Below, Above, and Beyond: Revealing the abandoned underground subway infrastructures as urban form and experience

Cover of Below, Above, and Beyond

Boston’s subway system is the oldest in the United States and the second oldest in the world, and it has evolved throughout the city’s history. During the studios , 18 interdisciplinary students explored the possible reuse of abandoned subway infrastructures owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA).

61 disused spaces were found both underground and aboveground, comprising tunnels, platforms, tracks, portals, and turnaround loops. The objectives of the studios were1 to determine whether these spaces can be reconnected to form a public space network providing an urban form and experience and2 to propose specific reuse schemes for the Brattle Tunnel underneath Harvard Square. Students’ endeavors over the course of two semesters revealed that the disused spaces can have afterlives as networks of burial grounds, urban habitats, stormwater management facilities, urban farms, and homeless facilities, with each scheme successfully integrated within the 450 ft. long, 45 ft. wide, and 15 ft. high Brattle Tunnel. Various types of representation were employed to deliver the sensory effects and delightful experience that the tunnel can offer, such as a 7 ft. long physical model and 6 ft. long section drawings as well as movies and normative landscape architectural media. Due to their prime urban locations and the consistent thermal comfort of being underground, these disused/obsolete spaces hold enormous potential in the era of climate change Despite the interest of some stakeholders, such as the Harvard Square Business Association, in the rebirth of these spaces, their invisibility, and limited accessibility impede extended discussions with design experts and the public. I believe that sharing the pedagogy and the works of the studios will yield a discussion with a broader audience through effective media, which will increase the public’s awareness of the importance of the adaptive reuse of abandoned infrastructure. This report provides the necessary basis to take the first step toward a consensus.

Below, Above, and Beyond: Revealing the abandoned underground subway infrastructures as urban form and experience is a studio report that presents the process and results of two consecutive design studios taught by Jungyoon Kim at the Harvard Graduate School of Design during the spring 2021 and 2022 semesters on Boston’s abandoned subway infrastructure and the strategies for their adaptive reuse. 

Series Design by Zak Jensen and Laura Grey
Report design by Esther Kim

Softcover, 192 pages, 17 x 24.5 cm