Last week, the University of Massachusetts Boston conferred degrees to 3,934 students on the school’s newly-minted Commencement Lawn. This year’s commencement, the school’s 51st, included a principal address by Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley and unofficially marked the culmination of nine years of design and construction by BVH, Sasaki, and team. The Commencement Lawn, previously a traffic circle and, before that, part of one of Boston’s largest landfills, represents a revolution in the creation of public space at the edge of Boston Harbor and a celebration of the unique and breathtaking setting of UMass Boston—the city’s sole public university.
The 2.2 acre Commencement Lawn is the centerpiece of Sasaki’s 77-acre redesign of the UMass Boston campus that includes the design of meadows, complete streets, connections to the City of Boston Harborwalk, and the planting of 840 trees. The Commencement Lawn—with panoramic views of the Boston Harbor Islands—was designed as a setting to support academic and recreational uses as well as events of various sizes. Beneath the lush sodded surface is a 12 inch custom soil profile reinforced with fibers to create a firm foundation for stages, scaffolding, chairs, semi-trucks, and other heavy equipment needed for large events. Framing the lawn are planted dunes and stormwater basins, inspired by coastal Massachusetts landscapes.
The UMass Boston Class of 2019 makes their processional to the new Commencement Lawn overlooking the Boston Harbor Islands. May 31, 2019
The 2019 Undergraduate Commencement Ceremony on the Commencement Lawn.
The new Campus Center plaza, bike racks, and transit stop, located just steps from the Commencement Lawn.
View from the UMass Boston Campus Center to a serpentine line of spectators waiting to enter the event.
Spectators and graduates listen to addresses by Former UMass Boston Chancellor, Barry Mills and Massachusetts Congresswoman, Ayanna Pressley.
For the first time in five years, UMass Boston held commencement ceremonies on campus. Previously, commencement ceremonies were held in the center of a large roundabout in this vicinity, where traffic and a row of dense trees blocked views to the water.
The sodded lawn is designed to support extreme use – such as the 11,000 spectators and a 200,000 pound stage.
May 31, 2019 commencement ceremony as seen from the top of the UMass Boston Campus Center stairs.
A Sasaki rendering from 2012 showing a graduation ceremony on the new lawn.