December 14, 2011

Architecture Students Redesign Allston/Brighton Neighborhood

When architecture students Elliott Richmond, Jacob Augunas, and Ross Lyons sat down at City Hall with Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) members this semester, they got a good glimpse of what it takes to make designs work in the real world.

“In studio, comments are always tempered by the fact that [we’re] in studio. It doesn’t necessarily have to stay in reality at all,” Lyons said. But in the case of the BRA, specifics have to be considered. It’s less about thinking generally and more about thinking what could actually work in a given area, Augunas said. “They’re looking for errors because they need to know what works best. It’s nice to have really substantial feedback.”

For years, associate professor of architecture Manuel Delgado has been instrumental in connecting Wentworth architecture students with neighborhood groups and civic organizations throughout the Boston region, including those in Allston and Brighton. Because of Delgado’s efforts, BRA Senior Architect and Urban Designer David Grissino participated in mid-term and final reviews for Professor Robert Cowherd’s senior summer architecture studio class. Grissino chose the works of the three students—all 2011 graduates of the architecture program and current Master of Architecture candidates—to be brought to Boston City Hall for BRA members involved with their own Allston-Brighton urban planning and design project to review.

Once at City Hall, Cowherd and his students were pleasantly surprised when every BRA member involved with the project came in to look at their designs for what turned out to be a very in-depth critique.

“[The students] came under very intense scrutiny and were being asked to answer for some aspects of their proposals way beyond the scope of what we ask them to do in the studio,” Cowherd said. “They did an excellent job presenting their work and defending it.”

Richmond’s project focused around a soccer stadium, something that stuck out because of its massive scale—an entirely new neighborhood around the stadium on what is currently underutilized rail yards.

Lyons’ project also dealt with a large scale, namely, three of Allston’s biggest intersections at Union Square. He redesigned the block around this area to include community-gathering buildings such as a theater, a gallery, and a museum all tied together with housing. The idea was to introduce mixed-use spaces for residents, in order to bring more people and urban amenities to Allston. 

Allston’s community center got a makeover in the form of a modern glass and steel, shell-like structure in Augunas’ project, with elements of it carrying themselves into the surrounding community.

“He took fragments of the building and spread it out into the neighborhood, so there was a sense of connection back to the center of the neighborhood,” Cowherd said.

Opportunities for students to be critiqued at this level are invaluable, even if their proposals aren’t likely to be built. Augunas said he thinks the works of the three students were chosen because each work focuses on the needs of the community.

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