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Mayor Walsh "Rolls Out" the portable reading room

July 23, 2014

Mayor's Office

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Mayor's Office

The Portable Reading Room, a winning project of Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s first Public Space Invitational held in June, has debuted on the Rose Kennedy Greenway. The rolling library, also called “Uni,” is the creation of Leslie and Sam Davol who submitted the idea as a way to give residents and visitors an uplifting reason to gather in public space.

“This is another great example of how creative ideas for public space make our city more livable,” said Mayor Walsh. “I think our streets, plazas, and sidewalks can be our classrooms, our community centers, and our art galleries. Reading is so important for people of all ages, and I’m pleased that we are partnering to bringing that opportunity directly to the people.”

Mayor Walsh donated two books to the library’s collection: The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein and Rosie Revere the Engineer by Andrea Beaty, which was named as the “Best Read Aloud Book Award” at a ReadBoston event earlier this month (

“A great collection of books and comfortable seating in public space brings people out and brings out the best in people,” said Leslie Davol, who runs the Uni Project with her husband Sam. “It makes the scale of the city feel more intimate, and it says to people--especially kids--that books and learning are something that we value.”

Uni is a collaborative effort between the Davols, the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy, the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, and the Boston Public Library. Funding for the project was provided by Robert Half and the cart was built by Howeler + Yoon Architecture in Boston. Books were donated by the Boston Public Library and Houghton Mifflin.

“We’re looking forward to adding Uni to our placemaking toolkit on the Greenway, providing both great books for people and a shady or sunny spot to enjoy them,” said Charlie McCabe, Director of Public Programs for the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.  “We’re pleased to work with the City of Boston and the Office of New Urban Mechanics, the Uni Project, and Robert Half in helping us bring Uni to Boston.”

Uni will become part of both large and small events on the Greenway during the rest of the summer and into the fall. It will be featured during the upcoming Boston Figment Festival on the Greenway on Saturday, July 26, and Sunday, July 27, and during the annual Truck and Tractor Day on Tuesday, August 5.

Uni is one of nine winners from Boston First Public Space Invitational, a design competition to re-think public space facilitated by the Streetscape Lab of the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics. The Streetscape Lab is focused on exploring how to make Boston's public spaces greener, smarter, and more awesome.