This weekend marks the first of many new ventures in my once, and soon to be again, home city of Boston. I have been invited by Boston University to design and host a workshop for BU students which explores creative urban responses to some of the challenges facing the city of Boston.
The workshop is being run as part of my work with concepts to “reprogram the city”: working with the existing urban objects, spaces and infrastructure to create new functionality out of existing urban assets.
The BU Lab is an opportunity to generate multi-dimensional ideas for Boston’s future challenges, solutions, and opportunities. BU Lab will be a R&D department for the city, utilizing a cross section of disciplines within BU – from Engineering to Law; Biology to Fine Arts – creating a framework of ideas and applications for the city. The diversity of these disciplines is fundamental in creating holistic, sustainable solutions to the city, and Boston University is uniquely placed in having such a rich pool of resources to bring together.
The initial “test bed” for the BU Lab will be the Commonwealth Avenue corridor, defined by the MBTA route running from Kenmore Square to Agganis Arena. This corridor provides a rare sampling of almost all urban elements that need to be addressed with future urban thinking: public transportation, traffic, pedestrian areas, retail interfaces, shared space, green space, bridges and essential infrastructure.
BU Lab can also function as a means of creating tactile environments for some of the larger issues facing Boston and cities at large. T platforms (Boston’s subway is known as “the T”) and shelters could be test models for everything from rain water collection systems to energy production sources and sustainable shelter design. The student population and transportation corridor provide quantifiable and predictable metrics of use and population statistics which are highly valuable and can be used for everything from specific testing opportunities to opportunities for arts students to create visual or narrative journeys for these populations along the corridor.
The first BU Lab workshop will serve as an insight into a new way of approaching the city – using a mosaic of skills, interests and insights to develop robust, sustainable ideas for urban issues.
It’s going to be a wonderful experience to return to Boston for this, and promises to be an inspiring time ahead, for the workshop, myself, and Boston. Watch this space.