Dynamic Line

Connecting neighbors across a large urban park

Frederick Law Olmsted’s Franklin Park is Boston’s largest public park at 527 acres, a scale that offers a great deal of potential alongside a number of challenges related to its upkeep and accessibility. Among these challenges, the park’s size separates its surrounding neighborhoods, which can seem like worlds apart in terms of interaction, engagement, and investment (Dorchester and Roxbury have the highest poverty rates in the city and median household incomes nearly half that of Jamaica Plain).* Dynamic Line is a proposal for targeted reinvestment in the park with the express goal of connecting its surrounding neighborhoods and engaging the community to build meaningful ownership. Recognizing the power of program to excite and inspire emotional and economic investment, and taking inspiration from an unrealized portion of Olmsted’s early design—a heavily programmed promenade called “The Greeting”—I propose that a straight path be drawn across the park (a gesture of directly connecting the neighborhoods) and that program-specific spaces be strung along this new spine as per community input and the affordances of the varied topography.
* Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA), Boston in Context: Neighborhoods, January 2017 | BPDA, Neighborhood Profiles, August 2017

Franklin Park and its neighborhoods

Early video study of the existing state of the park in February 2018 inspired by a passage written about the park from the letters of Frederick Law Olmsted

Material drawing study of found objects from the park

A photomontage based on topographical studies of the park meant to evoke the spirit of the site's geology

Exploring the sequence (left to right): Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system; Franklin Park’s unbuilt “The Greeting”; an early sketch of the dynamic line 

The primary strategy for the project derives from a metaphorical reading of the straight line serving as the most direct connection between two points, in this case the neighborhoods of Jamaica Plain and Dorchester. The projection of that line onto the topography of Franklin Park of course reveals a different story, but the variety that the simple line produces in terms of potential program, views, and the manipulation of that topography to dramatic effect is what ultimately defines the design. In addition to physical and digital modeling, I spent many hours in the park walking potential straight lines. Even after settling on a proposed path, I walked the line again at different times of the day and evening to get a better sense of the quality of the existing features and the potential for intervention.

A topographical model of the park was used to explore the potential of different central path alignments

Early conceptual drawings looked at how material changes (including ground covers, paving, and planting) might change based on the sectional condition of the straight path

The proposed plan presents a sequence of programming spaces along the central spine as an illustration of potential interventions. With each programming area, an attempt was made to have the topography and planting describe the potential use. Furthermore each area has a distinct shape emphasizing its use and character, made legible by a lighting border integrated into the paving and ground cover construction. This not only gives the intervention a distinctly contemporary appearance in Olmsted’s picturesque landscape but also extends the life of the park into the evening hours.

Site plan highlighting the central programming spine that connects the Dorchester and Jamaica Plain neighborhoods

Topographical changes along the line

Program changes along the line

Sections reveal the direct relationship of the park’s topography, circulation, and planting to the programming sequence 

A conceptual aerial view shows how the lighting scheme enlivens the evening life of the park and expresses its geometry

A view taken from the primary path looks out over basketball courts, the carriage road, and the existing public golf course

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