GSD students to participate in North Allston design-build competition

Harvard University is engaging the Graduate School of Design as a creative program partner for the planning, design, and execution of a new public open space in Allston, and has launched a design-and-build competition inviting GSD students to enhance the site.

The competition site is an area adjacent to a passive green space owned and managed by Harvard known as “the Grove,” sitting at the critical neighborhood intersection of Western Avenue and North Harvard Street. This intersection, known locally as “Barry’s Corner,” is already a key gateway into North Allston and a critical node of development and activity along Western Avenue. The green space at the Grove is a highly valued place within the community, serving as an important connection to the neighborhood’s rich history.

Announced earlier in November, this competition has roots in extensive conversations and meetings between Harvard, the Allston-Brighton community, and the City of Boston during the University’s Institutional Master Plan process. During that process, community members articulated a vision for a more connected and vibrant commercial corridor along Western Avenue in North Allston.

In February 2015, Harvard University’s Office of the Executive Vice President and its consultants Graffito SP began work to develop creative strategies for activating Harvard-owned properties and spaces along Western Avenue. This work led to what has been named the Zone 3 Initiative. It also has fueled short-term place-making strategies as well as longer-term thinking about how best to utilize certain Harvard properties in ways that strengthen ties to the existing culture, character, and context of the Allston-Brighton community, while also building connections between the neighborhood and the University.

Photo of the Grove after its Summer 2014 opening. Photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Photographer
The Grove opened in August 2014. Photo by Rose Lincoln/Harvard Photographer

Facilitating new community gathering spaces, enhancing the public realm with art and activation, and connecting the neighborhood and the University community are core design values behind the competition. Project priorities include creating an open space to be used and activated, not just looked at; drawing people in and inspiring them to linger and return; remaining sensitive to the neighborhood context; and providing a platform that supports and encourages learning, experimentation, and exploration.

Each participating student team will be required to participate in a collective community engagement exercise, asking community members what brings them to the Grove and what they might want out of an expanded Grove, among other topics.

Student submissions will be offered to the competition jury by January 13, 2017, and the jury will name five finalists later in January. An open public exhibition of finalist work will take place at 267 Western Avenue from February 17 through 21. The jury will name a winner in late February, with design and construction beginning in March.

Supporting partners include the Harvard University Office of the Executive Vice President, Harvard Campus Services, Harvard Planning & Project Management, Charlesview, Inc., and Graffito SP.