This past Thursday, Boston’s design, government, and business communities came together to discover new ideas for the future of our city. The SHIFTboston Forum was the culmination of a months-long search for ideas of “What if…?” In the end, 141 submissions came in from 47 states and 16 countries – that’s a lot of interest in our little city!
Emcee Brian Healy, AIA (and former President of the Boston Society of Architects) led a conversation with panelists Audrey O’Hagan, AIA (and 2010 President of the BSA); Maria Aiolova, LEED AP; and Carlo Ratti, PhD. They discussed the variety of themes presented (technology, transportation, and the environment were big ones) and featured the finalists.
There were a number of proposals to move out over the water — whether by barge, a Manhattan-shaped island on the Charles River, or an elevated landmass with housing hanging from below it — and a good amount of proposals focused on the Fort Point Channel (one of two sites specified in the challenge). There was a community gardening initiative and a proposal that consisted of one blue line throughout the city, a reminder of how high the sea level could rise given current rates of climate change.
But there can only be one winner.
The winning submission, by Sapir Ng, of Tsoi/Kobus & Associates, and Andrzej Zarzyck, of NJIT, was unlike the other proposals in that it didn’t propose to add anything to the city’s current infrastructure. Instead, the TUTS – Tremont Underground Theater Space – would reuse a closed-off section of subway tunnel under Tremont Street for underground theater.
What I love most about this proposal is the excitement Sapir and Andrzej have in it, and the fact that, unlike some submissions, this one can very easily happen.
After the presentation, local and state government officials spoke about their support for these ideas, but what I found most promising was Robert Culver, President and CEO of MassDevelopment, expressing a real interest in financing big architectural ideas around the city.
There were a few complaints in the crowd, and on Twitter, about the forum. There were some concerns afterwards that it was less moderating by Healy and more monologuing. Also, some suggested the design entries were too tame, possibly intimidated by the thought of being judged by a more established, mainstream jury. As this was the first SHIFTboston, I’m sure there will be changes made by both organizers and contestants, and I look forward to seeing what SHIFTboston has to offer in the future.