Living symbiotically with infrastructure proves to be an increasingly important priority when considering the urban fabric of the future. These infrastructures are under-utilized and quite singular. Currently, these border-like conditions yield illicit activity while evoking feelings of fear and danger. We must shift this paradigm at the local, regional and national scale in order to achieve a more designed, socially inclusive city.
Narrative collage suggesting the current vs. proposed conditions of a reimagined highway infrastructure
On July 29th, 2016 the Payette hack-a-thon team ventured from the comfort of the air-conditioned office on Congress Street to a pop-up exterior workspace protected under the I-93 overpass. Organized by Design Museum Boston, the Urban Innovation Festival served as a think tank for design solutions that revitalize infrastructural environments. The Payette team lived and worked under the overpass full of inspired designers, remarkable odors and interrogative noises. Throughout the charrette, the design process was showcased through a series of hourly social media posts, daily presentations and discourse conversations.
At the conclusion of the three-day design event, the team developed a system that could be rapidly fabricated and deployed – “Re_vive”.
Re_vive acknowledges the existing spatial typologies beneath highway infrastructures as they bisect neighborhoods rooted deep within urban city fabrics. Within a collection of field, edge and contained spatial conditions, defined spatial zones begin to emerge. These ground, interstitial and artificial sky zones describe the sectional spaces that exist beneath monolithic monsters. When these emerging spatial typologies and defined spatial zones are intersected, a series of design opportunities are presented. Through a systematic approach, a deployable system for urban intervention is designed.
Diagram of the deployable system as it relates to the spatial conditions found surrounding highway infrastructures
Scaffold-like structures are aggregated across the site with intensions of redefining contested spaces. Once home to illicit activity and feelings of unrest, the system will “re_connect” adjacent transportation nodes, “re_energize” community greenspaces, “re_source” services, “re_create” artistic involvement and “re_activate” commercial activity. Nine deployable scaffolds form a series of frameworks for nearby actors to personalize. Each installation creates opportunities for individuals to adapt themselves to. The designed system includes a family of installation typologies such as swings, art/broadcast walls, canopies and interactive suspended structures.
Collage illustrating the system as it is applied to the highway infrastructure
The Boston site will serve as the testing ground for future installations. Understanding that similar environments exist throughout the United States, the project is proposed as a prototype. The prototype will be executed at the regional scale by tactically inserting and customizing itself for the gateway cities of Massachusetts. Once success is achieved regionally, the prototype is open for interpretation at the national scale.
Mapping suggesting the scalability of the project through the tactical insertion nodes across the gateway cities of Massachusetts
As a method for testing the feasibility and implications of our deployable system, the team developed a full-scale prototype for one of the scaffold typologies. In the same way the system redefines the contested site through deployment and program, it was important that the prototype, as an object, reinterpret the site through materiality and form. Complex helical geometries are achieved through the sawing, bending and welding of commonly used reinforcement bars. Through fabrication, these new forms begin to develop a tectonic language that can be applied to the other eight installation typologies.
Payette’s Parke MacDowell welding rotating rebar frames on the helical core
A process photo taken of the stacked rebar frames forming the swing structure
Ultimately, our prototype fabrication served as a valuable design tool for the team. Also, it was an effective way to communicate the complexity of our design intent to the communities in the South End and South Boston.
The final prototype with a new (yellow) paint job, hanging in the Payette fabrication lab – Charlestown, MA
The swing was developed at Payette’s fabrication space in Charlestown, MA – a new space and testing-ground for innovative Payette projects.
The Payette urban innovation team is excited to learn of increasing interest in the realization of our project. We look forward to future opportunities with Design Museum Boston and the city we call home.
Bringing a prototype to the Urban Innovation Festival
Design Process Perspective: DMB Urban Innovation Festival Hackathon