From Prisons to Parks: How the US Can Capitalize On Its Declining Prison Populations

The Former Bangalore jail in India, now Freedom Park . Image © Flickr CC user abhisheksundaram

Prisons are often seen as problematic for their local communities. After centuries of correctional facilities discouraging economic growth and occupying valuable real estate as a necessary component of towns and cities, many of these institutions have been relocated away from city centers and their abandoned vestiges are left as unpleasant reminders of their former use. In fact, the majority of prisons built in the United States since 1980 have been placed in non-metropolitan areas and once served as a substantial economic development strategy in depressed rural communities. [1] However, a new pressure is about to emerge on the US prison systems: beginning in 2010, America’s prison population declined for the first time in decades, suggesting that in the near future repurposing these structures will become a particularly relevant endeavor for both community development and economic sustainability. These abandoned shells offer architects valuable opportunities to reimagine programmatic functions and transform an otherwise problematic location into an integral neighborhood space.

Why repurpose prisons rather than starting fresh? The answer to this question lies in the inherent architectural features of the prison typology, namely the fact that these structures are built to last. People also often forget that prison buildings are not limited to low-rise secure housing units – in fact, prisons feature an array of spaces that have great potential for reuse including buildings for light industrial activity, training or office buildings, low-security housing, and large outdoor spaces. These elements offer a wide variety of real estate for new programmatic uses, and cities around the world have begun to discover their potential. What could the US learn from these examples, at home and overseas?

Boston Living with Water Competition Names 9 Finalists

The Hydrokinetic Canal. Image Courtesy of

Nine finalists have emerged in the Boston Living with Water design competition. The ongoing initiative challenges competitors to address shifting climate conditions and sea level rise at one of three Boston sites anticipated to be affected by 2100. Although the 50 participating teams took different approaches to designing for , all the submissions treated the rising sea level as a positive design force in Boston’s built environment.

Check out the finalists, after the break.

Pei Cobb Freed Breaks Ground on Boston’s Tallest Residential Tower

© , Cambridge Seven Associates

Construction has commenced on Pei Cobb Freed & Partners’ 61-story condominium tower in Boston’s historic Back Bay. The $700 million development will be the tallest residential building in the city, and the tallest tower to rise since the 1976 John Hancock Tower, also designed by Pei Cobb Freed.

“The project allows us to consider once again how a tall building, together with the open space it frames, can respond creatively to the need for growth while showing appropriate respect for its historic urban setting,” says Henry Cobb of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.

Code of Context: The Uneasy Excitement of Global Practice

Safdie Architects. Marina Bay Sands. Singapore

Global, the Winter 2014 issue of ArchitectureBoston magazine, out now, is an examination of the challenges and opportunities facing architects working abroad, from the Middle East to Africa to Asia. The topics explored in this issue include how to value resource-constrained approaches, honor local vernacular, and learn from the urbanization precedents set in other parts of the world. In this article, Jay Wickersham FAIA examines how in a globalized market, architecture firms can take steps to ensure that their designs act in the best interests of the foreign communities they affect.

The signs of architecture’s are all around us. Foreign students flock to Boston to study architecture, prominent buildings are designed by foreign architects, American firms build practices around international projects. Globalization has allowed architects to work outside their own regions and cultures, at a scale and with a freedom of design they might never enjoy at home. But beneath the excitement and glamour of international practice, I sense an unease. Are we creating vital and original new architectures, or are we homogenizing cities and landscapes and obliterating regional differences? Are architects helping to strengthen and develop the economies of host communities, or are they acting as unwitting tools of inequality and repression?

Boston to Represent US in 2024 Olympic Bid

Courtesy of Team

The US Olympic Committee (USOC) has unanimously selected Boston as its applicant city for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The culmination of a 22-month evaluation process, Boston was selected over Los Angeles, Washington and San Francisco.

“This bid uniquely combines an exciting, athlete-focused concept for hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games with Boston’s existing long-term vision,” says USOC CEO Scott Blackmun. “We look forward to working with Mayor Walsh and the Boston 2024 team to fully engage with the local and identify ways we can make the bid even better.”

District Hall, Boston’s Public Innovation Center / Hacin + Associates

© Gustav Hoiland, Flagship Photo

Architects: Hacin + Associates
Location: 75 Northern Avenue, , MA 02210,
Landscape Architect: Reed Hilderbrand Associates, Inc
Hacin + Associates Team: David Hacin, President; Scott Thomson, Project Architect; Matthew Arnold, Project Manager; Nicole Fichera, Designer
Reed Hilderbrand Team: Gary Hilderbrand, Principal; Chris Moyles, Principal/Project Manager; Ryan Wampler, Associate; Leslie Carter, Designer
Year: 2014
Photographs: Gustav Hoiland, Flagship Photo

House Renovation in Boston / Intadesign

© Gustav Hoiland, Flagship Photo

Architects:
Location: Boston, MA,
Architect In Charge: Manuela Mariani
Area: 170.0 sqm
Year: 2014
Photographs: Gustav Hoiland, Flagship Photo

Call for Proposals: Boston Living with Water

Courtesy of

The Boston Harbor Association, City of Boston, Boston Redevelopment Authority, and have teamed up to launch Boston Living with Water, “an international call for design solutions envisioning a more resilient, more sustainable, and more beautiful Boston adapted for end-of-the-century climate conditions and rising sea levels.” The two-phase competition, open to all leading planners, designers and thinkers, will award the best overall proposal $20,000; the second and third best will each receive $10,000. Submissions for the first phase are due December 2, 2014. Learn more, here.

Interested in Becoming a Guest Curator for the Boston Society of Architects?

http://www.archdaily.com/209493/bsa--society-of-architects-space-howeler-yoon-architecture/. Image © Andy Ryan

BSA Space, home to the Boston Society of Architects and the BSA Foundation, is currently accepting proposals from all designers interested in becoming a guest curator. The selected curator would be responsible for conceiving, fabricating, executing, and installing all aspects of a major exhibit within the BSA’s 5,000 square foot gallery space. Proposals should take into consideration a diverse audience and seek to capture the imagination of the public by conveying the power of design as an instrument of change within Boston. All major exhibitions will run four to six months and guest curators will receive a budget of $30-70K. The deadline for submissions is Friday, November 14 at 4:00PM. More details can be found, here.

ULI Releases New Report on the Infrastructural Challenges of Rising Sea Levels

Innovation District Harborwalk . Image Courtesy of ULI

The Urban Implications of Living With Water, a recent report by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Boston, opens with the clear assertion: “We are beginning to feel the effects of .” The result of a conversation amongst over seventy experts from the fields of architecture, engineering, public policy, real estate and more, the report covers the proposed integrated solutions for a future of living in a city that proactively meets the challenges accompanying rising water levels.

“We accept that the seas are rising, the weather is changing, and our communities are at risk; and we recognize that no solution can be all-encompassing. It is our hope that this report will spark conversation, shift our understanding of what is possible, and aid us in reframing challenges into opportunities as we move toward this new era of development.”

Become part of the discussion and read more about the collective ideas, after the break.

Spotlight: Henry Hobson Richardson

courtesy of StudyBlue

Henry Hobson Richardson (29 September 1838  27 April 1886) was known across North America as the father of the Romanesque Revival. Although he only lived to age 48, Richardson is revered across the northeast United States for his appreciation of classic architecture and is the namesake for Richardsonian Romanesque, a movement he pioneered. Richardson studied engineering at Harvard University, a discipline he abandoned in favour of his interest in architecture.

Get Swinging in Boston on these Glowing LED Hoops

Courtesy of Howeler + Yoon Architecture

In Boston, playgrounds are no longer just for kids. Twenty LED-lit circular swings have been installed outdoors as a part of “Swing Time,” Boston’s first interactive installation. The hanging, glowing orbs are a twist on traditional rubber-and-rope swings, dangling from a minimal steel structure similar to those used in conventional playgrounds. LED lights embedded in the swings activate and change color as each swing moves, returning to a dim white light when static. The piece is designed to blend Boston’s design community with its expanding technology sector while playfully engaging residents.

Take a seat in “Swing Time” with more photos and info after the break.

It’s “Time For Strategic Architecture”

Bolling Municipal Center – , Boston (MA). Image Courtesy of Mecanoo / Sasaki Associates

In an article for the New York Times, Alexandra Lange discusses a number of US projects which are “transforming, but not disrupting,” their respective communities. In this vein, she cites Mecanoo and Sasaki Associates’ new Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Roxbury, Boston, as a prime example of a new kind of architecture which “comes from understanding of past civic hopes, redesigning them to meet the future.” Examining some of the key concepts that make for successfully integrated community buildings, such as the creation of spaces that actively forge personal connections, Lange concludes that perhaps it is now “time for strategic architecture.”

The idea that urban planning could build upon citizen action, rather than consisting of imposed boulevards or housing blocks (as with the urban renewal that originally gutted Roxbury) is gaining traction.

Read the article in full here.

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VIDEO: In Boston, Reclaiming the Craft of Brick

Latest Issue of ArchitectureBoston Devoted Entirely To Architecture & Design Books

Courtesy of Boston Society of Architects

This summer,  gives readers a reason to linger in their hammocks a little longer and drift away into the world of architecture and design. The new issue contains extensive and insightful suggestions for book lovers looking to build a personal library of new and important titles. Read on for more information.

ArchitectureBoston’s Latest Issue Offers Design Recommendations For A New Boston

Available today, the spring 2014 issue of ArchitectureBoston magazine, Blueprint for a New Mayor, investigates the critical design challenges facing ’s first new leader in two decades. The issue focuses on the city’s challenges surrounding housing, transportation, public space, and regionalization, plus offers recommendations for designing a that is more open, safe, beautiful, and fair. Visit architectureboston.com to read the latest issue.

Berklee College of Music / William Rawn Associates

© Bruce T. Martin Photography

Architects: William Rawn Associates
Location: Boston, MA,
Principal For Design: Cliff Gayley, , LEED AP
Area: 167,000 sqft
Year: 2014
Photographs: Bruce T. Martin Photography

Winners of the 2013 BSA Design Awards Announced

Via Verde – The Green Way / Dattner Architects and Grimshaw Architects © David Sundberg | Esto Photographics

The Boston Society of Architects has announced the winners of the 2013 Design Program. With programs ranging from accessible design to unbuilt architecture, the following projects were awarded top honors for being and New England’s most prized examples of excellent design.

Case Studies in Coastal Vulnerability: Boston, Seoul, Hamburg, Bangladesh & New York

Water floods the Plaza Shops in Manhattan after Superstorm Sandy, 2012. Photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images.

This article originally appeared in the latest issue of ArchitectureBoston as “Troubled Waters.“ 

The challenges of sea-level rise cross boundaries of all sorts: geographic, political, social, economic. Proposed mitigation strategies will also necessarily shift and overlap. Here, we present five case studies from across the globe that offer intriguing ways—some operational, some philosophical—to address the threats associated with climate change. Drawing on a research initiative focused on vulnerabilities in Boston, a team at Sasaki Associates developed these additional design-strategy icons to illustrate the layered approaches. They are adaptable, the better to meet the unique demands of each coastal community.