View of the Hub, bench/parklet hybrid
The first Public Space Invitational was a contest for engineers, designers, architects, and other creative minds to enliven public spaces around the city. Recent SOA graduate Nick Guertin, who currently works at Abacus Architects + Planners (where he had previously worked during coop), had his project selected as one of the winner submissions. Nick became interested in how design could impact neighborhoods through small interventions and the work he did lead him to participate in the contest.
Some of the work done that Abacus focuses on includes working with the city to redesign commercial storefronts in main street areas of neighborhoods selected by the Department of Neighborhood Development for funding and intervention. Through that work, Nick was put in touch with the Executive Director of Mission Hill Main Streets, and he started volunteering time with that organization , during his final semester in school. Nick has been a resident of Mission Hill for the past two years and wanted to do something positive in the neighborhood.
They began developing a design for enhancing the area along the Huntington Avenue corridor between Brigham Circle and the Riverway. Because of the narrow sidewalk constraints, the street lacks many of the fixtures that activate the sidewalk for residents and visitors. Currently there are hardly any options for seating, bicycle racks, and even plantings. Because of the complete lack of seating or shelter at the three Green Line stops along the corridor, people are often seen sitting on apartment stoops while they wait.
The solution Nick derived to address the problem was The Hub, a modular unit installation that is composed of a kit of parts- including seating, planters, covered shelter overhangs, and bike racks. The pieces were designed to be interchangeable- meaning each installation can flexibly respond to the conditions around it. Commercial storefronts, restaurants, or residential buildings have different users and presences on the public way-and the Hub can respond to each in kind.
Nick has been thinking of it as a bench/parklet hybrid: small enough to relate to at the individual scale, but larger in presence than the ubiquitous city benches we see everywhere. The name “The Hub” is homage to Boston’s nickname, as well as a signifier that these installations will become neighborhood hubs where residents and visitors will congregate and activate the street.
While he was working on this, the City announced the Public Space Invitational competition, which Nick immediately recognized as an excellent opportunity to get support to actually develop this project. The organizers encouraged participants to find community partners and by submission time, Nick had gathered letters of support from the New England Baptist Hospital, the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard, and his city councilor Josh Zakim.
Nick’s project was chosen as one of the winning submissions in The Streetscape Category and he plans to use opportunity this as a means of building the first prototypes to install along the corridor. He will use that to publicize the project and kick off a fundraising effort that will hopefully provide support to develop the Hub and its installation.
More information on the competition and a list of all the winners can be found here.