BLACK AND WHITE AND ARGUED OVER
Zebra crosswalk motif infuriates (or delights) users.
By Marty Carlock
For safety reasons, in the late 1990s the city of Cambridge,
Massachusetts, decided to redesign the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue, a
major traffic artery, and Somerville Avenue. The junction, one subway stop
north of Harvard Square, is called Porter Square. The city had plans to create
a small plaza there, 10,000 square feet in all, mostly using space carved out
by reconfiguring the roadway and existing sidewalk.
The city hired a landscape architect, Cynthia Smith, ASLA,
of Halvorson Design Partnership in Boston. Locals looked forward to the usual
amenities that come with new urban public spaces: grass, trees, benches, maybe
They should have known better. Cambridge is the last
municipality in the state to retain a One Percent for Art law, requiring that
public works set aside 1 percent of the total expenditure for aesthetic
amelioration. Overseeing One Percent projects is the Cambridge Arts Council
(CAC), a civic body famed for its fondness for what is new and different. And
with this project, officially named Shapiro Family Plaza, those adjectives do
apply. Artist Toshihiro Katayama, who likes his public projects to grow out of their
site, “grew” his art here out of the ordinary designs painted for signage in
When he looked at the plans, the artist “saw car access
divided the plaza into three islands” and thought, “How can I connect all these
islands?” The answer came when he went to the site and saw the pedestrian
safety stripes. “This element is so strong, I simply used this pattern as the
main concept for all three islands,” he says. Thus the islands are paved in
black-and-white stripes. The stripes are produced with large-scale paving
blocks made of concrete aggregate in white and dark gray.
…To read the entire article, subscribe to LAM!
| Annual Meeting
Product Profiles & Directory