D Street now boasts a new, flexible-use outdoor space courtesy of the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center (BCEC). The vibrant, lantern-lit, Sasaki-designed space, "The Lawn on D," will open to the public on Friday, August 15, at 2 p.m. with a Grand Opening event. Mayor Marty Walsh will join in the festivities, providing remarks and taking part in the live music, food, games, and art alongside Sasaki and the rest of Boston. The opening of The Lawn on D marks the transition of two years (and counting) of urban design and landscape architecture work from planning to reality.
Sasaki brings The Lawn on D to life as a key component of a larger urban design collaboration with our friends at Utile, Inc. for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA). This ambitious initiative seeks to transform D Street through a carefully choreographed re-development of several connected parcels of land along its length. The ultimate goal of this effort is to create a vibrant and innovative urban district that will support the recently approved upcoming BCEC expansion and bolster surrounding neighborhoods.
While the urban design challenge of creating a new district along D Street is exciting in itself, several factors have really amplified our enthusiasm for this project. Among them:
1) A nimble process
While many urban design projects follow a familiar design process—analyze site, propose options, evaluate options, select a preferred alternative, and finalize—this project has followed a less predictable path. Our site, scope, and program evolve as land availability changes, needs arise, timelines shift, and neighboring developments come online. These realities challenge us to stay flexible, agile, and open to new ideas. As a result, this project has moved forward at an incredible speed. To see urban design work come to fruition in just two years is rare—and we are glad to see it happen in our own city.
2) Client vision and ambition
The MCCA is forward-thinking and ambitious, qualities that drive high standards and yield excellent design. For example, knowing that the BCEC expansion would trigger the need for a place to park 1,350 cars, our client did not simply ask for a parking garage. They asked for the "parking garage of the future"—an architectural landmark that will perform as a garage in the near term with the ability to be repurposed for other uses in an optimistic future of diminished reliance on cars. Similarly, anticipating the need for several hundred mid-priced hotel rooms, the MCCA pushed the urban design team to craft design guidelines that would ensure hotels that activate and enliven the public realm and contribute positively to the ambitious design agenda of D Street. Their credo is "success begets success"—and it's this relentless pursuit of early wins that brought The Lawn on D into being and will ensure the future success of D Street.
3) Strategic project phasing
Redeveloping D Street is like "changing the wings while flying the plane." Asynchronous timelines and evolving programmatic needs make phasing development along D Street a complex endeavor. But this complexity gives rise to unique opportunities. For example, occupied buildings currently sit on the parcel of land where a permanent outdoor event space might be sited. Another parcel of vacant land just north of it will likely not be needed until 2016. Rather than let this site sit vacant, the MCCA and the urban design team conceptualized this site as a testing ground for future open space programming, events, and installations. Last year, the MCCA asked Sasaki to put together a landscape architecture team to design a flexible, pop-up open space. Our friends at HR&A Advisors and Chris Wangro joined the effort to develop and implement a program concept for the space. Thus began our work on "The Lawn on D." We are beyond pleased this pilot project of D Street's new identity is now a reality.
Please join us on Friday, and many days thereafter, at The Lawn on D to enjoy art, food, light, landscape, dance, sport, leisure and commerce while participating in the urban experiment that has all of us here at Sasaki jazzed.