Campus & Community

Design School students lend a helping eye to nonprofits

4 min read

Six Graduate School of Design (GSD) students have been spending their summer applying design skills that they spend the rest of the year acquiring. In communities throughout the area, from Boston’s Chinatown to Lowell to Hyannis, the students are turning theory into reality as they go ahead with proposals that won them summer funding. All of these challenging projects take place in the nonprofit sector — besides coming up with ingenious proposals, the GSD students have another thing in common: an interest in community service.

Sarah Carrier M.L.A. ’08, trained as a landscape architect, geographer, and community organizer, is working this summer as a community service fellow for the Asian Community Development Corp. (CDC), a community organization serving Greater Boston. Carrier is working on the development of public space on “Parcel 24.” In the 1960s, the row houses on what is now Parcel 24 were demolished to make way for the construction of I-93. The Asian CDC is now developing 315 mixed-income residential units with ground-floor commercial and community space. At the heart of the site, a public space will serve area residents and visitors. Carrier is organizing the design competition for the public space and developing a community outreach and review process.

Dk Osseo-Asare M.Arch.I’08, Ryan Bollom M.Arch.I’08, and Ben Wakelin M.Arch. I’08 are working as fellows at the United Teen Equality Center (UTEC) in Lowell. The UTEC is a “by teens, for teens multicultural safe haven for youth development and organizing.” Osseo-Asare, Bollom, and Wakelin are working in a design capacity together with the UTEC youth. They are serving as project designers on a renovation and addition to a recently acquired historic church, a grand building with incredibly detailed mahogany staircases and stained-glass windows, transforming it into a new youth center building. The project combines participatory design, involving UTEC staff and youth as much as possible, and exposure to the design-build process and close collaboration with the general contractor, consulting architects, and engineers. The scale of this project is in excess of $5 million.

Sharon Komarow M.L.A. ’07 and Jennifer Wai-Kwun Toy M.L.A./M.U.P. ’07 are working as fellows with the town of Barnstable. They are involved in two projects based in Hyannis (a village in Barnstable) to provide greater protection of the water supply within the Cape’s sole-source aquifer and to prevent development growth in ecologically sensitive locations.

Hyannis is emerging from a difficult economic period and is ripe for new projects that will better serve the community and visitors. The town has made recent strides in linking the main street and the harbor. Komarow’s work focuses on redesigning town-owned community open space adjacent to the harbor. New design plans include a granite paved harborwalk along the water’s edge, stormwater drainage improvements, renovations of a visitor center and restrooms, and improvements to small gallery spaces rented to local artists.

Barnstable has purchased a former gas station site in Hyannis (a brownfield), which will eventually become the location of a community park. The town would like to use phytoremediation technology to clean up the site. (Phytoremediation is the use of green plants to remove or render harmless pollutants from the environment.) Toy is working on the initial design. She has been involved in testing the soil and suggesting plantings that will help to meet the town’s goals. Toy says: “It’s been a great opportunity to see what it is like to work for a municipality as a landscape architect, but still have a lot of fun and independence.”

The Community Service Program, initiated in 1993 through the Pforzheimer Foundation, provides opportunities for students to extend their design education outside the Graduate School of Design through direct involvement with design projects that address public needs and community concerns at the local level.