We were asked by a North End Community Group to review the State’s Central Artery proposals as part of the Mass Move 2000 Review. This process included reviewing the State’s urban design plan for the City’s neighborhoods impacted by the removal of the Central Artery ““ an elevated highway that cut through the heart of Boston’s central and waterfront districts.
The community group (NEWCAC) was interested in exercising influence over decisions made regarding the future fate of new land made available by the Artery’s removal. The specific area in question was located between Dock Square (close to Quincy Market and City Hall) and the North End, a vibrant Italian neighborhood.
Process: North End History
As a means for helping the community to better understand what had been lost, we digitally re-constructed the North End’s history. This allowed residents to visually recall what their neighborhood looked like before the highway was built in the 1950’s.
In addition, multiple historic layers were digitally “excavated” and reconstructed, allowing for community members to gain a better understanding of how their community evolved over time, and what “traces” of past developments still resonated in the City’s new fabric.
The analysis revealed that certain streets (Hanover and Salem) had always played an important role in the structure of the neighborhood. Similarly, the size and grain of the neighborhood’s buildings and spaces were readily evident, serving as a good metric for measuring the scale of future proposals by the State.
As a response to the State’s review process, the community group instead proposed a series of composite digital images that suggested programmatic and design opportunities. By overlaying all of the historic layers and building /spatial volumes over one another, a historic collage emerged. This digital collage then was edited (through selective erasure) and overlaid with new design themes, programs and forms. This helped create evocative images of what might become of the site in the future. This futuristic projection evolved from the historic tapestry that had been generated through our research, and was thereby more deeply connected to the past. Yet these proposals were able to project new design opportunities reflecting contemporary needs. In addition, specific proposals for this region were teased out of the drawings. They included proposals for making Cross Street the new “facade” of the North End. In addition the edges of Cross Street and the future park across from the North End could be strengthened through pergolas, an allee of trees, and pedestrian rich amenities (seating etc.) And finally, proposals for the park itself, and major paths and roads cutting through it, were proposed so that they resonated with the underlying order of the site and its history.