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A dynamic landscape that breaks the static sea wall boundary, improves accessibility and engagement, and provides protection from sea level rise

Boston Children’s Museum Waterfront Master Plan

Boston Children’s Museum
Boston, MA
1 acre
Landscape Architecture
Additional Services
Civil Engineering
Community Engagement
Planning and Urban Design
Master Plan completed 2021

For over a century, the Boston Children’s Museum’s interactive exhibits have redefined the traditional museum experience. With its Boston Harbor location and rising sea levels at its doorstep, the Museum sought to engage the waterfront and work with Sasaki to develop a master plan oriented towards growth and opportunity.

Boston Children’s Museum tasked Sasaki and their broad consultant team to craft a plan for a beautiful, resilient, and playful waterfront that reflects the Museum’s mission to engage children and families to develop foundational skills and spark a lifelong love of learning. The plan envisions a dynamic and expressive landscape that both protects the community from flooding and invites visitors of all ages to engage in immersive experiences at the water’s edge.

The Existing Waterfront

As it exists today, the Harborwalk and entry landscape outside of the Boston Children’s Museum is a flat plane with limited ways for children and families to experience the water, as much of the site is several feet above and behind a guardrail. 

Protecting from sea level rise presents both an opportunity and a challenge for the museum, its entry landscape, and the Harborwalk. The challenge is that adding multiple feet of protection could cut visitors off from the water even more than the existing condition. On the other hand, redesigning the waterfront with more elevation change and higher water levels is a chance to change the existing paradigm from one of boardwalk and guardrail to one of dynamic and thoughtful connection.

An Engaged and Inclusive Process

The 12-month planning process included thousands of touchpoints with the Museum community. At the outset, the Museum created a project steering committee to guide the plan, including a range of representatives from the Museum’s departments and leadership. Sasaki also worked with a consultant team to gather essential information about the museum’s needs, waterfront permitting and regulation, and the logistics of building on a centuries-old seawall. Using various research methods to understand the physical regulations of the site, the team sketched out an approach to adjusting the edge of the channel to be more dynamic while fulfilling the additional need for flood protection.

A Welcoming Front Yard for Every Day

The new design manifests a playful twist to the original pier, elevating and pivoting its position to provide passive flood protection as well as unique experiences and expansive views over the channel. The plan opens up more opportunities for accessible programming and joyful learning adjacent to the Museum, while offering an eclectic means of engaging with the waterfront.

Imagine a dynamic and expressive landscape at the front door of the Boston Children’s Museum that both protects the community from flooding and invites all visitors to engage in immersive experiences at the water’s edge.

BCM Waterfront Master Plan Final Report, p. 40

New features will include water steps, native plantings along the rocky coastline, floating gardens, and a floating dock, all enticing visitors to explore the dynamic relationship between the channel and the landscape. A realigned and elevated Harborwalk will provide continuous recreational access along the channel while integrating multi-benefit sculptural flood protection measures. Key museum program areas are tucked behind this flood barrier, including an expanded entry and admissions area, an outdoor messy play exhibit, and a three-season event space.

Traversing the Congress Street bridge from downtown, visitors will discover a vibrant and inclusive experience at the Museum’s front door. A lush coastal landscape will step down to the water’s edge, including a universally accessible pathway through native stones and plantings. Vegetation will frame a view to the main Museum entrance, while the harborwalk, the iconic Hood Milk Bottle, generous seating opportunities, the wharf all create exciting moments at the water’s edge and entice visitors to stay and play.

For more information contact Zachary Chrisco.

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