Central Wharf Plaza

Courtesy of Charles Mayer
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Great cities possess great trees. Supported by a progressive local philanthropy, on a tiny parcel in Boston’s historic waterfront district, this project realizes a classic urban landscape — a continuously paved plaza shaded by a dense grove of mature trees — responding to challenging conditions through the development of a simple but innovative structural and horticultural design solution.

Part of what was once the busiest commercial port in North America, Boston’s Central Wharf became a parking lot in the second half of the twentieth century, severed from the city by the highway known as the Central Artery. The Big Dig and the creation of the Kennedy Greenway, with its ample walks and gathering spaces, released this one-third acre site to the possibility of renewed urban life.

Cycles of alteration and change define cities as much as constant landmarks. An appreciation for growth and in downtown Boston inspired our approach to this commission. The design establishes a vital subterranean network to support a remarkable number of mature oak trees, establishing a shady canopy where before such a thing was unimaginable. The project fulfills two essential urban roles: Central Wharf Plaza reconnects pedestrian activity from downtown to the harbor and it provides a shady spot for residents and tourists to relax and linger under the trees.

Metropolitan legacies arise around sustained city trees. They become Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue, Washington’s National Mall, Chicago’s Grant Park, or Savannah’s historic squares. The health of natural systems below a city street’s surface is the prerequisite for the high quality urban environments that communities cherish, businesses seek out, and tourists adore.

Location

Boston, MA

Dates

2004-2008

Size

.5 acres

Leadership

Team

Recognition

  • Honor Award for Design, American Society of Landscape Architects
  • Honor Award for Design, Boston Society of Landscape Architects
  • “Reciprocal Acts,” by Gary R. Hilderbrand, Topos , Culturescapes, 2012