Urban branding

By MARK FAVERMANN  |  June 27, 2006

The five finalists for the commission appear to have been chosen for quality of thought as well as their difference of approach. Stephen Stimson Associates, Landscape Architects, Inc. focused on the integration of media outlets into the city landscape by juxtaposing the South End’s historical heritage context with contemporary-art installations. In an attempt to make invisible the physical barriers between the institution and the public spaces, Simpson would project daily activities taking place inside the BCA onto the perforated steel pavilion. Historic black paving, concrete pavers, and perforated steel pavers would indicate entrances to prominent BCA segments.

Patterhn, Eric R. Hoffman & Tony A. Patterson proposed a reorganization of the space that would preserve the sidewalk along the street and along the façades of the buildings while creating a wooden strip much like a 21st-century boardwalk as a community space. There would be an area adjacent to buildings for users of the buildings, an outer strip for community use, and a wooden “island” in the middle for use by both.

Rachel Broek, a student from Rhode Island School of Design, proposed a layered translucent canopy structure to reflect the plaza’s constant movement and people interchange. According to Broek, “The floating surfaces create opportunity for seating along the edge, self-contained lighting, and shading from a tensile structure above.” Jurors felt that the floating canopy dematerialized but still had a real presence on the urban stage.

Another student from Rhode Island School of Design, Daniel Cho, suggested that the plaza surface should allow for personal daydreaming and artistic expression; he would achieve this through changing and reconfiguring two movable deck floors. With a stage that goes to the street edge, it reads as a park; it includes a tranquil water element with architectural treatment of the courtyard.

Panoptical Camouflage, the entry by a team from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, proposed to bring back memories of the cyclorama to the exterior of the complex on a changeable giant translucent-ribbon screen structure. Projections of the BCA interior by live feeds, video, and specially staged theater programming would reveal what’s inside. The BCA space would be transformed into an integrated public stage — talk about urban branding!

If the eventual winning design enjoys the same thoughtfulness and focused attention that the first stage of the competition did, the BCA will have itself a superior urban space. The winner will be announced in September.

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