A dirt pile never looked so good.

woolson progress_6-27-14


Construction is underway at 44 Woolson Street!  The City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development has officially transferred ownership to the Boston Natural Areas Network.  Though it doesn’t look very green now, gardeners will  plant this summer.


For those who have been following this design process, you’ll recognize ideas introduced at the Fit City design charrette at last November’s ABX conference have made their way through to the final design….


Growing Community at Woolson Street Lot


A post written by our friends at the Salem Public Space Project.  Thanks for sharing!


w02 Collective social consciousness of waste, sustainable resources, economics, and pollution have influenced stakeholders to take a broader view of many design professions, especially architecture, which uses the greatest amount of resources of human enterprises. Indeed,  LEED (the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) helps establish standards of responsible resource making and gathering at the onset of design, while the temporal scope of architecture has also expanded beyond the finished building; design professionals need to take responsibility for the future maintenance and, even, potential disposal of the structure. Maintenance of a private residence requires the ultimate initiative of the owner; for public projects, the community is tasked with ongoing stewardship. Uncared for parks demonstrate that municipal trash pick-up isn’t enough. So, in addition to the materials, and the foresight, we need to also design for engagement; community building is a social and spatial problem, and creative design can aid the rigorous community organization of so many neighborhood leaders, activists, and planners.

w03SPSP was happy to be part of such an effort of Saturday, May 3rd in Mattapan in collaboration with the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC),  Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN), the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, and neighbors.  We were also delighted to re-use four bright orange frames initially created for another project.


In tandem with the “Boston Shines” city-wide clean-up effort, we erected creative signage on the lot to communicate the message that the planned community garden needs more gardeners. Design for social engagement is a compelling design challenge; the project is often a temporary installation, with no budget, infused with contextual issues and histories, inherently political, that seeks to reach a diverse number of people in circumstances that often hinder civic participation. On the Woolson Street lot, while volunteers cleaned up trash and weeded around daffodils, we posted signs that signal the beginning of the transformation of a lot that has a history of tragedy, and a desired future of community, safety, commemoration, and beautiful gardens!


If you would like to support the community gardens proposed at the Woolson Street Lot – support the project at Make Architecture Happen! 

Our 200 Seeds Campaign — for $25, will you help grow peace?

We’ve entered crowd sourcing…

What we’ve heard from the Woolson Street neighborhood residents is a strong desire for a community garden AND.  AND a place to gather.  AND a place for kids to play.  AND a place to foster a new neighborhood identity.  AND a place to grow peace.

This vacant lot at 44 Woolson has been the site of great tragedy, part of the scene of a quadruple homicide in 2010.  We’re working with residents to transform this site to a positive story, encouraging new perceptions and healthy activities in this neighborhood.

The City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development is generously funding essential garden infrastructure:  water service, soil remediation, garden plots.  But their funds are restricted to that.

Enter the MassArt graduate Community Build Studio which , for the price of materials, will work with community members to design and construct extraordinary garden structures:  trellises, sun shelters, tables, seats, artistic fencing, signage, a gateway.  That studio will take place next summer, dependent on fundraising.

Enter Make Architecture Happen.  We’re aiming for $5,000 this month (a substantial step toward $20,000 total):

If 200 people “seed” our campaign with $25 each, we’ll be there.

Will you help us demonstrate the optimism of great design?

Will you help us grow peace?



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Woolson Street Garden Plans Underway

Over the past ten weeks, we’ve worked with residents, garden advocates, Mattapan activists, and City officials to generate and refine ideas for the layout of the new Woolson Street community garden.  Several priorities have been clear from the beginning:  the layout should be unique, creating spaces for neighbors to gather — to talk, to play, to share, to eat, to listen, to celebrate, to remember — as well as provide the infrastructure to grow vegetables.

Everyone contributed ideas during the initial layout brainstorm session, resulting in about twenty different schemes:

2014-03-13 13.23.32 - Copy

Which were then synthesized into three options:

woolson sketch A - Copy woolson sketch B - Copy woolson sketch C

Scheme “A” — the curved path, or the ‘fiddlehead’ scheme, was the runaway favorite.  Several variations on that scheme prompted discussion about details like path materials and the location of the raised beds and trees:

a2 - Copy a1 - Copy


Ray Dunetz Landscape Architects has taken these community preferences to the construction documents.  Now with technical considerations like the exact slope of the path and site drainage incorporated to the precise dimensions provided by the City’s engineering site survey (completed after the snow stopped falling in April), the revised scheme looks like this:

garden sketch_4-25-2014 - Copy

Construction documents are nearly complete.  The project will go out to bid in May, with construction to begin in a few weeks.  Gardeners, get ready!  Plots will open in June.

What might “Fit City Boston” be? The CDRC Design Charrette at ABX Advances that Conversation

fit city charrette_11-21-2013_01At the Fit City Design Charrette at ABX on November 21, over 50 design professionals, public health advocates, and neighborhood residents brainstormed ideas for how to transform a handful of underutilized Mattapan sites into places that support active and healthy living.  A number of concepts emerged, incorporating elements of community gardens and urban farming, as well as play and exercise spaces.  Special attention was paid to connecting sites to each other to create a neighborhood network, and to connecting these sites to other existing and planned neighborhood amenities, like the Neponset River and the Fairmont Greenway.

All sites studied are real places that the City of Boston and others are hoping to transform into community spaces, depending on input from the neighborhood.

Ideas generated at the Charrette will be taken to neighborhood meetings for further discussion, and will be used to inform the ongoing planning processes.

A special THANK YOU to Woolson Street area residents, to Pastor Zephir and the Greater Boston Nazarene Compassionate Center, and to professionals from the Boston Public Health Commission, the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, the City of Boston Department of Neighborhood Development, the Boston Transportation Department, the Boston Natural Areas Network, the Boston Redevelopment Authority, the Trust for Public Land, ReVision Urban Farm, the Fairmont Greenway Initiative, Enterprise Community Partners, the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and the Salem Public Space Project for participating in the Fit City Charrette conversation!