagined communities we call nations.


10 The Space + Body photographic project combined four elements used by Modernists, architects, and artists. Firstly, we considered the blue pigment used by Yves Klein, who stated that “blue has no dimensions; it is the invisible becoming visible”. Klein asserted that the effect of the color blue exists beyond its borders, by bringing about a perception between meditation and activity. The second element is the anthropometric ‘modular man’ figure by Le Corbusier; from this a metric was created to improve the interaction between human body and its surrounding space. The third element was the building itself; a building whose design embraces the new age of modern objectivity in

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which the architects were looking for expression through the grid structure and the technology of construction. The final element was the function of one’s own body as a decisive connection to the constructed space. By focusing on an active process of a physical intention we reassessed our physical as well psychological relationship to space. According to Oscar Schlemmer, the human form becomes the point at which physical space and internal emotional forces meet and are expressed through movement. “The body relates to its surrounding space through geometry and mechanics, which also connect its invisible inner functions of heartbeat, circulation, respiration, brain

activity, and the nervous system”. Le Corbusier’s drawing engages with proportion, scale, and the twisting, and levitating of the students’ bodies. This stages the modernist ideology of the body as an extension of discourse, exploring through a playful tension the repertoire between the architectonic and human dimensions. Now, more than eighty years after the original construction of the Barcelona pavilion, and the heyday of Modernism, we reinterpreted Modernist ideals in our cultural, political, and philosophical moment. These ideals inform the body’s experience in the world. Team: Josh Lee, Tanmay Dhanopia, Kathryn Platt, Ariel Teo, Tal Soroker

BODY + OBJECT Architectural space is hugely dynamic; on one hand it is a container in which we live, and on another it is a physical material that is substantial, tangible, and solid. Our predominantly urbanized life is changing time-honored human relationships. The values, codes, freedoms, and prohibitions communicated in urban space have profound consequences for human agency, identity, and its relationship with culture, politics, and society. This project is based on groups of young people, challenging social codes of authority, consumption, and the mechanisms of daily life in the city. With their actions they elicit a personal approach, which is not about establishing a theoretical position, but rather about the unrestrained reality of bodies in space. Team: Sarah Chung, Destinee Batson, Tony Jones, Riley Kusnick


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C ommoncal - fall 2 0 1 6 a curated selection of the cit y ’ s best events in art and design

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AIR IN SEARCH OF DENSITY

The pavilion is constructed as an inside-out building – when you are outside, you find you are inside and vice versa. There is no single enclosed room in the structure. The physicality of the pavilion brings about an overall design that can be compared with two key material elements. The first element is the dematerialization of the space by its use of glass and chrome-plated steel. The glass is used to demonstrate reflection, transparency, and translucency, and the reflective columns become invisible to the eye. The second element is denoted by its interior and exterior configuration. This configuration brings about a spatial opening that can be associated with the potential materialization of the air that links and simultaneously separates us. Team: Stacey Anderson, Jess Schmid, Huimin Li, Bianca Rabbie, Jonathan Corbett

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The constructed space of the city is a solid geometric environment that determines our everyday lives. When the element of water is released from its usual context, it introduces an anarchic force into the rational environment. Water fascinates us by revealing the natural patterns of a fluid structure. This simple act has its origin in the discourses of urban intervention, particularly performance art from the late 20th century. This has challenged the discursive meaning of art objects, bodies, time, and space, eliciting a playful and spontaneous response. The release of water also subverts the norms and regulations of how we are expected to behave within a public space. A spontaneous and ephemeral action becomes part of contemporary street art discourses. Team: Jossica Ramin, Nicholas Salerno, Shuyi Li, Sofia Cardamone, Amanda Ciano

L I G H T + S PA C E

We were fortunate to be working under the brilliant sun of the Mediterranean summer. Natural light interacts with architectural spaces to make regimes of precision and perception. Light is an indivisible, intangible, and indispensible material in architecture. We noted how light also generates its own immaterial antithesis: the shadow. Absence and presence of light are both extant and abstract entities. We performed various exercises to measure and interact with light, as well as to capture it, including charting the course of the sun in the dimensions of the pavilion and experimenting with technical aspects of photography to represent and manipulate the intangible element of light. Team: Jessica Osher, Cara Jennings, Gloria Lee, Raj Thakkar, leana Cortessi


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S P E A K I N G H E R O I C A L LY C Y RU S D A H M U B E D I N T E RV I E W S M A R K PA S N I K Since its release last year, HEROIC: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston has become a quick classic for a broad audience in Boston and New England, and for the larger design community. Authors Mark Pasnik, Chris Grimley, and Michael Kubo sought to re-contextualize an oft-misunderstood and frequently hated architectural moment. We sat down to discuss how HEROIC has begun to change the discourse surrounding Brutalism and design thinking and criticism more generally.

CD: As I have been putting together this first issue around the theme of “Outreach” within the broader topic of “Discourse,” I’ve been thinking a lot about who the originally intended audience was for HEROIC. Was it architects, was it lay-people? What was the goal? MP: HEROIC is part of a longer project lasting more than eight years. Our very first exhibition at pinkcomma occurred in 2007. It focused on Boston City Hall, at a time when Mayor Menino wanted to tear it down or sell it and move to the Seaport. We felt like we should have a voice in the discussion about the building’s future. ArchitectureBoston had done a special issue and commissioned a number of young architects to do proposals for how to make the building better without demolishing it. We opened the gallery with those proposals as our first exhibition. The exhibit got us thinking about the many concrete buildings in Boston, which at the time were generally being described as “ugly” or “horrible” or “Stalinist.” No matter which adjectives appeared in the press, they were always negative. The buildings were aging; tastes had moved on from that type of architecture and there was a misreading of them as representing “big government,” when in fact they were really about a type of central government that aimed to help people. Our goal with the later exhibition—which we titled “Heroic”— was to catalogue the buildings and catalyze a conversation about them. We used photography as well as positive and negative descriptions of the buildings from architectural texts and articles by historians, authors, and critics. This content formed a wall of 11x17 prints with essays and project sheets. Visitors could grab whichever project sheets and essays they wanted and take them out of the gallery. The hope was that they might get left in a coffee shop or on a bus, such that the exhibit would propagate a larger conversation outside the walls of the gallery. I don’t know how effective that show was at reaching broader audiences, but I think it did initiate a conversation in Boston about these buildings, especially within the design community. CD: From the people who were already watching… MP: Yes, and I think it got some people interested who maybe hadn’t really thought too much about concrete modernism. But that was our first salvo into this kind of communication around concrete buildings. We continued to speak on the topic. This was all well before the book and I would say the reactions tended to be pretty negative to our content. Chris [Grimley] and I sometimes expected people to be in the back row ready with pitchforks. In this way, our role as advocates began upstream, arguing for a body of work most people didn’t have much knowledge about and certainly didn’t like very much. Of course, many in the audiences were interested and friendly and asked very good questions, but we still

sensed a deep anger toward the buildings; it was just a visceral reaction. As we started to delve deeper into HEROIC, it became a twofold research project. One aspect of it has been archival: about collecting historical imagery, information, and interviews into a repository. The other has been to see the project as a tool for advocacy and education. We could expose a deeper story that would help these buildings be discussed in ways that display their positive values. Armed with this story, people might still dismiss them—even continue to say they’re ugly— but at least they would know more about them first. In relation to your journal’s theme, with HEROIC we’re communicating mostly as historians by collecting content, framing it, and exposing stories. Our proudest accomplishment has been recording the voices of other people, especially the architects who were behind many of the works in the book. It’s really enlightening to speak with them and to learn about their intentions and how we might be misreading those intentions today. CD: Intentionality also plays into potential, right? You can ask these architects, “how was this supposed to be?” and then attempt to find a way to reinterpret that intentionality into a proposal that makes it successful in the intended way, but for a different age. MP: Exactly. City Hall is a great example of that. Michael McKinnell—you were there at the event at the BSA where he said, “It needs” . . . what was his phrase? CD: I asked the question he was responding to; he said, “Do something bold.” MP: Something bold. Michael doesn’t want the building to be returned exactly its original state when it opened to the public. The building is actually predicated on change; preserving it in its original state would run counter to the building’s DNA. It is meant to change and evolve over time. As a consequence, we’re advocating for the building to be kept a city hall, but also for its original intentions to be understood—intentions that suggest we should be open to an intelligent transformation of it. By exposing a deeper story we can see that there’s nuance in how we should proceed in the future. CD: I’m curious to know whether you think the book has impacted or changed minds about the movements of the Boston Redevelopment Authority at the time and that particular political style and moment in Boston. MP: I think part of your question is whether we’re too positive, are we cheerleading for a time that’s troubled? I do think that we’re probably more positive than purely objective. That’s shaped by our interest in resuscitating this period and in counterbalancing the prevailing negativity with which the period is received. Your other question is whether we had an impact and I would say, surprisingly, yes. We were involved pretty early on with establishing interest in concrete modernism, although of

course there are many other voices in Boston and globally, especially in the United Kingdom. But I do think we hit a nerve at exactly the right time. The book has had something like fifty articles written on it. And it’s sort of shocking that one book would have that many—of course, not all of them have been nice. But it’s been referenced in so many places, which I believe shows that the discourse is snowballing. There’s a changing tide. CD: At the end of HEROIC there’s the “anti-hero” interview with Mary Otis Stevens, where you got into some hot water with her about the term “Heroic.” She suggests that her architecture is about humility and not heroism and that you needed a more complex label: at the very least, “HEROIC?” But I agree with your assertion that “Heroic” successfully encompasses the greatest aspirations and the most tragic potential downfalls. When you were coming up with the term, what did it mean to you and how did that lead you to choose it as the title? MP: In terms of your topic this is an excellent point. We had many discussions behind it—and post-rationalizing too. Heroic is just a good word. It’s a good moniker. Chris, I recall, coined it. He had “Heroic Modernism” and later we thought, “why don’t we just call it ‘Heroic’?” That became the first exhibit’s title. We loved our energetic interview with Mary. Her outlook tends to be from a counter-culture point of view to begin with, so her pushing back on us felt natural—and stimulated a lot of thought. CD: It also actually supports the definition that you chose. MP: Well the discourse of it, yes. Her questions forced us to be more precise about what we meant. I think she was slightly misinterpreting the word to mean grandeur. In our sense, there’s the unsung hero, and she exhibits this more modest heroism. She was utopian in her ideals; she was trying to change society. That’s a heroic scale of activity. Even though it might have been through modest mechanisms—her architecture was quite modest—there are still aspirations that exceed even the scale of the building trade. There’s a social aspiration in her work. It’s monumental even if the forms aren’t. She was railing against monumentality as a formal idea—I could see that interpretation coming out of the title too, but that’s not what we intended. CD: Changing the way people live is no less of an aspiration than saving the city, yet so few people think about this architecture—apart, perhaps, from architects— as monumental. MP: The architects believed that monumentality was important, and that it could communicate the nature of the civic realm, which was viewed as more important than the commercial realm. A city hall should be more monumental than an office building. Again, her point relates to your journal’s theme because something as simple as word choice carries a lot


16 of meaning. Mary’s distaste for “Heroic” was that it seems more like advocating than it does examining a balanced picture—that we are being too one-sided by presenting the buildings as heroic. She argued that we should take a more objective middle ground and allow the chips to fall where they may. We were trying to counteract an existing negativity with some level of advocacy using a term that can be perceived positively but which—in its second reading—has multiple layers. That’s what we liked about it: Heroic is positive in the first place, whereas Brutalism is negative from the start. Beyond this, Heroic has an ability to communicate the complexity of the time because of its link to concepts such as an “Achilles’ heel” that exists behind heroism, and even the link to hubris common in mythology. Our lecture titles are often “Heroism and Hubris” to make that point clear. It is important to note that Heroic is meant to connect as much to the aspirations as the formal characteristics of the architecture. Brutalism is also, we feel, historically inappropriate as a term applied wholesale to the American context. None of the architects we interviewed wanted their work to be identified as Brutalist. CD: And yet, their architecture has been characterized as such. In the articles that have followed HEROIC, the word itself is often written with a capital “H” and has started to be used as an alternative for Brutalism. Do you see a problem there? Do those terms need to be distinguished? MP: Well, we’ve never fully defined Heroic beyond the book. You are right, it is a task we need to still take on. CD: The buildings in the book are Heroic, that’s agreed upon? MP: Yes—but can a brick building just as easily be Heroic? Can something outside this time period be Heroic? What is the definition, really, of what Heroic is? I’m not sure that we’ve gotten that answer down completely. Is it the historian’s role to name a period, and then to force everything to squeeze into the rules of that naming? Or does the time period become acknowledged in some way as a movement? [Reyner] Banham was asking some of these very questions when he coined “the New Brutalism.” The labeling of all the world’s concrete buildings with one term is rife with trouble; it seems to actually undermine the diversity of the period. We chose to stay focused on Boston because we felt it was such an important collection of buildings and could be a lens to other places. The focus also allowed us to go into depth on one place, with one tradition. So will “Heroic” apply to all American concrete buildings? I don’t think it should. But I do understand the attraction to it for people who like these buildings and want to use this term instead of Brutalism. There is a second reaction to our name, a negative one from Brutalism lovers. We’ve heard a few people say that changing the term is just a dumb idea, tantamount to flimsy branding, and that we should just embrace the actual term: Brutalism. Probably we’ll get to a point when Brutalism as a term—even if Heroic is impactful and becomes a substitute—will spring back up and take over again. I find these kinds of discussions compelling. How do you package a movement, whether it’s appropriate to do that or not? What impact does a word choice have on public perception? CD: This idea of packaging is actually being complicated by the book, right? There’s a growing identity crisis around the term “Heroic,” and that’s partially because people have misunderstood the logic of the book and have interpreted it as “Brutalism = Heroic”: that the words are the same. But for you, what defines a building as Heroic is a set of aspirations, concepts, and ideals. So the buildings in the book highlight those concepts. If another building subscribes to those concepts, is it Heroic as well? MP: There’s a tradition in Boston of exposed concrete slabs with brick infill, for instance, and many other

design approaches from that time period. Even a building like Hugh Stubbins’ Countway Library in Longwood is actually clad in stone. It is essentially detailed so everything about it looks like a concrete building but it’s a stone veneer. There are many examples of buildings that have the character of Heroic modernism, but are in another material. We decided to keep the book as pure as possible by really looking at exposed concrete as a language that was being used widely here, especially with civic and institutional buildings. CD: The consensus, potentially, is that Heroic architecture does not necessarily have to be concrete architecture. Returning to our topic of communication, why do these buildings struggle so much to communicate their intentions to the average person, to the people for whom they are typically meant? And what makes them so conceptually—and sometimes physically—inaccessible to those people? MP: That’s a good question. My cop-out answer is I can’t put my head into people’s minds to get at why they don’t like it. It might be a question of whether aesthetics are learned or inherent. These buildings are partly suffering from a cultural construct around them that has vilified them; they’re seen as being alien. Over the last few decades—less so today—there has been such an insistence on context and continuity. These buildings—which are different, which are in some cases radical and in some cases departures—have been framed in a very negative light. There’s also the nature of the material; people seem to dislike concrete because it can be dark and gray. I’m not convinced this means that the buildings are all terrible for all time, or whether the reaction is due to a cultural outlook that can change. We’ve been pretty annoyed at the [Boston] Globe because every time the paper mentions a concrete building, it’s always referred to in some very negative fashion—or someone is quoted saying “it’s ugly” or “it’s terrible.” CD: Increasingly though, they’re also mentioning the three of you and HEROIC, as the counterargument—a little bit of balance. MP: We like that! Still, these buildings have been framed with this very negative narrative for such a long time. Many are also in rough shape. But I really do believe that the negative outlook is changing. In the events where we have spoken, we have been finding a renewed optimism for and interest in the buildings, especially in changing them and making them better. This comes from a much wider audience than just architects. That’s another prevailing story: that only architects love these buildings, and that everyone else hates them. I have found that to not really be the case anymore. There are many people who are not architects and who have started to respect and be fascinated by them. CD: Basically it comes down to misunderstandings and cultural constructs that we have about the buildings. MP: And some realities: there are issues about what state they’re in today. Likewise, there are some people who don’t connect to their “big and powerful” aesthetic. Of course, it’s not a good reason to tear them down, but I can still understand people not liking them. In fact, our first major article on the topic was in Architect magazine; we titled it “Tough Love.” Heroic buildings are more of an acquired taste; they’re not easy, happy, lovely, smallscaled. They’re actually representing a time of struggle, power, and government being big, being monumental, being a hopeful force of change. All of these things are wrapped up in what the buildings express, and that’s why I find them so alluring: because they reflect a particular time with particular attitudes. That’s the beautiful thing about studying history: seeing the evolution of cultural ideals expressed through architecture across time. Concrete architecture is a great expression of a particular moment. It would be sad—even if we don’t like the aesthetic—to eliminate this

voice from our history. CD: To go full circle back to City Hall’s usage and the idea of bringing it back to life, there was an idea to add a bar, a rathskeller, to City Hall in an article by Mike Ross in Boston Magazine this summer. I was thinking about how we perceive the building and—going back to HEROIC being a response to Menino saying, “We’re leaving”—is there a way that the building, and buildings like it, can be re-contextualized? Can they change from public buildings into potentially private or commercial buildings? M: I would say, absolutely yes, as the short answer. C: But how does that reprogramming change it? Does it stay Heroic? M: I’ve had a discussion with Daniel Bluestone of Boston University—he directs the preservation program— about the role of civic society compared to commercial society, surrounding my students’ studies for Paul Rudolph’s Government Service Center. Most of what my students were doing is exactly what you’re saying about reprogramming: what if you add a tower for housing or a hotel and then re-use some of the spaces for commercial functions that would animate the street. Bluestone’s response was pretty critical of that approach. He said that these are civic buildings and they should maintain their civic identity. I believe he’s right in the abstract. If the civic realm were still robust, there would be ways to animate the Government Service Center and program it to have really exciting life around it. Unfortunately we no longer invest in the civic realm in the way we did during the 1960s. Today, government organizations are thinking about how to use their buildings to the best public effect with the least amount of public money. In fact there are concerns in government not to lavish too much attention on buildings like City Hall when schools and transit are in such disrepair. The optics would be a problem for any public official. So, it’s hard to imagine the full transformation of something like the Government Service Center will happen based on government action alone. It is much more likely that there will be private market interests involved. Even Michael [McKinnell] at the Boston Society of Architects event was talking about the entire series of ground floors at City Hall becoming something else, like a museum. Government needs have shifted; there’s now less call for a central office building of that scale. Most of the original counters that service the public are unnecessary today, and so it makes sense to change the building in response. The idea of a rathskellar, as a concept, is a very good one because it’s about positive experiences, public life, and entering into the building in a memorable, enjoyable way. But it is a city hall; it should be something more powerful than just another commercial district. I’ll say to you as a member of a younger generation, both MIT and DCAMM [Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance], the state agency that manages the Government Service Center, are responsible for a large body of concrete and modernist buildings. Both of them have publicly said that in the next five years, most of their capital funding will be spent on resuscitating existing buildings rather than building new ones. The 1960s were an era of enormous growth for universities and government, and all those buildings are now reaching an advanced age. Many a good career will come out of thinking about these buildings creatively and finding joy in transforming them. It is something that we as architects should be ready to do: to show people the future of what these buildings could be.


17

GET SOCIAL! A DESIGNER’S GUIDE TO SOCIAL MEDIA NINA CHASE

It’s 12:34pm on Monday and Twitter is humming along as usual. My feed is reminding me that Bjarke Ingels (@BjarkeIngels) is gallivanting around Italy, IDEO University (@IDEOU) gives me a lesson on how “Writing Regularly Can Improve my Creativity and Clarity” (thanks for the reminder!), Northeastern’s College of Arts, Media, and Design (@NU_CAMD) promotes Boston’s second round of hidden sidewalk poetry, and Sasaki (@SasakiDesign) celebrates it latest Chicago Riverwalk construction progress (#FloatingWetlands!). Post after post flits by, an outpouring of my favorite 140-character architectural heavy hitters and the occasional, bravely vocal emerging landscape architect. Designers have fully embraced social media as a means to be visible, vocal, and viscerally connected to their peers and patrons. Platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Pinterest facilitate the broadcasting of updates on our projects, generate discourse around thought-provoking articles, and allow us to populate endless libraries of precedents, all accessible 24/7 with the swipe of a finger. But as my landscape architecture colleague Tim Mollette- Parks (@tmopa) noted recently, “It’s getting noisy out there!” How can you determine what’s of most value and be heard through all the shouting? Historically, architects and designers have relied on glossy magazine spreads and visually enticing coffee table tomes to promote their work. These well-trod methods of marketing, however, require elite access to publishers and months, if not years, of curating. Today, the traditional modes of monographic perfection have been supplemented with quicker, lighter, cheaper means of outreach. Now anyone, from the world’s leading critics to studio-bound architecture students, can have a public opinion on OMA’s latest work, showcase glimpses of study models, or create a viral Tumblr devoted to cat + architecture memes, which thankfully already exists! But let’s be realistic. Whether you’re a student or a professional, there are only so many hours in a day and most of them involve being chained to your desk chair. So, how can you strategically employ social

media to best serve your needs? Whether you want to document the development of your latest project, catalogue photos of jointing details, or be a vocal advocate for a societal problem, you can put social media to work for you. H e r e ’s h o w : Be an Inspiration We all have our go-to fount of design inspiration. ArchDaily (@Archdaily), The Architect’s Newspaper (@Archpaper), World Landscape Architecture (@wlandscapearch), and Landezine (@Landezine) are bookmarked in the browsers of many designers. Sites like these can provide endless design fodder for when our creativity feels spent. But lesser known sources, like the Instagram accounts of local artists or a creative friend, can be inspirational resources for a much-needed visionary jolt. Lifting the curtain and taking a peek into the lives of others’ creative processes can inspire your own design thinking. But the buck shouldn’t stop at being inspired - you too can be a muse. Do you find yourself drawn to a particular style of architectural rendering? Are you incessantly taking photos of paving patterns? Do you have an opinion on a newsworthy design issue? Start documenting through posting. Social media can help you establish yourself as someone in the know. If you’re collecting articles, images, and updates as part of your design research, post them to Twitter and/or Facebook. You’ll be able to engage with others who are exploring similar topics. If you document through photography, your imagery will find a welcome home within the design community on Instagram. For a dose of inspirational whimsy and travel envy check out the Instagram feed of Dennis Pieprz (@dpieprz). The Boston-based urban designer and globetrotter documents playful runway arrangements from his airplane window and collects images of international street life. His snapshots are consistently bold, colorful, and thought provoking. The collective impact of his work is a delightful reminder to find joy in the everyday.

Pick a theme and run with it. Repetition is memorable and fun. And don’t be afraid to switch things up. Your posts don’t have to be perfect or polished to be meaningful.


18 Document your Process How do you start a design project? You might begin with a quick sketch or dig into mountains of historic data. Whatever the beginning, middle, and end of your methods, social media can help you record snapshots of your research, your thinking, and your final drafts. Tumblr, Instagram, and Twitter are perfect tools for seamlessly creating a digital archive of your design process. Even if your posts are rough-around-the-edges, posting publically is an effective way to keep yourself accountable to making progress. Not only is there benefit for you to have a digital record of your design development, but by showcasing your process, you can show others - like future clients - how you think, design, and implement projects.

Tumblr, the blog-like platform, makes cataloging a design process seamless. In graduate school I documented my final studio project via a Tumblr. I committed to posting to Tumblr at least once a week. The personal deadline and goal were powerful motivators to draw conclusions and make decisions in a timely manner. Through the process of posting, I also found allied accounts from which I could draw inspiration and advice. Similarly, students in the landscape architecture section of Northeastern School of Architecture’s Fall 2015 Urbanism studio were tasked with posting at least once a week to Twitter. They tagged their posts with the hashtag #NEUrbanism, starting an online, virtual studio space. Over the course of the

semester, the students’ personal documentation helped inspire their neighbor’s work. Site photos of East Boston jump-started the analysis process and links to precedents led to design revelations. Studio critics and guest lecturers chimed in as well, expanding the digital conversation outside the classroom. Today, my design partner, Philip Dugdale (@pdugdale) and I are documenting the construction of our side project Kit of Parks (@KitofParks), a portable kit of parts to build a park, via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can follow along to track our progress, watch a stop-action film complete with 40lbs of Pink Panther foam, and suggest future locations for the mobile park. Where should we park next?

Set a goal to post at least twice a week. Start small and amp up as you feel more comfortable and confident. Use hashtags to organize your content and find like-minded designers. Check out #architecture, #landarch, and #urbandesign to start.

Create a Conversation Designers are taking social media to the streets, quite literally, using digital platforms as tools for community engagement. Hashtags, Facebook pages, and online mapping exercises are increasingly complementing traditional community meetings by offering real-time alternatives for information gathering. The digital dialogue gives voice to those who might not traditionally attend public meetings and allows for greater distribution of information. In essence, social media allows designers to cast a wider net that reaches a broader audience and crucially - has a built-in method for feedback. Gathering community input most often results in richer, meaningful, place-based projects. Local planning efforts in Boston and Cambridge have employed social media engagement campaigns (#ImagineBoston and

#EnvisionCambridge) to empower citizens outside the confines of city hall. Images, public opinion, and facts and figures are collated under a common hashtag and relayed back to the design team to better inform the design and planning process. Sasaki’s Sea Change: Boston research project used digital media extensively to document the team’s research process and to create a dialogue about sea level rise in Boston. The project culminated with a physical exhibition but Sea Change lives on as a digital body of work through social media. Multiple social media campaigns - #SummerofSLR, #SemesterofSLR, and #SeaChange - became digital platforms for the Sea Change research. Twitter and Facebook were used to promote an interactive map created to invite exhibition visitors and web users to explore sea level rise

and storm surge scenarios. The “Reflections on Resilience” blog series, also promoted via social media, featured a broad range of practitioners who shared ideas and insights on how planning and design can help to create a more resilient future. By using social media the team was able to foster both online and in-person conversations about the impact of sea level rise on Boston’s residents. Set up a social media agenda for your next project and experiment with cultivating community input. Twitter and Facebook are powerful platforms to crowd-source information and can form the backbone of online engagement. Facebook event pages provide a depository for information and a location for comments while Twitter is a common ground where citizens can express their opinion and join a conversation, often to great effect.

Create a hashtag for your next project. Invite your friends and studio-mates to contribute. Interview community members and invite them to post using the hashtag. Ask permission to take photos of community members and post their quotes to create a catalogue and record of your engagement.

Now that you have an arsenal of social media amo, what do you have to lose? My advice to a social media novice: Start slow and set ground rules. Take a few moments to observe others and absorb. Overtime you will recognize patterns in varying social media approaches and you will be able to confidently chart your own course. Decide which social media platforms you want to use for work and/or play. Be thoughtful and professional, but remember, it never hurts to experiment. As Alexandra Lange (@LangeAlexandra) said recently, “Don’t wait to be maestri or maestrae. Don’t wait to be asked. Start showing what you’re made of now.” Social media is an empowering tool that gives voice to anyone who wants to be heard. Take out your phone and start contributing to the Twittersphere today! If you need additional tips, I’ll be here @ninakennychase, satiating my addiction to photos of felines and Frank Gehry’s finest. #firstworldproblems.


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W H AT P U B L I C ? T H O U G H T S O N B O STO N ’ S WAT E R F RO N T MARIE LAW ADAMS + DAN ADAMS

Like many coastal cities in the US, the waterfront of Boston is a contested landscape deriving from the numerous ways the harbor serves diverse stakeholders and values. The harbor is simultaneously a habitat landscape, an infrastructure for draining urban stormwater and transshipping goods, and following the relatively recent improvements to water quality, a magnet for private real-estate development interests and public recreation. Numerous planning initiatives and studies have been undertaken in relation to this issue, one being the ongoing Imagine Boston 2030 initiative that recently received specific funding from the Barr Foundation for a waterfront planning process. The Barr foundations contribution is specifically dedicated to promoting the waterfront as a great public realm.1 A salt ship traverses Boston Harbor on approach to the confluence of Chelsea Creek and the Mystic River.

A first challenge is to recognize that Boston is only a piece and one jurisdictional area of the harbor that also includes such areas as the Mystic River and Chelsea Creek. In recent history, Boston’s areas of the harbor have been on one development trajectory while many other parts of the harbor have been on a different trajectory. For example, while the former industries on the wharves and piers of South Boston and East Boston have been largely replaced by condominiums and hotels, other outskirt communities such as Chelsea, Everett, and Quincy have absorbed the displaced industrial and infrastructural programs. Simply put, much of “Boston” Harbor’s industrial and infrastructural operations are not actually in Boston. It is incorrect to resolve that Boston’s infrastructural role has simply disappeared, and it is equally short-sighted to call Boston a post-industrial city. That would be akin to celebrating the ‘publicness’ of Manhattan and Brooklyn’s new waterfront while pretending that the operations of Bayonne, Elizabeth, and Newark don’t exist. A fundamental question in this equation is whether Boston is shouldering its own footprint or handing it off to someone else?

and negatively impacted. The harbors of such places as Boston, New Bedford, Fall River, and Gloucester are statewide collective resources, just as the Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoirs are shared resources. When the waterfront was wet (marsh, inter-tidal, or open water) it was a communal resource subject to the public trust doctrine, laws outlining the rights of the public to such fundamentals as to fish, fowl, and navigate in these territories. These rights reflect a duality of the waterfront as both a tremendous ecological as well as infrastructural resource- where fertile, largely inter-tidal habitat provided abundant food and ecological services to the region, and the water was a buoyant medium of trade and travel. This duality is especially compelling as ecological and infrastructural service were understood to overlap and are not seen as mutually exclusive nor contradictory, but conjoined in establishing the waterfront as a profound resource for the region. When the wet-lands of Boston and its surrounds were filled to create today’s waterfront, these productive services, and accordingly the collective rights of these extensive landscapes, were fundamentally compromised because the water was replaced by land wherein such specific services and collective A second related challenge when thinking of the harbor is the rights do not exist. However, the public rights are not entirely gone, but definition of the public that have an embedded stake, and in fact rights governed instead by Chapter 91 legislation. Chapter 91 outlines that such in this landscape. This challenge is one that emerges out of the history lands, which are the vast majority of all of Boston, Chelsea, Everett, and of these waterfront landscapes. Boston is a famously filled city. Much Somerville’s waterfronts, may be privately owned, but the rights of the of what is waterfront today was marshland or even open-water several public for these territories to serve the public good remain. An important generations ago. What was wet became dry, what was tidal became question that should be asked here is, which public? Just like the controlled, and an important change occurred where what was a shared Quabbin and Wachusett Reservoir, the filling of this resource would not resource became a commodity. The ‘Commonwealth’ of Massachusetts simply compromise the rights of local residents but the rights of everyone acknowledges that there are certain resources that are of shared benefit in the region that depends on the reservoir for drinking water. Just as and value to all citizens, i.e., we share water, sunlight, and air. Good thing Pelham and West Boylston must consider the concerns of Boston when - imagine if Pelham and West Boylston decided they could increase local developing around the Quabbin, so too must Boston think of Pelham and property taxes by filling the Quabbin or Wachusett Reservoirs and selling West Boylston when developing the Boston waterfront. 1. https://www.barrfoundation.org/blog/stewarding-a-boston-treasure (posted 05/2016, accessed 10/2016) the new waterfront land to developers. Boston would be significantly


This question of public good only becomes more layered and complex when the history of the transformation of a river estuary into a harbor is considered. Boston harbor today is an expansive piece of infrastructure that has been in continual construction for centuries. It is made up of bridges, tunnels, dams, bulkheads, piers and perhaps most profoundly, a massive federal navigation channel that is regularly dredged to allow the passage of ocean going ships into the harbor for the delivery of goods that serve the city and the region. Recently, in May of 2014, the federal government appropriated 310 million dollars through the Water Resources Reform and Development Act to deepen the main navigation channels of Boston Harbor to allow the port to receive deeper draft ships that are anticipated to arrive as a result of the expansion of the Panama Canal, which opened in June 2016. The construction of the harbor has been paid for in large part through state and federal tax dollars, as a state and federal resource. Through this longstanding investment, the vast region served by and which has helped finance the harbor certainly has a critical stake in its future.

how to design in consideration of the multiple dimensions that make the waterfront a resource. Design of the waterfront cannot be conducted through siloed solutions to specific engineering challenges without negotiating the design with the broader ecological networks of the harbor.

Here lies one of the fundamental challenges of planning a harbor. On one hand, the harbor, like a reservoir, is sited in and around specific communities, so there is an immediate impact that the harbor has on the local community and, vice-versa, the community’s development practices have direct impacts on the resource. On the other hand, the harbor is a piece of regional infrastructure that the region has rights to and has invested in, and yet has less direct control of or access to.

Of course, it can be argued that Boston is an economic stimulant for the area and so the successful development of condos, museums, hospitals, and hotels creates economy that extends into the region through jobs and commerce, both temporary and permanent. Yet these are not inherently marine dependent ventures. Hotels can be successful on the waterfront or one block inland. A scrap metal dock cannot. It can also be argued that development of parks and amenities on the waterfront create a place people want to be, attracting tourists that ultimately stimulate the economy. Maybe the tourists will even travel out to Pelham. These arguments are for a trickle down urban economics, where money comes into Boston and is dispersed into the region. However, they do not fundamentally alter the equation that regional communities that are dependent on Boston Harbor for a specific infrastructural service, the port, lose the service that they helped create. If Boston Harbor fails Pelham, residents may get their home heating oil from Newark, but it will be more expensive.

Just as the potential filling of the Quabbin Reservoir would have dire consequences for Boston, local actions impact regional performance. For example, the construction of the Ted Williams Tunnel through Boston Harbor, crossing underneath the federal navigation channel, was largely undertaken to alleviate traffic in the city and create regional access to the airport. The tunnel was built at a depth that today prevents the extension of the harbor’s main ship channel beyond the tunnel. Current projects to dredge the main shipping channel of the harbor to minus 45 feet at mean low water, in order to allow the larger ‘New Panamax’ ships into the harbor must stop at the tunnel. This has consequences for the region. All ship deliveries of natural gas, salt, scrap metal, automobiles, and the vast majority of our region’s petroleumgasoline, home heating oil, and jet-fuel - need to pass over the tunnel to reach terminals that are predominantly north of Boston. The draft of the Williams Tunnel now precludes New Panamax ships from serving these terminals, and consequently the economy of goods delivery to the region is compromised. This infrastructure project highlights a design challenge that is amplified when working on the waterfront-

In a more incremental way, the slow but steady de-infrastructuralization of Boston’s waterfront erodes the performance of the harbor for goods trans-shipment into the region. The city of Boston directly benefits from condos and hotels on the waterfront through property tax. Agencies like the Boston Planning & Development Agency (BPDA formerly the BRA) might demand that a waterfront developer create an extension to the Harbor Walk, or provide an art gallery (or even a space for a nonprofit professional architecture society) to satisfy Chapter 91 requirements, for public benefit. But here again we must ask - what public? Critically, though, do these places continue to serve Pelham and West Boylston and the rest of the regions communities for which they were built? Or, is the expectation that Chelsea, Everett, and Quincy will take care of this demand.

Along Chelsea Creek, between East Boston and Chelsea, a dramatically different waterfront trajectory unfolds. Chelsea Creek is now one of ten Designated Port Areas (DPA’s) in Massachusetts. The DPA program was established largely in response to the patterns of development and de-infrastructuralization described above. While Boston was eliminating the infrastructural capacity of its waterfront, the Office of Coastal Zone Management (CZM) enacted the DPA’s to preserve key marine infrastructure that had been constructed by and for regional resilience. The DPA’s require that all development within the boundary be developed exclusively for water-dependent marine

20 industrial uses. So as Boston Harbor dresses the waterfront in splendid buildings and parks, the entire shoreline of Chelsea Creek is designated for maritime industrial uses – oil terminals, salt docks, scrap metal terminals, tug-boat piers, fishing piers, etc. While Boston abuts a large and open harbor with large constructed channels well suited to the scale of contemporary global trade, Chelsea Creek is a much smaller waterway with inhibited access for ships. City and maritime industry are much more intimate here than at the last remaining marine industries in the South Boston Reserve Channel Much of the rationale for the DPA is premised on the unpredictability of the future. For example, today there may not be a marine dependent economically competitive use of a specific waterfront parcel, but what if new technologies or new trade patterns (such as short-sea shipping) demand the reactivation of our collectively constructed shoreline infrastructure? Such developments as residences, institutions and even parks, are recognized as establishing development and occupation patterns that might prohibit the re-engagement of the waterfront with such new demands. The DPA creates a type of landscape preserve or land-bank (comparable to the preservation of rail corridor easements throughout the country) that effectively remove these waterfront parcels from the conventional market of urban real-estate. While waterfront development in downtown Boston and the Seaport (a debate over the capitalization of this word highlights the transformation of the area) flourishes, much of the waterfront of Chelsea Creek is relatively undeveloped. On many sites, there are not parks, condos or hotels, ecologic preserves, or even industry, despite intense interest from all these stakeholders. Instead, a dominant use of land along Chelsea Creek is car parking: principally overflow rental car parking from nearby Logan Airport. These properties could be described as trapped in limbo, a type of development stagnation caused by a new and perhaps bolder challenge to not simply displace infrastructural performance and service to the region but productively integrate marine industry with city life. Car parking takes hold simply because it is a temporary use, so it can slip between city regulations that advocate for one type of development and the state regulations that require another. While temporary, parking has continuously occupied major waterfront sites along Chelsea Creek for decades. This pattern of development reveals a clear needfor new temporal landscape and infrastructure designs and new forms of flexible habitation of the waterfront. The city of Chelsea is eager to mimic the waterfront successes of downtown Boston and the seaport, where hotels and condos would be a direct economic stimulus and parks would be


21

Seasonally shared use salt pile and hard-scape recreation landscape, Chelsea MA, 2014. In the spring and fall of each year the fence is moved east or west to open up the landscape for recreation use in the summer and industrial salt stockpiling in the winter.

a tremendous resource to a city low on open spaces. On the other hand, as much of Boston has shed its infrastructural load, the state rightfully recognizes that small cities like Chelsea play an increasingly pivotal role in shouldering the region and they are forced to enact regulations to preserve what is left of their infrastructural capacity. Consequently, large tracts of waterfront land are cast into limbo. Like Boston, Chelsea is also preparing to undertake a planning process, a Municipal Harbor Plan, in the coming year. Our work in Chelsea for the past ten years has aimed to develop specific designs for integration in place of displacement, ‘both-and’ instead of ‘either-or’. We have taken the approach of designing within maritime industrial landscapes to evaluate ways that new forms of public access could be achieved in these landscapes. In this way we are aiming to create industrial terminals that serve multiple dimensions of public interest. Can a terminal that serves the public interests of a region by distributing vital goods also be designed as a locally beneficial landscape that provides desired access to the waterfront? The specific industry that we have worked with on these projects is the salt terminal in Chelsea, often referred to as the Salt Pile. The salt pile is an emblematic marine industrial structure. At any given moment, the pile is the net differential resulting from global cargos of salt arriving by ship and the dispersal of salt into the local urban environment and region. At first glance it is a massive monolithic solid, like an ice-berg. Upon closer view one realizes that it is an agglomeration of salts of different hues from different landscapes around the world: pink from Chile, brown from Ireland, white from Mexico or Australia. As one returns to the pile over time, it quickly becomes clear that the pile is not monolithic at all but constantly shape-shifting as it is carved away one truck load at a time, and formed back up one ship-load at a time. The landscape is highly kinetic. This salt is also a true barometer of the New England environment, used exclusively to de-ice roads in the winter across all of Massachusetts including Pelham and West Boylston. Unlike many of the waterfront developments currently underway in Boston that have no programmatic relationship to the water except the desire for view, marine terminals require direct operational relations to the waterways. In the case of the salt pile landscape, as with most dry bulk marine terminals, large ships, approximately 700 feet long with 50,000-ton cargos, moor alongside the shore. Highly tensioned nylon ropes, four inches in diameter, moor the ship to shoreside bollards. The ship and its lines rise and fall with the tides. Shore-side cranes swing 10-ton buckets back and forth from ship to shore dropping the cargo on land, 10 tons at a time. Immediately on shore, a small fleet of loaders moves the salt inland in order to clear the area for the cranes to continue with the discharge. The continuation of industrial operation between water and land is inherent. Unlike the museums, hotels, and condos of

Boston’s new waterfronts, public walks along the waterfront are not typically feasible here. But this does not preclude public access, nor ecological services; rather, it necessitates more tactical designs calibrated to the particularities of industrial operations. We would argue that such designs amplify the experience of the waterfront, by allowing access at the very moment of collision between the global systems of the sea and the local operations of the city. One of the key characteristics that we have embraced in projects on the working waterfront is temporality; in observation that both the city and the industry ebb and flow, much like the harbor itself. Designs can be developed to capitalize on these cycles. For the salt industry as well as the New England city, one of the most profound ebbs is the changing season. For salt, the winter is a period of tremendous activity, wherein towns and public works agencies throughout the state are always one Nor’easter away from shutting down. In contrast, summer at a salt dock is relatively sleepy. Boston’s outdoor recreation spaces, basketball courts, tracks and fields are near reversals of this seasonal pattern. The two, salt docks and active recreation landscapes, are nearly perfectly complimentary partners. In Chelsea now, as winter wraps up, the salt at the dock is consolidated to one end of the yard and an area is opened up each year to be used for basketball, a small walking track, and events. A landscape that one week holds 50,000 tons of salt is used the next week for a game of basketball. This is not only a solution to a pragmatic problem for shared use, and integration in place of displacement, but an accentuation and amplification of urban systems and experience of a dynamic urban waterfront. It is not uncommon for kids to be playing basketball on one side of a fence, while machines are sculpting a salt mountain on the other. A second key characteristic inherent to the industry-city relationship is infrastructural capacity. When a waterfront infrastructure site is converted into a condo or hotel or even a park, the infrastructural capacity of the landscape is often lost. The skeletons of the landscape bulkheads, bollards, and chains - are sometimes preserved as decorations for the new use, but the fundamental operating capacity is diminished. In their operational state, such landscapes are often profoundly powerful. The salt-pile operations in Chelsea commonly move and sculpt over 10,000 tons of material per day. This is a unique capacity in the urban environment. When partnered with a park, the park gains new potentials. For example, during the summer of 2016 in Chelsea, the Apollinaire Theater Company had a two-week run of an outdoor performance of Hamlet in the recently opened PORT Park on the salt pile landscape. When figuring out the burial scene for Ophelia, we realized that a salt landscape could be easily constructed to accommodate not only the burial scene and ensuing fight between Hamlet and Laertes, but a 20-foot tall pile could also be constructed that would be a properly spectacular setting for Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech. In total, the


22 Below Salt dock workers constructing salt galleries to support the installation of artworks for the LUMEN performance art and video festival, Staten Island NY, 2012.

Right Salt stage sets for the Apollinaire Theater Company’s Hamlet, in the park, Chelsea MA, 2016. Near right: Ophelia’s burial scene Far right: Hamlet’s “to be, or not to be” monologue All photos in this article produced by and property of Landing Studio.

stage set landscape necessitated the movement and sculpture of about 1,000 tons of material a day’s work on the otherwise sleepy summer dock. Temporarily depositing and then removing 1,000 tons of material from a public park would typically be considered ‘extreme’. Here again the choreography of public engagement with the industrial operations was not just an acceptable pragmatic solution but an amplification to the public experience of the waterfront. At a comparable salt dock and urban context in Staten Island NY, we’ve made use of the terminals infrastructural capacity and seasonal cycle to stage the large scale, though temporary, LUMEN performance art and video festival with Staten Island Arts. For this daylong event, the terminal operators construct salt pile landscapes as temporary frameworks to accommodate the installation of art. Over sixty artists install pieces and over three thousand people attend the now bi-annual event.

In consideration of the complexly overlaid eco-system of harbors, and in light of forthcoming planning efforts across Boston Harbor, we’d like to offer the following five thoughts to conclude.

1

Urban harbors are gateways between regions and global networks. Their development should be designed in consideration of their role to service a broad region and communities beyond the confines of the immediate waterfront city.

4

2

Harbors are the accrual of diverse and even far-off community investments made over long periods of time. Localized, momentary projects should be planned to avoid undercutting the trajectory of long term investments in pursuit of short term gain.

Competing uses that depend on the harbor as a principle resource whether it be for habitat, infrastructure or recreation should not be accepted as incompatible but must be tactically designed to achieve productive negotiation.

5

3

Harbors, like water, sunlight, and air are a public resource - not a simple commodity to be bought and sold. Development in and around the harbor should first and foremost enhance the value of the harbor as a collective public resource across diverse scales of stakeholders.

The harbor is too valuable a resource to be allowed to underperform for long periods of time across large areas. Temporal uses that strengthen habitat, recreation, and infrastructure should be developed that productively fill gaps in time and space between longer-term uses.


school of

Architecture

Common Ground V. 1 Fall 2016  

Volume 1: Discourse Issue 1: Outreach

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