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Winners announced for Boston's first public space invitational


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New Urban Mechanics

The crowd-sourced design competition was aimed at re-thinking small public spaces, sidewalks, and Boston City Hall.

Today Mayor Martin J. Walsh today announced the winners of the Public Space Invitational, a crowd-sourced design competition aimed at re-thinking small public spaces, sidewalks, and Boston City Hall. Nine winners in three categories – including The Streetscape, Random Awesome Designs, and City Hall – were chosen from a pool of 70 submissions. Five honorable mentions were also awarded. These small-budget ways to creatively improve public space and infrastructure will be deployed over the next year, some as early as next month.

“Boston has a vibrant art, design, and creative community. This competition is a celebration of the City’s immense talent, and the creative community’s interest in improving our city,” said Mayor Martin J. Walsh. “Exciting ideas came from every corner of Boston – from top design firms to a group of students from Codman Academy – this truly was an open invitation to make our civic spaces more engaging.”

The Public Space Invitational is a project of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Proponents were asked to dream of new ways to bring function and wonderment to civic spaces within a budget of $4,500.

The winning teams will work to refine their project with the New Urban Mechanics team to receive funding and implementation over the next year. Winning teams were also awarded Green Hoodies to identify winners as “Masters” of public space design. The concept is based on the PGA Masters Golf Tournament, which gives winners of the golf event a green sports coat.

The Portable Reading Room is already fully funded by a contribution from the staffing firm, Robert Half, and will appear on the Rose Kennedy Greenway this summer.

“This year marks Robert Half’s 50th year of service in Boston and our goal was to commemorate the anniversary with a lasting contribution to the city,” said Bill Driscoll, New England District President for Robert Half.  “The Public Space Invitational seemed like a perfect fit and we’re proud to sponsor this deserving project that will benefit the city for years to come.”

A gallery of the winners and all 70 submissions will be up for display in City Hall until early July.


The Streetscape

Project Name: Portable Reading Room

Proposed by: Leslie Davol, Sam Davol, Eric Howeler, Meejin Yoon

Portable Reading Room for Boston gives residents an uplifting reason to gather in public space. A great collection of books (and comfortable seating) brings people out and brings out the best in people. Creating a library setting at street level can humanize the urban landscape and make the city feel more intimate.

The “room” will start on the Greenway, where a reading room can be used all season, serving multiple neighborhoods and partnering with the Boston Public Library, Simmons Graduate School of Library and Information Science, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt to join forces to support neighborhood life. This project is generously sponsored by Robert Half, celebrating their 50th year by supporting the Public Space Invitational and the Portable Reading Room.

Project Name: Seat Light Control

Proposed by: Peter Agoos

Seat Light Control is design investigation to transform a ubiquitous urban street artifact, the street light control box, into an urban amenity. These boxes, often haphazardly located on city sidewalks and pedestrian walkways, have a negative aesthetic. This project re-orients container from a vertical slab to a horizontal plinth and re-imagined the access panel as a city bench. This project will put Boston at the forefront of a transformational effort to improve the experience of urban sidewalk users and the streetscape aesthetics by replacing the mundane and unattractive with beautiful and distinctive street furniture with a purpose.

Project Name: The Hub (Huntington Ave.)

Proposed by: Nick Guertin

The Hub not only creates new opportunities for neighborhood residents to actively engage with their streetscape, but also serves as an energetic billboard displaying Boston’s commitment to promoting active, healthy public spaces. A modular series of benches, planters, and bicycle parking, the Hub will introduce a cohesive, linked series of installations that visually strengthen the connection between businesses, institutions, and residences along Huntington Avenue with the neighborhood.


Project Name: Lobby Sky

Proposed by: Nate Swain

The goal of Lobby Sky is to make the Lobby of City Hall more bright and welcoming.

Conceived as a photograph printed on vinyl and stretched across the vast ceiling, it will bring to life the area above the proposed WiFi lounge.

Project Name: Stairs of Fabulousness

Proposed by: Liz LaManche

Simple. Colorful. “Rainbow stairs will make city hall 400% more fabulous,” according to the project proponent. This is a small intervention to the space, experimenting with color with the bricks and concrete as the canvas. Using non-skid tape, the stairs in the lobby area will be transformed by color. 

CATEGORY: Random Awesome Designs (RAD)

Project Name: Tidraphone

Proposed by: Dana Busch, Conor MacDonald, Kate Balug, Siqi Zhu, and Alyson Fletcher

Tidraphone, a tidal vibraphone, invites Bostonians to interact with the water and consider our relationship to it, via a playful musical experience that is dynamically affected by the daily tides. Perched on a granite pier on Boston’s Fort Point Channel, the 10-12 pipes of the Tidraphone extend into the water at various lengths. The pitch and tone are dependent on the degree to which the pipes are submerged by the tides. The melodies of tidal variations within the span of a day are a microcosm of the range of sea levels that might be experienced with future climate change. To amplify the connection with our changing climate, one pipe in the array will simulate the drastically different pitch that one would experience if the ocean were at 100-year flood levels projected 100 years from today.

Project Name: Chair City Mountain

Proposed by: Michelle Auer and Isak Groskind

Nestled at the intersection of topography and placemaking, this creative outdoor furniture is an attempt to encourage engagement on a small, intimate and somewhat abstracted way. The project is an attempt to link people to landscape and to their environment, by inviting them to explore, climb, sit, socialize, hide, and play; by encouraging discovery the project hopes to strengthen the community’s connection to place.

Project Name: Light Well

Proposed by: Michelle Laboy, Joshua Fiedler, and Seth Wiseman

This project creates a new form of sustainable infrastructure that performs as public art by enlivening public space with engaging forms and light. The Light Well inspires many interpretations: an object of art, a seat, a planter, a light fixture, and a vegetated drywell for storm-water infiltration. Powered by solar LED lights, this structure will illuminate at night, taking the energy and life of the day to transform the urban landscape at night with glowing forms.

Project Name: Rhodes

Proposed by: Basheer Tome and Grif Peterson

Rhodes is an outdoor life-size video conference between public spaces in Boston and another city. The purpose is to reimagine the urban tapestry by creating a permanent link to another world. Eschewing voyeurism, the observer is implicated in the installation as he or she is also being viewed, fostering connections between two otherwise distant communities. Over time, commuters may start recognizing each other, friends might plan to meet, and it may become a rallying point for interaction during major events. Through Rhodes, Boston has an opportunity to be at the forefront of public, digital collaboration, and emerge as the leader of a field that we will believe will inevitably take form elsewhere.

The Rhodes project team is working with teens from Urban Frame (, a summer youth program at MIT, to share in the design process that will bring it to life. The Urban Frame program has generously offered to fund this project for implementation in the Summer of 2014.


Project Name: Neighborhood Pocket Park

Proposed by: Jessica Robertson, Rich Parr, and Sarah Berry


Project Name: Street Sound

Proposed by: Joseph Wiles


Project Name: Beacon Trails

Proposed by: Sloan Dawson and Sasaki Associates


Project Name: Dance Spot

Proposed by: Elisa Hamilton


Project Name: Connecting the Dots

Proposed by: Vanessa Savas and the Codman Academy Class of 2014