The Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD) announces the opening of WE ALL, an inaugural design-build installation at the Grove in North Allston. WE ALL is first built project to occupy a newly expanded section of the Grove, a site at the intersection of North Harvard Street and Western Avenue.

We All at dusk. Photo by Justin Knight.
WE All at dusk. Photo by Justin Knight

WE ALL presents a communal open space framed by a segmented, vibrantly colored wall, comprising hundreds of PVC and plexi-glass tubes that illuminate at night to create a lively and dynamic atmosphere. Amarillo-yellow ground paint and a series of benches activate the corner as a gathering space.

WE ALL was selected through a two-stage GSD student design competition initiated in November 2016, in partnership with the Harvard University Office of the Executive Vice President, Harvard Campus Services, Harvard Planning Office, Graffito SP, and the Zone 3 initiative. The finished installation measures nearly 200 feet long and eight feet tall, framing 7,000 square feet of gathering space.

“Public art at Harvard makes our campus a unique destination,” says Marika Reuling, jury member and chief of staff to Harvard University’s executive vice president. “This project is an exciting capstone to our efforts to create the Grove and enhance the public realm in Allston for the benefit of the University community and the neighborhood. It creates a moment for spontaneous conversation, community building, and joy in the urban environment. And it extends the intellectual life of our university far beyond the classroom walls.”

As the competition jury noted, the WE ALL student design team best responded to the core competition ideal: merging art, design, and interaction, while also considering the context of the neighborhood and its residents and stakeholders.

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“In this moment,” says Mohsen Mostafavi, dean and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design at the GSD, “we have a special opportunity to create a space together with our neighbors that fosters commonality and connectivity, speaks to the history and vibrancy of the Allston neighborhood, and advances the intellectual project of the GSD. It is our hope that this project is not only aesthetically beautiful, but also a testament to the community-building powers of design and public art.”

The WE ALL team comprises three GSD students: Francisco Alcaron (Master in Design Studies, Class of 2018); Carla Ferrer Llorca (Master in Design Studies, Class of 2017); and Rudy Weissenberg (Master in Design Studies, Class of 2018).

Central to the competition process was a community-engagement exercise required of each team, calling for students to interview members of the Allston-Brighton neighborhood in order to better understand what they wish to see at this public site. Community members were invited to an exhibition of finalist proposals, and offer their feedback, during a February 2017 exhibition.

WE ALL represents not only the first built project at the Grove, but also a critical milestone for the Harvard-sparked Zone 3 initiative. The hub of Zone 3 activity is currently the series of buildings at 267 Western Ave. Formerly a dry-cleaning facility and an auto-body garage, these buildings were transformed in 2015 through Harvard-led efforts.