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Community Impact

Jul 17, 2019

Partnering for Positive Impact

Josh Safdie UD Charrette

Josh Safdie AIA, Principal, Kessler McGuinness & Associates leading a group at the charrette,

Photo courtesy BSA staff

Architects, City of Boston representatives, and nonprofit activists join East Boston residents to plan for aging in place

The term 'universal design' was coined by the architect Ronald Mace FAIA to describe the concept of designing all products and the built environment to be aesthetic and usable to the greatest extent possible by everyone, regardless of their age, ability, or status in life.

With this in mind, on June 28, 2019 at Grace Apartments in East Boston, a group of residents joined City of Boston representatives, Enterprise Community Partners, and architects from the BSA for a day-long design charrette.

Using Enterprise’s Aging in Place Design Guidelines, participants were asked to think about elements in and around their building that would allow people to stay in their homes as they age. The results included a neighborhood with easy access to amenities and public transit; grounds with continuous and even walking paths; and units with open spaces and easy-to-reach shelves and counters—all thoughtful considerations for Boston's future housing.

After creative brainstorming, participants were asked to consider other aspects of each proposed design strategy, including cost and social impact, before eventually arriving at a prioritized list of ideas. Beyond being a great exercise in community design thinking, the outcomes of this charrette will be measured in the real world. Grace Apartments will soon have a new 42-unit affordable senior housing development on its site next to the Maverick Square T-Station. The team of architects working on the project—led by Diane Dooley AIA, principal at Dimella Shaffer and co-chair of Design for Aging Knowledge Community—together with its developers, East Boston CDC, were active participants in the Universal Design Charrette and will be taking the day’s work into the next design phase of the project. Also, Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development (DND) will use this project as a kick-off to explore universal design guidelines for other properties throughout the city.