Quincy Street Open Space

SOMERVILLE, MA

Designer: Spurr – Weston & Sampson’s Design Studio and WANTED Landscape

The Quincy Street Open Space is a single-family house lot, which was donated to the city of Somerville after a fire burned down the house. The design for the Quincy Street Open Space represents an effort to create a different kind of park; a place with room for a wilder and more spontaneous atmosphere; a place that is less pre-determined and managed, and welcomes dynamic processes of nature and human use. The project’s significance is expressed as follows:
1. Since the lot was donated to the city, the community took ownership of the park that was largely unmanaged by the Public Parks Department. When funds became available to upgrade the park the community was actively involved in the design process and steered the direction of the design. The community continues to be involved in monitoring and cleaning the park and provides care for the park’s vegetation. In fact, due to very limited management budget available in the city of Somerville, park maintenance is limited and therefore vegetation is often limited in species diversity and size of planted areas. The local involvement was a great asset in creating a larger
diversity in plant species, which are in turn attracting a larger variety of animal life. This attention to vegetation allowed an intended wilder and more spontaneous atmosphere to materialize, creating a richer experience for the local community;
2. To develop a woodsy atmosphere often absent in an urban condition;
3. To mitigate flooding problems and sheet draining into the city’s system, runoff infiltration directly in the ground was achieved by creating micro-topography and installing drywells at low points to negotiate the Boston blue clay;
4. To work creatively with a limited budget in conjunction with an ideology of sustainability: a. the deck is a pilot project to test a new sustainable decking material that was donated to the park (acetylated wood); b. creative re-use of the city’s granite street curbs for retaining grade changes, stepping stones as paths and seating elements; c. use of chairs made of recycled milk bottles;
5. Finally, the park does not provide light at night.