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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.


Together toward success

By Robert A. Brown and J.P. Shadley, 2/3/2003

IN THE COURSE of a city's development limited opportunities arise to dramatically transform the urban fabric. The design of the Rose Kennedy Greenway to replace the Central Artery is just such an opportunity.

Winding through our downtown, from the North End to Chinatown, this 27-acre park system holds many dreams for many people. It's an opportunity to reconnect our vibrant waterfront to the city. It can provide needed urban parks in our existing and emerging central residential neighborhoods. And it's an opportunity for Boston to make a global statement in urban design, community process, and visionary city thinking.

These are poignant challenges for the greenway, but we must do everything possible to transcend our personal needs and meet these greater goals.

For 20 years we have talked, argued, imagined, and been frustrated by this incredible highway program - to replace a worn elevated superhighway with a subterranean roadway that will serve us for the next century has been no small task.

Now as we near its realization, our attention focuses on a transformed surface. Expert development of the greenway should cover the controversies, bridge the divisions, and rally all of us to produce the most dynamic park system this city and this country has ever seen.

Today we stand at a point of a ''new beginning'' as the design for the greenway is to start in earnest. Ideas floated for its use have ranged from building it over to creating a serpentine version of the Commonwealth Mall, yet none has captured the collective vision and excitement that this urban place deserves. Most of the ideas, while bold design strokes, have treated the Artery as one visionary concept. But as the Artery moves from north to south it passes a complex assortment of urban conditions that with every block touch different residential, commercial, retail, and maritime activities.

To produce the great place we all deserve will require intense focus from an inspired client, an engaged community, and visionary designers. We challenge them to put aside grievances, frustrations, and problems and seek new openness in their thinking, sharing in their thoughts, and a willingness to look anew at this extraordinarily complicated but truly exciting opportunity.

An inspired client is the most important ingredient in a successful design. We look to the city and state to work together to inspire our thinking, create a process we can work together on, and always push us to go beyond our dreams. Direct the design teams to excel as they work to create urban space and lead our citizens so they bring the insight of their neighborhoods communities and interest groups to the table.

The communities: We equally challenge you to be neighbors within this larger city. Share your specific needs and program goals that will enhance the parks nearest to you so they become integral to your community's life, but also be open to the suggestions of citizens, tourists, business acquaintances, or passersby whose interests will make these parks neighborhood, city, and regional features in our urban context.

The designers have perhaps the greatest challenge of all to craft urban spaces which include the hopes and dreams, the ideas, and the programs we all so desperately seek.

Over the past six months the city and state have conducted an intensive search to select not just designers but comprehensive design teams to help craft these parks into a cohesive greenway. The teams include urban designers, landscape architects, program specialists, architects, artists, and historians who have demonstrated their knowledge of the local process and world-class understanding in creating great urban spaces. To the three design teams who have been selected, we ask you to bring your experience, expertise and the power of your unique design ability to help interpret our ever enlarging vision for a better Boston.

To kick off this exciting process the Boston Society of Architects and the Boston Society of Landscape Architects are hosting an open public discussion about the design of the greenway at the Boston Public Library's Rabb Hall tomorrow from 5 to 8 p.m.

We stand at an incredible crossroads that can fulfill so many of our dreams. Creating a vibrant greenway will require great dedication from all who participate. As you become involved be open to new thoughts. Be willing to hear different perspectives and be as creative and energetic as you can.

Our cities, and in particular are parks are the stage for us to celebrate and enjoy life. They need to be comfortable, dynamic, and over time to continue to change to accommodate new ideas.

Like nature itself, the greenway is a living, growing, and seasonally changing place. Let's all work to make it the great place that this great city deserves.

Robert A. Brown is former president of the Boston Society of Architects. J.P. Shadley is president of the Boston Society of Landscape Architects.

This story ran on page A13 of the Boston Globe on 2/3/2003.

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