#PlazaPlus

Location: Boston, MA
Date: May 2015
Partners: Meredith McCarthy, Ryan Collier, Terri Dube, Emily Goldenberg, Chris Hardy, Einat Rosenkrantz, and Michael Tavilla

The City of Boston estimates that 20,000-30,000 people traverse Boston's City Hall Plaza on a daily basis. Today, most pass through on their way elsewhere. The once-bustling plaza of decades past has since been reduced to a barren 200,000 square foot expanse of brick and concrete. The result is a forgettable civic space that underwhelms as the front yard to Boston's City Hall. 

The fact that this plaza is underutilized is lost on no one, least of all, the city. In early 2015, the City of Boston, under the leadership of Mayor Martin J. Walsh, issued an Request for Ideas (RFI) to understand the potential for this critical site.  In conjunction with a traditional call for ideas, the city launched a Twitter campaign soliciting unprecedented democratic input from the Twitterverse through the hashtag, #CityHallPlaza. 

Taking a cue from the city's creative, social-media-supported RFI, the team, a group of designers spanning graphic design, landscape architecture, urban design, planning, architecture, and programming specializations, launched a grassroots campaign that responds to the RFI on its same terms. The team created the #PlazaPlus hashtag to spur further dialogue with the public around #CityHallPlaza. The #PlazaPlus design team took to the streets hearing from community members and capturing their hopes in inspired visuals. Over 100 handwritten responses were collected each reiterating that the public yearns for a usable plaza and that the ultimate solutions for this space will need to be comprehensive and thoughtful. 

Drawing inspiration from the public's response to #PlazaPlus, the team's final RFI response for re-envisioning City Hall Plaza requires two parallel initiatives: a major renovation of the physical space and an inventive programming agenda. The team is firm on its stance that while the plaza is in need of major renovation of the physical infrastructure—the underground parking roof, new pavement, fountain renovation, and tree planting, among other things—the form and circulation patterns do not need a massive overhaul. Rather than a redesign, the team advocates for a robust renovation and placemaking endeavor to help City Hall Plaza reclaim its position as a prized 21st century Boston destination. 

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