Designing the In-Between; Transecting the Heart of Chinatown on a Forgotten Site [M2]

A curious “missing tooth” in the chaotic and dense urban fabric of Boston’s Chinatown reveals a vivisection of the neighborhood and provides an opportunity for a resilient urban intervention exploring the concept of Embedded Nature in a place devoid of nature and lacking a true center. Investigations into the interplay of landscape and building form will explore the tension created by In-Between spaces both intensely public and private, or fast and slow, to create new architectural possibilities. Can the spatial implications of the In-Between coupled with the performative aspects of nature reestablish the interrelationship between architecture, life, and culture in Chinatown through innovative built form?

Context:  Chinatown is a vibrant, self-contained cultural island that has existed through three centuries of Boston’s evolution and development; it is one of Boston’s oldest and most densely populated urban neighborhoods. Due to its density and cultural isolation, Chinatown lacks access to neighborhood-based healthcare, affordable housing, natural light, greenspace, and meaningful places to gather as a community.

Located along the seam of the original shoreline of the South Cove, the project site has existed as a surface parking lot for the past 90 years, fronting two streets and connecting one side of the neighborhood with the other. As gentrification has encroached upon the neighborhood, affordable housing for elders and restaurant workers has become less accessible.

Program:  Students define the program after a brief study of the neighborhood’s architectural conditions and its needs. Possibilities include a community center, health clinic, community kitchen, library, affordable/micro housing, community gardens, senior housing, and public greenspace. Programmatic elements should integrate landscape into design solutions, building upon Chinese traditions of courtyards and hanging gardens in new and inventive ways to explore the dichotomy between interiority and public space within the confines of historic Boston.

Methodology: The studio will employ an iterative process focused on the production of artifacts to study the spatial implications of the In-Between, utilizing drawing and digital fabrication techniques to explore potentialities. Fabrication will have a major role in the studio to enable iterative study and the role of making and fabrication in clarifying, exploring, and explaining complex architectural ideas.  
There will be a fabrication workshop at the PAYETTE FABLab to facilitate rapid prototyping with digital fabrication modalities. All base models will be provided by PAYETTE to expedite exploration.