On a late afternoon during finals period, current Loeb Thaddeus Pawlowski brought together GSD students, faculty and Loeb Fellows to talk about “living with water.” Under Pawlowski’s leadership, a group of students from all disciplines are participating in the Boston Living with Water competition, organized by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. Their entry is due in January; final winners will be announced in May 2015.
Pawlowski is joined by another current Loeb, Jamie Blosser, who will assist the teams with their approach to public engagement. The pair demonstrates the leadership and love of teaching that is characteristic of the Fellows.
Outside their class and studio commitments, more than 20 students found the time to piece together the puzzle of the design competition. After working as a large group initially, they have now split into 3 groups of mixed disciplines, each focussed on one of the competition’s 3 designated sites. Before the close of the fall semester, the students formulated their theories and questions into brief presentations, and in return welcomed theories and questions from their critics: professors of architecture, landscape architecture, and planning.
Pawlowski explained that the students had just completed an initial stage in which they “tested their understanding of the sites,” requiring considerations of physical fabric, geography and politics. Having explored the range of sea level rise projections, the students are now aiming “to outline site-specific solutions within a replicable framework.” The sites are diverse in character and in the breadth of their channels or coastlines, from the historic and dense North End to the more expansive Columbia Point in Dorchester. The projects vary as well in materials and mechanics.
From the conversation between students and faculty emerged a simple truth: the dynamics of sea level rise and climate change require, quite literally, that designers and planners consider “the ground floor.” The symbolism here extends far beyond the physical constraints and demands for rethinking architecture and technology on the ground to how a neighborhood is experienced by its residents. In considering the neighborhood level, the critics probed not only the plans and designs, but additionally, “Who should be responsible? And to whom are they responsible?” This will be the challenge of the competition as we eagerly await the solutions of an inquisitive, well-equipped team of students.