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Reflections on Urban Design Practice utile

Utile is a planning and architecture firm that specializes in the unique regulatory, political, and design challenges of complex urban projects. As a result, we’ve developed specific design methodologies for urban projects that differ markedly from the typical design strategies and representational techniques. The following is a collection of essays that reflect on our urban design practice.


Urban Design from the Inside Out

Market-Driven Building Types as “Urbanism Starter Kit” We use this “starter kit” of typical North American building prototypes to better plan new urban districts and test development parcels where market-driven building types will constitute the majority of new development. This leads to a better-informed and efficient early-phase planning methodology, creating more room within the design process for innovation.


Urban Design from the Inside Out

We reconcile the specific characteristics of marketdriven building types with the unique characteristics of urban sites. Often the solutions yield unexpected, new design opportunities that can enrich the project.

When urban design proposals include recommendations for new development and/or the significant rehabilitation of existing structures, the plan must carefully consider building types and their market rate, both as single-function structures and when they are combined with other buildings to create mixed-use development. Too often, proposals on “missing tooth” urban sites attempt to match adjacent historic neighborhoods, but are not economically viable given contemporary building codes and the market expectations for floor plate configurations and lease spans. Utile reconciles the specific characteristics of market-driven building types with the unique characteristics of urban sites. Often the solutions yield unexpected, new design opportunities that can enrich the project. By identifying the upper limits of construction types within building code categories as the financial sweet spot for urban development, real estate developers can then maximize return on investment at a lower cost basis. The upper limits of stick-built construction and the non-high-rise code has been the targeted scale of recent residential development in the Northeast for the past decade. Revisions to the building code have allowed stick-built residential construction to go higher — currently as tall as six stories if the residential program is built on a noncombustible base of retail or parking. We consider the market logic of building classification thresholds in our plans, taking into consideration the cost of construction and development density. The firm’s comprehensive infill development plan for Downtown Hartford, for example, proposes four categories of residential building types as a context-responsive kit-of-parts. These threshold types include urban row houses, because they are the densest type of housing that doesn’t require an elevator and a second egress stair; five- and six-story stickbuilt apartment buildings, for the reasons described above;


Urban Design from the Inside Out

mid-rise buildings of nine to eleven stories because they include enough additional development density to overcome the increased costs of steel or concrete construction and the extra technical burdens of the high-rise code; and highrises which exceed 120’ by enough stories to overcome the additional requirements of that code threshold. Utile is also an architecture firm with a particular expertise in market-driven building types. The result of this approach is a final physical plan that acknowledges the dynamics of the real estate market. An understanding of the underlying economic logic of building types means that we can create a customized tool kit of building types for any specific assignment. By presenting both the physical characteristics and economic underpinnings of the types, we enable both community stakeholders and the real estate development community to share an understanding of how market forces can be harnessed to create a highly contextual outcome. For the large area of vacant parcels and parking lots north of I-84 in Hartford, Utile proposed a wide range of building types in order to create an urban district that seeks to avoid the homogeneity of many “instant neighborhoods.” Similarly, our work for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority focused on a large tract of post-industrial land just to the east of the Boston Convention Center, is predicated on a wide bandwidth of uses and building types. In this case, like all of our work, the rationale is both economic and aesthetic.

Downtown Hartford Plan We worked with the City of Hartford to develop a downtown masterplan that integrates a districtwide strategy for future development, infrastructure improvements, zoning recommendations, and public realm design. As a key part of this plan, we proposed a contextresponsive “kit of parts” of residential development, ranging from rowhouses to high-rises. These types are dimensionally realistic and reflect the constraints of construction type thresholds. As a result, the final physical plan that emerges out of these housing types fully acknowledges the dynamics of the real estate market.



Urban Design from the Inside Out

Al Soor Masterplan As RMJM’s urban design consultant for the first-phase implementation of an ambitious development in the Middle East, we planned and developed guidelines for Al Soor’s housing, retail, and open spaces. In creating this de novo urban district, our knowledge of retail and housing typologies enabled us to create a menu of options, which are functionally and financially realistic, and also allows us to mimic the typological variety in a district that has grown organically over time.


BCEC Masterplan We worked with the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority to develop a plan for a large tract of post-industrial land near the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. The urban design for the “blank slate” condition of the site relies on a wide range of use and building types to create the kind of variety otherwise missing in projects of comparable size and context.


One notable feature of the plan are the parking garages, which are needed in the short term to satisfy the needs of the Convention Center. In the longer term, these garages can be adapted into a variety of “future uses”, which give the plan long-term flexibility and viability.

Levels 2-5

Hotel bar to be no more than 80’ deep.

Planned Vehicular Connection

KEY Potential Future Parking

Primary Facade Build-to Plane Ground Floor Retail Build-to Plane

Tennis Basketball


Distinctive Hotel Corner Feature


D Street Landscape Zone Build-to planes allow for 5’ additive and subtractive modulations Requirements tI

Max. height of 105’



Office Landscape









Max. height of hotel bar 160’

Max. height of 75’ Planned Vehicular Connection






Podium height of approximately 20’




Minimum retail / restaurant frontage of 175’ for each hotel













t (T wo

-W ay

) t II



Hotel Site Building Guidelines 04/24/2013


E Street Garage 411 D Street

Westin Expansion (Future Development)

Aloft Hotel

DHL Warehouse Signature Hotel (Future Development)

Element Hotel

Future Event Space

D Street Garage

BCEC Expansion










Future parking Garage

Urban Design from the Inside Out

ParkingPLUS For Build a Better Burb, a design competition focused on retrofitting suburban centers on Long Island, we advanced the “future-use garage” concept as a structural design prototype with urban design implications. The “parkingPLUS” prototype shows how a well-designed parking structure can enhance the pedestrian environment. The parkingPLUS

structure will allow for active non-parking uses along the primary street edges due to its high ground floor ceiling height. Without significantly changing the vertical circulation systems for vehicles and pedestrians, a range of “plus” programs can be plugged in to fill evolving community and economic development needs.



Crafting Regulations: Between Visioning and Pro Forma


Crafting Regulations: Between Visioning and Pro Forma

The key to the art of crafting regulatory frameworks lies in not limiting controls to physical dimensional aspects, but of incorporating performance criteria that allow flexibility for private interests and also a voice for public realm concerns.

Design in the planning and urban design professions occupies a wide bandwidth. At one end of the spectrum lies “visioning”, whose goal is to harness community support for a big idea by downplaying the particulars and emphasizing the positive, consensus driven impacts of potential changes on public space. At the other end lies “conceptual design,” or early phase development studies, which are focused on the metrics: the scale, parking capacity, and efficiency of specific building proposals. The former is closer to non-physical, policy-focused planning in that its goals are typically focused on stakeholder consensus and political outcomes. By contrast, the latter anticipates an eventual physical incarnation of its efforts, and thus generally falls within the domain of architecture. At Utile, urban design for regulatory purposes, such as zoning and design guidelines, occupies a special place in the middle of the spectrum; a third way on the continuum between plotspecific development interests and broader public participation. The creation of regulatory frameworks attempts to balance the concerns of would-be developers and occupants of private property with the interests of the public realm at large. Most planning processes in North America, including those that result in the drafting of hard regulatory controls, benefit from robust community participation. Planners are left to frame the concerns of would-be developers. Our responsibility to the general public often assumes the perspective of private interests to institute the vision. As public coffers dwindle, and the ability to create large, public-scaled public amenities is more frequently “outsourced” to privately managed and financed entities, the urban designer is called upon to act as an arbiter of public desires and private measures of feasibility. Concessions in the form of height and shadow limitations, public space and access, and the physical shaping of streetscapes—all of which benefit the community at large—are measured against the ever-fluctuating appetite for financial investment. Over-reaching regulation can


Crafting Regulations: Between Visioning and Pro Forma

result in economic disinvestment in the private realm, and by extension, a loss of opportunity for good design in the public realm. In this sense, the absence of development is a potentially harmful, not neutral, outcome. To navigate these hazards, we believe that urban designers charged with crafting regulatory controls must consider two related strategies. First, where appropriate, guidelines should be flexible. Public desires should be expressed as performance criteria while still providing the wiggle room for varied uses, constructability and other unanticipated on-plot development challenges. Absolute height limits, for instance, might be subordinated to more impact-oriented measures of shadow impacts and view corridor preservation. Specific calls for ground floor retail uses can be replaced by more general language calling for active edges and pubic accessibility, both physical and visual. Secondly, the graphic representation of these goals must be accessible to the general public they ostensibly serve. In this regard, regulatory planning must call on the more inclusive graphic language of visioning, while carrying enough specificity to provide the developer and regulatory authorities with the necessary guidance and boundaries. The key to the art of crafting regulatory frameworks lies not in limiting controls to physical dimensional aspects, but in incorporating performance criteria that allow flexibility for private interests and a voice for public concerns.


Stuart Street Planning Study We completed a comprehensive planning study for Stuart Street, one of the two main Downtown commercial areas in Boston. The purpose of the study was to determine the best configuration and program mix for high-density development on the remaining potential development parcels in the area, and to make zoning recommendations based on this analysis. The final outcome of the study was an updated form-based zoning code for the area that outlines performance-based criteria rather than specifying hard and fast dimensional requirements. This approach allows future developments to respond in a more nimble way to the urban design and programmatic context of the area.


Crafting Regulations: Between Visioning and Pro Forma

Sowwah Island Al Bahia Ramhan Island

Bisrat Fahid Island

Saadiyat Island Mina Zayed


To Du

b ai

Rahman Island

Yas Island Bisrat Fahid Island

Lulu Island

Fahid Island Umm Yifenah Island

Al Khubeirah Al Ras Al Akhdar Massnou a Island

Al Bateen

Balrmmd Island Al Wahdah

Al Zaab

Yas Marina F1 Circuit

Qasr El Bahr

Al Nahyan As Sammaliyyah Island

Al Musalla

Al Qurayyah Island

Al Ittihad

Coconut Island Al Bateen

Ferrari World

Al Reem Island

Madinat Zayed Al Manhal

Al Moroor

Al Mushrif

Hadbat Al Zafranah Al Zahraa

Al Mushrif

Crescent Island

Sas An Nakhl Island

Al Matar

Al Rehhan


Masdar City (U/C) Madinat Khalifa A

Al Madina Al Riyadiya

Al Ba

Hudayriat Island

Al Raha Beach

Al Bateen Airport

Qasr El Shatie

teen Al Muzoon

Umm Al Nar Mu ss Bridg afah e

Bain Al Jessrain

Arabian Gulf

Police Officers City

Industrial City Abu Dhabi (ICAD)

For the ongoing build-out of Sowwah Island, Abu Dhabi’s new central business district, we worked with over,under (a Boston based design firm) to create a culturally and climactically responsive contemporary Arab urbanism. Communication of the design agenda is critical to altering current practices. To that end, we developed design controls to codify that general design concept, and translate it into key standards and requirements. Performancebased guidelines particular to the local climate and region generate design responses of unique character. This character is confirmed by the “proof-of-concept” illustrative designs generated for each plot. The graphic series below show a typical example of how a single development plot is regulated by the design controls.


Downtown Crossing Signage Guidelines The Downtown Crossing Signage Guidelines are part of a larger effort by the Boston Redevelopment Authority to revitalize one of Downtown’s key retail districts. We created a richly illustrated set of sign guidelines that address the unique characteristics of the district and problems inherent in the existing sign code. The results suggest standards, rules and regulations that allow specific yet unique and varied results.


Crafting Regulations: Between Visioning and Pro Forma

Greenway District Study We led an ambitious planning initiative on behalf of the Boston Redevelopment Authority that resulted in design guidelines for the real estate parcels that frame the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Downtown Boston. The guidelines were determined by testing development “what-if � scenarios on parcels most likely to be redeveloped as a result of the increased land values caused by the new linear park system. Our study included an assessment of different levels of density and height both along the Greenway and on nearby open space resources. The guidelines identified and defined the mix of uses, height and density, and the particular configuration and functions at the ground plane, and included sustainable design goals framed by performance-based criteria. We presented the planning study in an easy-to-understand graphic format to better communicate both the guidelines and their underlying logic to development teams, regulatory officials, and stakeholders.



Urban Design as Economic Development


Development Feasibility Defines the Scope for Urban Design We developed this graphic series, which compares expected development revenue and cost in three different kinds of real estate markets. The shaded arcs show the difference between cost and revenue and help us identify “zones of feasibility� for building. These illustrate the balance between project size and expense where revenue exceeds cost to the degree that creative urban design can happen.


New York, Boston


Urban Design as Economic Development

An understanding of a potential economic development approach helps shape the physical planning method.

The primary aim of many urban planning initiatives is to accommodate the collective desires of a specific community. However, urban design rooted in economic development must engage stakeholders in a very different way. Our approach begins with research before heavily involving the community because we want to engage with the public with an informed perspective. The information we collect ranges from the demographic make-up of the study area to the real estate market, development patterns for ground-up and rehabilitation projects, business development opportunities, potential redevelopment tax incentives, and potential sources of funding for public improvements. Sources of information include GIS data, tax assessor and census data, market sector databases, real estate data websites, and targeted interviews with economic development experts, real estate brokers, and market sector analysts. After this initial research, stakeholder meetings can serve a much more productive and constructive process. They verify or disprove our initial findings, and test our assumptions. All of this is a catalyst for the design speculation that will follow. Meetings during the early stage of the planning process can also encourage emerging economic development approaches to be implemented in real time, even before the completion of the planning work. Utile’s urban planning projects focus on mature downtowns that are going through a transition because of a loss of a core business sector or a shift in real estate investment, or on rapidly-changing post-industrial areas. In both cases, an understanding of a potential economic development approach helps shape the physical planning method. In New Haven’s Mill River, for example, the firm discovered that a focus on small-


Urban Design as Economic Development

scale manufacturing was a better fit for the aging industrial district than a plan that would encourage the transformation of the area into a mixed-use residential neighborhood. This has provided a basis for reimagining Downtown Springfield, a city along the Connecticut River Valley with a high concentration of historic pre-war buildings and available commercial space. A focus on a nascent tech culture led to a place-making strategy that is focused on the adaptive reuse of the upper floors of existing buildings for apartments and low cost office space, and underutilized ground floor space for temporary retail. These catalytic development strategies were complemented with public improvements to jump-start investment, such as the conversion of one-way thoroughfares into slower and more pedestrian-friendly two-way streets. A compelling economic development theme serves as a master narrative, and it both drives the design process and opens an inclusive, community-wide conversation. This is a planning process that energizes state and municipal officials, business leaders, property owners, and community stakeholders alike.


Plan for Downtown Worcester In addition to an urban design vision for downtown Worcester, MA, we carefully studied the land parcels key to the vision’s feasibility. For each parcel, we tested architectural concepts for their programmatic and real estate value. The result gave the plan a high degree of economic development realism.


Urban Design as Economic Development

MassTDI / Springfield Worthington Street District We work in many post-industrial New England cities that face a common set of challenges: loss of core business activities, property vacancy, and a stagnant real estate market. Working with MassDevelopment, Massachusett’s state economic development agency, we created an outreach toolkit (illustrated above) that outlines targeted public-private investment strategies that can jumpstart economic development activities and create visible momentum for change. Our district wide plan in Downtown Springfield (right) identified catalytic opportunities for development in a struggling downtown. This plan helped Springfield in becoming designated as a MassTDI city, receiving funding for future investments and planning.









ma Ly


y Ta



Springfield Union Station












Improve Apremont Triangle public spaces








Museum District





e tre




lm Hil




Center Square

Tower Square Monarch Place


Pearl St Park



Apremont Triangle

Stearns Square in S


int W

l ar

Redesign Stearns Square and adjacent streetscape






or W


Find opportunities for development on underutilized sites igh




Convert Dwight Street and Chestnut Street to two-way





Mass Mutual Center

Resident Clusters 1 - 10 10 - 20 20 - 50 50 - 100

70 ’

100 - 200


25 0’

1 Industrial Condo




2 Multistory/Multipurpose Light Manufacturing Loft Building




3 Mercantile Food Hub 200’

New Haven Mill River District Plan

44 0’ 390’

5 Industrial/Commercial/Retail Hybrid

20 0’

For the Mill River District in New Haven, a key post-war waterfront industrial area, we recommended an economic development approach that builds on the area’s existing strength in artisanal manufacturing. Our subsequent physical planning work focuses on enabling this vision. For example, we developed a range of industrial building types, either as ground-up development or retrofits, that best accommodate the needs of the manufacturing industry in Mill River.

4 Urban Agriculture / Greenhouses


6 Live/Work Loft Building


Becoming Locally Invested


Becoming Locally Invested

Inroads into cities like Atlanta and Long Beach, California suggest that our approach to urban design can have resonance in cities across the country. Our enthusiasm as urban designers, cultural anthropologists, and keen observers of business sectors and the real estate market can often help shape future planning initiatives.

Rather than seek one-off projects, Utile prefers to invest time in specific neighborhoods and cities in order to gain cumulative knowledge about the physical, regulatory, and political context of a particular locale. We look to gain a productive understanding by doing analysis that can be carried forward to future assignments in the area and beyond. A network of engaged community advocates, government officials, and knowledgeable consultants are critical to our planning, as an ongoing resource and sounding board for potential strategies. Our approach to investing in a particular neighborhood was honed when the firm was doing residential development at the intersection of South Boston’s residential and industrial areas, and broader urban planning for the Massachusetts Port Authority and local business groups along the South Boston waterfront. The overlap between constituencies, stakeholders, and policy provided a uniquely comprehensive understanding of the most rapidly developing area in the Boston metro area. We used a similar all-in approach for the parcels and neighborhoods along the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Downtown Boston, partly by parlaying connections made through a series of discreet projects. The result has been a collective understanding of a wide range of development and policy initiatives, their underlying regulations, and the physical environment around these areas which has served as an important resource for specific projects and planning initiatives. More recently, Utile has taken its planning approach to other cities where the firm’s particular skill-set can have value on more than one project. We have done multiple projects in Worcester, Springfield, New Bedford, and Lawrence, Massachusetts and New Haven and Hartford, Connecticut. In Hartford, Utile has worked with Ninigret Partners, an economic development consultant, on a


Becoming Locally Invested

research-based approach that leverages the City’s historic role as the nation’s insurance capital. Our work on a an overarching business development strategy, coupled with a comprehensive understanding of Hartford’s downtown housing market— gained through a separate study—means that the firm will be an important part of future conversations and planning for Downtown Hartford. We are constantly seeking new cities where the firm’s research-based approach can help better integrate economic development and urban design initiatives. Inroads into cities like Atlanta and Long Beach, California suggest that our deep-dive approach to urban design can have resonance in cities where we haven’t worked before. Our enthusiasm as urban designers, cultural anthropologists, and keen observers of business sectors and the real estate market, can often help shape future planning initiatives.


Downtown Boston Waterfront Planning Initiative We are currently leading the Downtown Waterfront Planning Initiative for the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA). Our previous urban design work along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, which abuts this area, has provided us with a wealth of knowledge of the policies and constituencies that cover both areas. This allows us to more quickly dive into key planning issues, and to craft a more effective and targeted strategy for engaging stakeholders.

Public Space/Art Opportunity Walk to the Sea

Clarify Circulation of Vendors, Operators, Taxis, Etc.

New Gateways

Active Edge

Storm Surge Protection

HARBORWALK Wayfinding Signage and Paving Mater

New Destination

Public Space/Art Opportunity

New T Shuttle Landing Permanent Harbor Islands Ferry Gateway Long Wharf Interpretive Signage


Becoming Locally Invested

Gloucester Downtown Work Plan We worked closely with the City of Gloucester, MA to envision a future for their signature Main Street, helping them determine that the most beneficial course of action lies in a thorough analysis of downtown housing and retail market, as well as form-based zoning for infill development.

Gloucester Resident (Not Downtown) | 11% Tourist | 2%

I live Downtown! | 21%

Property Owner | 6%

What is your connection to Downtown Gloucester? Merchant/Restaurateur/ Business Owner | 27%


I work in Downtown Gloucester | 33%

Union Square Neighborhood Plan: Public Realm Design In preparation for near term development around an extension of the MBTA Green Line, the City of Somerville embarked on a neighborhood wide community planning process for Union Square. This led to a consensus based plan predicated on the needs and desires of the local residents.


These images represent the public realm improvements for the plan. New public spaces, improved bicycle and pedestrian accommodations, and more efficient traffic flow comprised a holistic solution to the existing conditions of Union Square

Illustration vs. Photorealism


Illustration vs. Photorealism

Though demanding clients continue to push the generally accepted practices toward the photoreal, we as urban designers should continue to push the needle back toward the illustrated idea.

Now that many of our profession’s photorealistic renderings are outsourced, it is time we reconsider illustration as a means of design communication. In contrast to rendering, illustration is by definition more missiondriven; it focuses on a set of particular ideas, leaving superfluous details to the imagination. It is ironic that less detail would impart a clearer idea, but in the practice of urban design, neutralizing the complexities of the real world, as opposed to filling it with shimmering texture maps, refocuses our attention on the larger compositional message. Representation at the scale of the public realm has different responsibilities from an architectural depiction of a building object. At a basic level, the stakeholders in public processes are more varied and less predictable than the singlebuilding client, who is typically anxious to know what their final product will look like in ever-increasing detail. Images created for urban design inherit different compositional responsibilities. Here, people in the rendering are not simply compositional devices to convey space and scale, but more actively contribute to the rendering’s message. That “random” pedestrian is not just filling the screen and providing scale: he has a very important job demonstrating pedestrian accessibility, the use of the public realm, or the proximity of the nearby bike-share outlet.


Illustration vs. Photorealism

Though life-like renderings can be distracting—causing the viewer to overlook the narrative that the designer is trying to tell—computer-generated imagery does play an important role. Detail becomes important where cities are being created from scratch. In China and in the Persian Gulf for example, the city itself is the architectural object, and high levels of detail are part of the rhetoric of convincing the general public (or the future resident, or public official, or investor) that the vision is already real — something can be created where there may currently be nothing. Illustrative shorthand is naturally less effective where there are no generally accepted public assumptions about what urban space is or should be. Perhaps the most constructive model with respect to representation is a more nuanced one. Demanding clients continue to push the generally accepted practices toward the photoreal. While photorealistic renderings can be enticing and helpful in some situations, we as urban designers should continue to push the needle back toward the illustrated idea, as a more inclusive and narrative-focused rendering style can be a tool for our consensus-oriented craft.


Sowwah Island The hyperreality of computer-generated rendering helps to convey much needed texture where urban conditions are generated de novo. We use this approach judiciously in Persian Gulf projects such as Sowwah Island, where this sense of detail is important.


Illustration vs. Photorealism

Boston Complete Streets Guidelines Our work for the Boston Complete Streets Guidelines exemplifies how we use the illustrative approach to convey information with a clear sense of hierarchy and clarity. This is especially appropriate in the context of guidelines, where key information such as dimensions needs to be communicated with minimal distraction and high fidelity. M in


The example images show how illustrations can convey simple information, such as sidewalk dimensions, and more complex ideas, such as urban placemaking. They can also successfully communicate the overall quality of spaces.


Min. 5’

M in

M in .5

M in



Min. 6 ’

2 1


Min. 4’

Typ. 6’


Illustration vs. Photorealism

Hybrid Approaches Certain public realm projects, such as Downtown Boston Waterfront (above) and Acushnet Avenue in New Bedford, MA (below), require the communication of both schematic design ideas and the quality of the resulting space. We take a hybrid illustrative/photoreal approach to carefully balance between these two objectives.



Utile’s Urban Design Leadership

Tim Love



Tim Love is the founding principal of Utile, which was identified as one of Boston’s six “Emerging Firms” in the May 2008 issue of Architectural Record. Recent and ongoing assignments include planning studies for Boston’s Newmarket/Upham’s Corner neighborhood and New Haven’s Mill River District, a study of Boston’s City Hall Plaza for the U.S. EPA, and the development of graphics for Boston’s new Complete Streets Manual. Utile was also the urban design sub-consultant to RMJM for a proposed new city district on the Dubai waterfront. In addition Utile, under the direction of Love, is the lead design consultant and urban planner for the Massachusetts Port Authority’s development parcels. His on-call roll includes the review of projects at several stages of the design process and early-phase development planning for the Authority’s parcels. In addition, Love helped implement the Authority’s sustainable design program, and serves as a professional advisor for development team selection processes. Prior to founding Utile, Love was a Vice President at Machado & Silvetti Associates where he was the project director of the Getty Villa in Los Angeles, the Master Plan for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Honan-Allston Branch Library in Boston, the winner of a 2003 National AIA Design Award. Love is also a tenured Associate Professor at the Northeastern University School of Architecture where he teaches housing, urban design, and architectural theory.


Education ▶▶ Harvard University Graduate School, Master of Architecture with distinction, AIA Medal ▶▶ University of Virginia, Bachelor of Science in Architecture, Alpha Ro Chi Medal

Affiliations ▶▶ American Institute of Architects ▶▶ Boston Society of Architects - Commissioner of the Urban Design Committee, Member of the Board ▶▶ Northeastern University - Associate Professor

Select Projects ▶▶ Mill River District Study, New Haven, CT - for the City of New Haven Economic Development Corporation ▶▶ Greenway District Planning Study, Boston, MA - for the Boston Redevelopment Authority ▶▶ Greening America’s Capitals: Boston’s City Hall Plaza, Boston, MA - for the U.S. EPA ▶▶ Worcester Development Opportunities Study, Worcester, MA - for MassDevelopment and the City of Worcester economic development department ▶▶ Mill River District Planning Study, New Haven, CT - ongoing, with Stoss Landscape Urbanism and Ninigret Partners ▶▶ Boston Harbor Islands Pavilion, Boston, Ma - for the National Park Service and the Boston Harbor Island Alliance ▶▶ Complete Streets Manual and Website, Boston, MA - for the Boston Transportation Department, with Toole Design Group ▶▶ Design Review for Massport, Boston, MA - on-call contract ▶▶ On-call services, MassDevelopment, statewide, MA contract to provide on-call urban design services ▶▶ New Bedford Downtown Urban Design and Development Study, New Bedford, MA - for the New Bedford economic Development Council, MassDevelopment, and through a DHCD Gateway Cities Grant ▶▶ Downtown Crossing Signage Guidelines, Boston, MA - for the Boston Redevelopment Authority ▶▶ Broad Street, Boston, MA - for the Boston Redevelopment Authority, design subconsultant to HDR, part of the Crossroads Initiative

Matthew Littell



Matthew Littell joined Utile as a principal shortly after the firm’s founding. Through his work in the firm’s architecture, planning, and early phase development projects, Matthew has gained an expertise in local and statewide building and zoning codes and the regulatory process. Recently, he has completed a Spencer Green, 48-unit affordable, sustainable rental project for Chelsea Neighborhood Developers, as well as HydeBlakemore, a 13-unit affordable home-ownership development for Urban Edge, one of Boston’s largest community development corporations. Both projects feature numerous sustainable design elements, including photovoltaics, creative stormwater retention strategies, and special attention to the use of recycled materials. Currently he is developing urban design guidelines and architectural design controls that foreground environmental strategies for a central business district and residential districts in Abu Dhabi. Matthew has also directed many of the firm’s early phase planning and urban design projects, including the creation of permanent zoning for the Stuart Street corridor in Boston’s Back Bay and the design guidelines for the Rose Kennedy Greenway District. Both efforts were commissioned by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Matthew is also the managing principal of the City of Boston’s Crossroads Initiative streetscape design of Broad Street. Matthew earned his M.Arch. from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design in 1997, where he received the Boston Society of Architects’s James Templeton Kelly award for the best final design project, as well as the Clifford Wong prize for outstanding design in housing. Matthew holds his B.A. degree from Columbia College, graduating in 1989. He is a LEED Accredited Professional. He lives in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston with his wife and son.


Education ▶▶ Harvard University Graduate School, Master of Architecture ▶▶ Columbia College, Bachelor of Arts in Religion

Select Projects ▶▶ Greenway District Planning Study, Boston, MA for the Boston Redevelopment Authority ▶▶ Hudayriat Mid-rise Residential District Master Plan and Building Types, Abu Dhabi, UAE, for Mubadala - with overcommaunder (collaborating design firm) ▶▶ Madinat Al Soor Mixed-use Residential District, Dubai, UAE, for Nakheel, 2008 - with RMJM (collaborating design firm) ▶▶ Hyde-Blakemore Condominiums, Roslindale, MA - affordable condominiums for Urban Edge Developers ▶▶ Trolley House, South Boston, Massachusetts - residential condo development - 24 units ▶▶ The Reconstruction of Broad Street, Boston, MA with Richard Burck Associates and HDR ▶▶ Fort Point District Planning Study, South Boston, MA - portfolio-wide planning study for Berkeley Investments ▶▶ Sowwah Island - architectural design guidelines and urban design refinement for the new central business district in Abu

Utile, Inc. Architecture + Planning 115 Kingston Street Boston, MA 02111 617 423 7200

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