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Urban Design Committee

Boston’s development and design are always primary issues for us and this committee is the key actor. All urban design issues are among this committee’s concerns — design-review, BRA consultation, the future of a great city, etc. The Committee typically establishes “focus teams” (smaller groups of members and allies) to focus on single, significant projects such as the redevelopment of City Hall Plaza, the Boston seaport redevelopment proposal, Mass. Pike air-rights development, etc.
The most recent focus team is discussing the Boston City skyline and whether and where major new towers might be best placed. For more information, contact the committee chairs.
Past activities
Mission to A) Act as a catalyst for excellence in urban design in Boston and B) to educate the public about excellence in urban design through public meetings, presentations and forums.
Developed a protocol for Focus Teams to use when following, evaluating, and making public statements about significant projects. 
A. Excellence in urban design
Focus teams have been formed for many projects in Boston, including:
1. Boston City Hall Plaza, where the Focus Team worked with the Trust for City Hall Plaza and its architects and the Boston Redevelopment Authority in downsizing and the addition of mixed-use activities.

2. Congress Street pedestrian foot bridge
There was proposed a footbridge to connect City Hall Plaza to Faneuil Hall, replacing the street level crossing.  Consistent with the Committee's long-standing commitment to reinforcing street level activity and life, we were part of the advocacy group successful in its efforts to maintain the street level crossing suggesting that "traffic is quiet" techniques would reduce auto/pedestrian conflicts.

3. South Boston Seaport Master Plan
Charette for 100 acre community adjacent to Boston's financial center on South Boston Waterfront.  40-person multi-discipline team developed a conceptual plan in response to City's initial proposed document.  Plan made the front page of the Boston Globe.  City's final Public realm plan for the area incorporated many elements form the BSA plan.  Effort spanned three years, including working with many local politicians, environmental and community groups. 

Monitoring Public Review Process
Ongoing Focus Team attendance at City's blue ribbon public realm design review group (Boston Civic Design Commission).
Other Teams
Team of individuals tracking significant projects and districts to provide responses when appropriate.  Monthly reports submitted by email to the Chairs and the Urban Design Commissioner.
B. Public Education Programs
1. 2001: Series of five monthly evening suppers with urban design video and discussion advertised to the public and held at the BSA building.

2. Received an AIA grant to produce a series of four public radio programs co-sponsored by the Cambridge Forum related to private vs. public ownership of open space, density, growth and transportation.  These programs were taped before a live audience and included questions and answers between the audience and the panelists.  One program was videotaped.

3. Monthly committee dinner meetings with guest speakers and presentations of upcoming significant projects.

Team coordinators
Cambridge Street, Charles Street to City Hall Plaza
Lawrence Cheng AIA,
Central Artery
Steve Cecil AIA,
Charles River Basin
Rick Nilsson AIA,
Larry Bluestone AIA,

Cultural District/Midtown
Dan Raih AIA,

East Boston/Chelsea
Randy Jones,

Mass Air Rights
David Hacin AIA,

Midway project (A Street)
John Stebbins AIA,
Prataap Talwar,
Victoria Laguette, Assoc. AIA
Kristien Simmons, Assoc. AIA

Through the following successful community outreach efforts, the design profession has helped shape public policy on urban design and enjoyed broad participation of community members, facilitating teambuilding among professionals and citizens to set agendas and create visions of community building.
1999 – present
Civic Initiative for a Livable New England... a major public initiative to further thoughtful, managed community growth in New England through a series of panel and roundtable discussions, visioning sessions, and design charrettes, culminating in published guidelines 
1998 - present
South Boston Waterfront Focus Team... a multi-disciplinary focus team with the mandate of researching, preparing and promoting effective design solutions for a vast, undeveloped, waterfront area in the City of Boston
Washington Street Connections: A Public Design Workshop... a public process to study and evaluate the communities along the Washington Street corridor and to stimulate new visions for the area following removal of the Orange Line of the MBTA
Boston Harbor Visions... a broad-based public workshop developed to increase participation in planning for Boston Harbor and the Harbor islands and to enhance accessibility for all, resulting in the formation of the Harbor Island Alliance
1994 – present
Urban Ring Charrette... a planning and design workshop examining circumferential transportation around the core of downtown Boston and addressing the need for improved connections with regional commuter rail and transit lines
Fort Devens Charrette ... a collaborative effort among citizens of four towns and the design community to examine the challenges inherent in the closing of a military base that affected the economic development of all towns significantly
Today’s development environment
It is an unusual — and unusually significant — moment in Boston’s evolution as a city. The depression of the Central Artery and the public dialogue about the uses of the land that will emerge over the depressed highway, the development of a huge new neighborhood in the South Boston Waterfront District, the development of a Municipal Harbor Plan to govern waterfront development for decades to come, the public debate over Turnpike air-rights development possibilities, the continuing debate over appropriate kinds of public-sector/private-sector collaboration in land development and use, the palpable crisis in the State’s need for infrastructure repair of everything from roads and bridges to schools, colleges and other public buildings, the city’s undeniable need for housing and the zoning and planning changes that implies, and the critical debate over appropriate kinds of urban and suburban planning and growth are among the more apparent opportunities and responsibilities confronting all of us.  The evolution of planning and economic development roles of the Boston Redevelopment Authority and other public agencies heightens our awareness of the changing dynamics of our public-policy-making framework.
The BSA Urban Design Committee has been the central force and primary voice of the profession in addressing urban-design issues over the past few decades. Its past and current leaders and members have brought to the public dialogue a critically important perspective and sense of community responsibility matched by few other entities in the city.
How You Can Get Involved
If you wish to participate in any of these discussions or contribute ideas to the process, please join the Urban Design Committee. This group meets each month. For more information, contact the committee chairs.

The AIA offers many online forums known as Knowledge Communities, which share information about industry topics. This Knowledge Community shares interests with our own, and may be a good resource for those interested in our committee.

Regional and Urban Design Committee

The Regional and Urban Design Committee (RUDC) aims to improve the quality of the regional and urban environment by promoting excellence in design, planning, and...