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Game On: Playing Games and Building Communities in the Park by Audrey Zecha

As part of the Experience Design Studio, led by professor Kristian Kloeckl and organized in collaboration with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy, a group of undergraduate students investigated people’s experience of the Emerald Necklace public park network. Based on a series of on-site interviews and observational studies, students developed design interventions with the goal to positively enhance people’s everyday experience in and around the parks. Their projects are now on display at the Shattuck Visitor Center just a stone’s throw away from campus in the Fenway.

The semester-long studio looked at public parks as places of possibility, participation and co-creation; places of destination and of escape; places for encounter; places of proximity and of distance; places for dynamic appropriation where meaning is constantly negotiated. Projects proposed by the students are material as well as digital, orchestrating objects, services, information systems, ambient installations and events.

A Walk in the Park: Navigating the Emerald Necklace Without Maps or Apps by Kevin Casas

“Developing experience design projects for the Emerald Necklace in Boston also means considering the deep design lessons of Frederick Law Olmsted who designed the park system in the late 19th century,” explained Professor Kloeckl. “Olmsted is known as a landscape architect but could by all means be considered an experience designer given his holistic and human centered approach to design. He referred to the ‘genius of place’ as the unique qualities of a site to be explored and to let them condition all design decisions of a project. The approach the students of this studio course followed was guided by an exploration of place and of how people make use of these parks over time. They then worked with their insights to articulate design interventions aimed at bringing out and giving shape to yet unrealized opportunities of these places.”

The presented projects provide a glimpse of new possibilities to reimagine the experience of public parks in cities.

Radiant Pathways: Creating a Better Fens through New Paths and Lights by Jacqueline Garruto & Madisen Hackley

For a bit of background and context, the large network of the public green spaces that form the Emerald Necklace extends over more than seven miles from the Boston Commons to Franklin Park and provides the context for rich flora, fauna, as well as a place for a wide variety of activities for Boston’s residents and visitors. Unlike most urban environments, public parks are peculiar in a number of ways: They are not dedicated to any specific purpose. Instead, they are open to an ongoing process of reinvention by the public. These spaces can be flexibly appropriated for relaxation, play, work, study, sports, socializing, art practice, events, etc.

The untethering of information technologies for work, performance, and more, and the flexible provisioning of energy (photovoltaics, batteries, etc.) has further increased the range of activities and functionalities of urban green spaces. The characteristics of public green spaces and their possible uses change significantly with time of day, weather conditions and seasonality. The issue of boundary and proximity is of particular interest as people tend to seek public green spaces both for their proximity to the city (work/home/etc.) as well as for their—perceived—distance from it.

In many ways, parks intend to bring an idea of nature into the city as well as keeping this idea of nature distinct from the city – contributing to the complication of notions of natural/artificial and wild/domesticated. It is a play on proximities and boundaries, of access and availability both in physical and geographical as well as metaphorical and perceived terms.

The exhibit of student work in the Shattuck Visitor Center will be on display through December 2017, so be sure to stop by!