Bridging the Divide: A Toolkit for Urban Development

Presenter: Jake Okrent

Research Category: Humanities and Arts
College: College of Arts Media & Design
Major(s): Architecture
Student Type: Undergraduate
Graduation Date: 2026
Award Winner Category: Data and Digital Storytelling

Boston’s Southwest corridor is recognized as a conglomeration of diverse neighborhoods between the Back Bay and Forest Hills stations, integrated through the linear 20-foot deep orange rail channel by urban designers in 1989. The form of this rail channel is inaccessible at the pedestrian level, but its relationship to a string of green footpaths transforms this linear system into an engaging transportation and orientational armature for residents and visitors. The system’s drawback is the pressure it places on land bridging over the channel to foster community engagement between neighborhoods stranded by the rail’s physical nature. Many land-bridges currently succeed in creating a physical connection, but have the potential for far more engagement. By developing these pivotal land-bridges to their full potential, adjacent communities can productively interface with the greater urban environment.

This project proposes a method for gauging the role of these urban land-bridges, while simultaneously developing a toolkit for constructing impactful urban developments applicable across other similar urban transit spines. The project presents an extensive conditions analysis on the existing physical and socioeconomic environment. This analysis forms the basis for its taxonometric investigation to compare and measure the success of these conditions. Categories within this taxonomy receive a numeric connectivity value whose collective sum hypothesizes how well an area successfully manifests a dynamic urban environment for its surrounding community. This analysis and method not only provide a system for identifying and prioritizing areas for urban and community revitalization, but also reveal the necessary formal relationships to accomplish it.