Post-Professional Design Studio

Project Description

Critic

Edward Mitchell

Central Square in Cambridge characterizes a mix of programs and activities. It is said to “be messy but in a good way, where a 99-cent McDonalds and a 6.99 carrot-beet juice with wheatgrass boosters can co-exist.” Central is inherently not one thing, but rather an intricate network of many, diverse parts. There is a collection of many small elements - parking lots, murals, and benches - that create their own networks. Currently they are overpowered by the large street-block-building structure. The large and the intricate are out of balance, which has created dull public spaces, limited to the linear edge of Mass Avenue.

With our scheme we attempt to preserve Central’s unique atmosphere with all its messiness and unpredictability by introducing a new urban order. A building matters but not more that than the space between the buildings. The organizational porosity encourages a meandering cross-movement through the site, dissolving the linear barrier of Mass Ave and creating a more rich urban experience. We took elements existing on site; downplaying the role of big components (buildings, roads) and amplifying the intricate ones (trees, lamps, benches). By creating a new relation between big and intricate we achieved a place with little hierarchy; a spatial matrix capable of unifying on urban scale while respecting the identity of its components. Fields of intensity overlap, amplifying the intricate, making a tree or bench no less significant than a building.