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Engaging communities + Grant recipients

Spring Cleaning

For over 30 years the BSA Foundation has awarded grants to support public education programs in Massachusetts related to the built environment. Michael Haggerty—a 2016 grantee—received a grant to support “Spring Cleaning,” a place-making program at Peabody Terrace Housing in Cambridge, MA that took place on April 29, 2017. The program had a team of ten Harvard University Graduate School of Design (GSD) students to collaborate with community and institutional partners in Cambridge to host a “zero-waste” public event at Peabody Terrace Housing on the Charles River. 

Grantee's summary of the program

The aims of the event were to highlight the relationship of sustainability to high-density living in Cambridge and to provoke a dialogue about materials and the urban environment. With these goals in mind, the team designed and fabricated exterior furnishings for the event, and created an event program featuring a clothing and children’s items exchange—i.e. a swap meet—for residents of Peabody Terrace and neighboring areas. In addition, all waste—food, utensils, etc.—from the event was either recycled or composted. In the case of the exterior furnishings, these were given away to event participants to take home. Lastly, the team partnered with Maud Morgan Arts Center and Peabody Terrace Children’s Center to curate an exhibition of artworks and objects created by Cambridge youth.

Who was the audience and what was the benefit?

“Spring Cleaning” primarily reached Cambridge families in the Peabody Terrace and Riverside areas, and parents and children at Maud Morgan Arts Center and Peabody Terrace Children’s Center. Through the event and related programming, participants gained a greater appreciation of how architects use materials and think about exchanges and waste flows in urban environments.

What was the final product of your BSA Foundation grant-funded program?  

The team designed and fabricated hexagonal modules that provided seating, tables, and planters; a screen system that displayed the swap meet items; and a hive-like shelf system to exhibit the children’s artworks. The team utilized FSC plywood, low-V.O.C. paint, and other recycled content, and minimized off-cuts and throw-away materials through efficient fabrication techniques.

During the event, the team circulated among the crowd and engaged attendees in order describe how the furnishings were made and to discuss how the ways in which architects practice can support sustainability goals—such as a “zero-waste” event. The swap meet taking place during the event also brought into the open and made visible existing systems of exchange and recycling that are practiced by community members.

How did you deliver your program to your target audience?

Approximately 250 people attended the event and 40 children contributed to the art exhibition. The event was promoted through our partner organizations, including the Harvard University Graduate Commons Program.

During the event, attendees were encouraged to claim one of the seats, screens, or shelves to take home afterwards. In this way, the ephemeral quality of an afternoon event was made more permanent by adding a new layer to the surrounding built environment in the form of new home furnishings.

Evaluate how well your program met your intended goals.

“Spring Cleaning” offers a model for how architects can connect design and fabrication to a community event and, in doing so, tell a story about how the environmental goals of the design field relate to living sustainably within the city. “Spring Cleaning” also set a standard for making events that are expressions of urban community less wasteful with respect to materials, food, and take-home items.

Images courtesy of Michael Haggerty.

To learn more about how the BSA Foundation is making an impact in communities, please come to BSA Space for a one hour “tour” of BSA Foundation programs. Meet with Foundation leaders and volunteers to learn broadly about the Foundation’s work and its impact. Foundation Conversation meetings are held on the second and fourth Wednesdays of every month. Events are free, but seats are limited. Check for upcoming dates and to reserve your seat.