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Beyond The Big Dig
About this project

What happens to the ribbon of land being created by the depression of the Central Artery may be the most important development decision to face Boston in a generation.




The key features of Rincon Park include two restaurants, a walk along the bay, and two major areas of lawn.

MIT CASE STUDY

Rincon Park, San Francisco

   

Rincon Park Rincon Park, now under construction, has postcard views of the San Francisco waterfront.

MORE LESSONS FOR BOSTON

Boston
* Commonwealth Avenue: Back Bay's elegant boulevard is one of the city's most successful streets.
* Piers Park: Successful in large part because of the designer's sensitivity to the requests of the East Boston community.
* Post Office Square: A lovely oasis in the heart of the city's Financial District that's a good example of public-private partnership.
* South Boston Marine Park: This not-yet-completed park recognizes that open space alone is not enough to attract people.

Barcelona
* Parc de Clot: Interesting reuse of an old industrial site on a scale similar to many Central Artery parcels.
* Porta Vell: A mostly successful project that reconnected a port city with its waterfront.
* The Ramblas: An outstanding example of a main thoroughfare with a people-friendly scale.

Paris
* Parc Andre Citroen: Reuse of a huge industrial complex to create a park that is an urban work of art.
* Viaduc des Arts/Promenade Plantee: Innovative reuse of an old elevated railroad viaduc to create a much-needed urban park.

San Francisco
* Crissy Field: An obsolete military base was redeveloped into a vast and successful public open space.
* Ferry Building Plaza: A not-altogether-successful attempt to redevelop the land formerly occupied by an elevated downtown expressway.
* Yerba Buena: This combination of park and civic space is a testimonial to the power of careful urban planning and careful event planning.

Rincon Park on San Franciso's waterfront is about a half mile up the Embarcadero from Pacific Bell Park, the city's new stadium for the baseball Giants. This park is an example of public open space designed to attract people. At two acres, it is slightly larger than Parcel 10 in the North End, largest of the public open space parcels in the Central Artery corridor. Rincon comprises two grassy knolls set along the waterfront to provide a vantage point for visitors to experience dramatic view of San Francisco Bay and the Berkeley Hills beyond, with the sky sliced by the Bay Bridge that passes just overhead. Talk about public art!

One of the mounds will disguise two restaurants totaling 20,000 square feet -- one serving French cuisine, the other Mediterranean. The designers believe there must be activity to make a park work, even on San Francisco's famed waterfront. (It's a lot of commercial space for a small park. The owner of the restaurant divided the area in half and will test the viability of the plan by initially opening only one side.) The park will cost $2 million for the grass and trees, financed by the GAP clothing company, whose world headquarters fronts the park from across the Embarcadero. Construction of the restaurants is an extra cost, and part of their revenue will be dedicated to managing and maintaining the open space.

Concept

Rincon Park establishes a new and lively destination on San Francisco's water's edge. The park was designed by the Olin Partership in Philadelphia, in association with Cheryl Barton Associates of San Francisco. It utilizes grass, trees, stone walls, and public art. The land was once under water, so its grassy mounds are shaped in a wave-form to recall a water theme.

Features

Rincon Park's elements that designed to attract people:

  • The park is adjacent to San Francisco's fireboat pier, and when the boats vent their hoses the view of the arching water and spray are magnificent.
  • The canted lawn-berms are designed to separate and protect the park from traffic on the Embarcadero.
  • Seating is provided at the base of the berms on long benches, while the sidewalk at the water's edge is designed as a promenade in the day time and for after dinner strolling in the evening.
  • One berm will host a giant brightly colored Claus Olenberg bow-and-arrow sculpture (the arrow is half buried in the mound).

Lessons

The restaurants in Rincon Park, like the one that adds vitality to Bryant Park in Manhattan, are designed to bring life to the public open space, helping eliminate opportunities for unsavory behavior at night. The park recalls the shaping-force of the ocean, echoing shapes on San Francisco's harbor floor. Private patronage can help to create public places.

These case studies were researched and written by Zhan Guo and Alex-Ricardo Jimenez of MIT, under the direction of Thomas J. Piper of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning. They examine a series of urban open space projects with particular lessons for Boston as it decides the future of the land freed up when the Central Artery moves underground.




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