Snow Boundries

Snow Ways

Snow Ways

How does the snow change what you see? What is visible, now? What is invisible now? How do you decide where to stop shoveling? How do you know who can shovel? What does a shoveling style show?


Reality and Imagination at Palmer Street Lot


A great deal of imagination is still needed for the Palmer Street lot as it remains in a legal tangle. Last fall, we gathered over 90 suggestions of what residents hope the Palmer Lot will become in the future. It is still uncertain since its owner is still nowhere to be found, but retains the right to his property since it is current on all taxes, thanks to the mortgage company. Now, it stands, still colorful, with “community” as its tagline, but a bit of a relic before its time. As noted above: imagination is sorely needed! (and perhaps some legal knowledge wouldn’t hurt!)

Growing Community at Woolson Street Lot

w02 Collective social consciousness of waste, sustainable resources, economics, and pollution have influenced stakeholders to take a broader view of many design professions, especially architecture, which uses the greatest amount of resources of human enterprises. Indeed,  LEED (the Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) helps establish standards of responsible resource making and gathering at the onset of design, while the temporal scope of architecture has also expanded beyond the finished building; design professionals need to take responsibility for the future maintenance and, even, potential disposal of the structure. Maintenance of a private residence requires the ultimate initiative of the owner; for public projects, the community is tasked with ongoing stewardship. Uncared for parks demonstrate that municipal trash pick-up isn’t enough. So, in addition to the materials, and the foresight, we need to also design for engagement; community building is a social and spatial problem, and creative design can aid the rigorous community organization of so many neighborhood leaders, activists, and planners.

w03SPSP was happy to be part of such an effort of Saturday, May 3rd in Mattapan in collaboration with the Community Design Resource Center (CDRC),  Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN), the Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition, and neighbors. We were also delighted to re-use four bright orange frames initially created for another project.


In tandem with the “Boston Shines” city-wide clean-up effort, we erected creative signage on the lot to communicate the message that the planned community garden needs more gardeners. Design for social engagement is a compelling design challenge; the project is often a temporary installation, with no budget, infused with contextual issues and histories, inherently political, that seeks to reach a diverse number of people in circumstances that often hinder civic participation. On the Woolson Street lot, while volunteers cleaned up trash and weeded around daffodils, we posted signs that signal the beginning of the transformation of a lot that has a history of tragedy, and a desired future of community, safety, commemoration, and beautiful gardens!


The finished signs, including an orange board where all participants signed their names.

If you would like to support the community gardens proposed at the Woolson Street Lot – support the project at Make Architecture Happen! 

ReImagine A Lot! Week 4

I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_1

This Friday marks four weeks of building at the Palmer Street Lot – same time, same place, every week. Our actions slowly become a Friday afternoon habit as the physical form of the community wall takes shape. Many have helped out, either with the support of materials or with the support of their time and hands: building, painting, digging. This help has come from all ages, often unsolicited from people as they walk by the project, curious as to what it will be, with a desire to help create. Lessons and stories abound. One neighborhood girl told me of how she stopped a couple young boys from playing target practice with the wall, since after all, she helped paint it. My heart fluttered at this evidence of her taking ownership of the project. I am amazed that people want to help without even fully realizing what the “final product” will be; especially enthusiastic are the small children who have unbounded desire and energy to help create something tangible. I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_2

While the final product will prompt residents to “imagine what this lot could be” in the future, this work has already transformed what the empty lot currently is. During the summer, I lamented the lot’s wasted state, particularly since it is located across from the much used Mary Jane Lee Park. The lot lay useless, and in stark contrast to the park’s bustling activity. Now, it is no longer fallow ground, the site of a demolition, and bits of trash. The use value is exponential, and for now, the lot operates at full potential. I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_3
I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_4

Week 4 at the Palmer Street Lot, saw much progress: the NSCDC Youth Build team, nine strong, helped out: they applied the orange chalkboard paint on the front 48 foot wall, they began making the stencils to prompt community participation, and they installed the back panels that will soon be transformed into a community mural. Neighborhood children helped paint the tree trunk chairs, and were inspired by Jackson Pollack in painting the future community bulletin board. This week, we also hosted the first event at the lot: The Point Neighborhood Association meeting (more on that later); for now, scroll down and see some of the photos as the Point ReImagines what this Lot can be: I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_5 I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_6 I Imagine info poster_Week 04_Page_7

The Secret Garden

The Secret Garden where Ward and Peabody Streets intersect

The Secret Garden where Ward and Peabody Streets intersect

post by Michael Jaros

While walking through the Point neighborhood last weekend, Claudia and I happened upon a unique garden.  I say happened upon, but I actually sought it out, having come across it on another rambling voyage through the streets of the neighborhood some months before, near the beginning of the growing season.  Against a large, brick tenement building, someone has made remarkable use of a long, thin rectangular piece of ground, which sits in the shadow of this larger building.

When we’d visited before, I was amazed by the diversity of plantings and the optimal use of every inch of space between the fence and the wall.  Herbs of all sorts grew abundantly, as well as larger plants that I myself could not identity.  I could not tell whose garden it was, who tended it, or where they came from or went to when not doing so.  There was a nearby porch, as well as a gate.  Did the person hop over the porch into the garden, or come from the outside?  Or was it collectively maintained by a neighborhood group?


This patch of green had massively blossomed and grown when we returned.  Huge melon plants grew into a massive canopy, which a diagonally placed trellis supported, creating a shaded grotto space underneath it, in which smaller plants grew and various soils were perhaps mixed.  It looked like a cool, reflective space of contemplation, despite being cramped, and reminded me of the green spaces I myself had always sought out behind my house to hide in as a child.

The space continued to be optimally used on our return voyage this week…there was almost no empty space, and strange squash with the appearance of melted wax grew healthily in the fence itself, climbing up it towards the massive melon canopy.  Onions grew outside the fence, and remained unmolested.  It was clear this was a special and honored place by the community that both surrounded and maintained it.



This post is part of The Beauty of the Point series.

Graded Lot!

Last week, the Department of Public Works graded the parcel at 38-40 Palmer Street.

The Graded Lot

The Graded Lot

This lot has already been through a lot! But the grading marks the physical beginning of the lot as Community Engagement Site! Art, events, music, food, and much more will engage residents and visitors… but more on that later.

First, a short history on this lot: On March 12, 2012, the City of Salem claimed a lien upon the lot at 38-40 Palmer Street in The Point Neighborhood of Salem, Massachusetts. That January, city officials contracted to remove a dilapidated one story building that had become a public safety issue, a fact that came to light the previous summer during a neighborhood walkthrough with local teens, the mayor, and police.

Last March we interviewed locals on what they may want to see on this lot. Some of their responses prompted more action:

– Needs to be cleaned up a little bit more.

– This should be a place for the youth and kids to have a safe place to be off streets.

– A park needs to be here.

– Empty space going to waste. They should make some kind of kid recreation, mostly for the summer and for the winter there is nothing for these kids to do.

– They should build something for the kids.

– A big empty space that should be filed with something positive for the community.

– This should be a place where the kids can learn about gardening and painting.

– There should be a little park for kids under 5 because big kids and little kids can’t play in the same park because the big kids hurt the little documented in a survey taken March 30th, 2013

Resident sits to read the report!

Resident sits to read the report!

Last April, we dug it up for a soil test to see what can grow. and now we’re really beginning the process of starting to grow and Re-Imagining A Lot!

Site Futures_question mark

Street Interrupted

Street Interrupted at Dodge Street Court

Street Interrupted at Dodge Street Court

On my daily walk to the train station, my route includes two pedestrian only portions.

The second path follows the Salem tourist trail, a red painted line inspired by Boston’s Freedom Trail that leads me up Artists’ Row, around the Old Town Hall, and down Essex Street. Salem prides itself on its pedestrian friendly streets; many residents cite the city’s walkability as a significant factor as to why they live in Witch City.

The first pedestrian way I follow, however, is off the tourist circuit. It is a fragmented asphalt hill that connects Dodge Street to Washington Street. Impossible to traverse in the wrong footwear, it is a small short cut is taken by many. It is not a friendly pedestrian way – it is a Street Interrupted.


The way up Dodge Street to Washington Street

Its significant use value for the many that do use it prompted a small project to inquire into how the path may better serve its users. We asked two simple questions to understand how people use the path, and how they would like to see it improved.

Prepping the Asphalt

Prepping the Asphalt


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Chalk and Prompts for Participation

Tree Trailblaze marks the Chalk & Prompts for Participation

The first comment!

The first comment!

The asphalt is a bit rough - next time we'll make bigger text! (stay tuned)

The asphalt is a bit rough – next time we’ll make bigger text! (stay tuned)

A yellow line attempts a connection - how would you connect Dodge Street?

A yellow line attempts a connection – how would you connect Dodge Street?