Interstices: 3 Projects for Boston

Boston, Massachusetts

The legacy of abandoned industrial landscapes, underutilized railway marshalling yards and obsolescent docklands present opportunities to simultaneously restructure vast portions of the urban core, while reducing development pressures peripheral rural land. Regeneration of obsolete North American industrial sites defined by transportation infrastructure is rarely achieved in a programmatically complex manner, due to the practical, social and governmental complexities involved. This research focuses on interstices and indeterminate spaces within the morphological continuity of the central city—voids created by changes in the technologies of mobility and the loss of industrial production brought about by shifting capital. An interstice is “a space that intervenes between one thing and another,” where the restructuring of relationships between architecture, landscape and transportation infrastructure occurs. The pervasiveness and inevitability of urban interstices prompted investigation of the potentials inherent in those interstitial spaces, the disciplinary relationships involved, and the following research question: Can specific physical strategies be identified for an interdisciplinary (re)consideration of the design and regenerative potential of interstices, particularly through strategic architectural appropriations of transportation infrastructure, within the post-industrial landscape?

The research project involved three distinct modes of inquiry: analysis of proposed and built comparable projects, identification and development of translatable physical tactics, and testing of design strategies in hypothetical projects for a single Boston site. The three major strategies explored were (1) programmatic transformation of disused infrastructural elements, (2) layering of transport infrastructure and (3) formal and programmatic hybridization.

While the precedents and design research projects selected for examination vary in scope, geographic location and program, they possess two common characteristics. Each is located within an interstitial space left outside the growth and consideration of the city, and each is impacted by and understood in relation to transportation infrastructure. While the above strategies are rooted in particular sites, the conceptual bases are translatable. Perhaps then the published results could be a major proactive impetus for change in those interstices existing outside the active life of the city.