Honor Award

Evans Way: Skating the Emerald Necklace

Anne Weber, Student ASLA, Graduate, Harvard Graduate School of Design
Faculty Advisor: Jane Hutton

Project Statement

Skating the Emerald Necklace reimagines Evans Way Park, a small public park along Boston's Emerald Necklace, as a dual-functioning skate park that blends skater, pedestrian and storm water flow in a continuous mobius strip of circulation. Morphing the existing Olmstedian-influenced design into a kind of post-punk pastoral, Evans Way becomes Boston's first skate park, filling a city-wide programmatic need, while embracing the diverse forms of circulation within contemporary urban space.

Project Narrative

A small urban scale project that is believable and achievable. Remarkable after-conservation considerations, with ponds and permeable surfaces. Really superb work.
—2011 Student Awards Jury

Evans Way Park, a small public park in Boston, sits between the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Museum School, and the Massachusetts College of Art along Olmsted's Emerald Necklace. The park is also located midway between historic Copley Square and multicultural Dudley Square, situating the park amid a diverse community of college and high school students, tourists and local residents. The recent redesign of the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum has reoriented the entrance towards the north side of Evans Way Park, increasing its touristic use; while a large number of skateboarders from adjacent schools currently utilize the park's exisiting pathways. Rather than separating programming for the different users, Skating the Emerald Necklace reimagines Evans Way as a dual-purpose skate park that integrates skater, pedestrian and storm water flow in a continuous mobius strip of circulation. Using the form of an altered figure-eight, the design plays with existing skate park typologies (including the full-pipe, bowl, and snake run) while providing dynamic pedestrian spaces and year-round programming. Morphing the existing Olmsteadian design into a kind of post-punk pastoral, Evans Way becomes Boston's first skate park, filling a city-wide programmatic need, while embracing the diverse forms of circulation within contemporary urban space.

The flows of pedestrians, skaters, and storm water are controlled through the paving units. A paver from the Highline, originally used to create a gradation of vegetation, is turned on end to create a gradient of circulation. Areas of 100% vegetation allow only foot traffic, while those with 100% pavement allow both pedestrian and skater use. The gradient of paving also creates varying levels of permeability. Land excavated for the bowls and skate runs is used to create the land bridges and ramps of the loop. The constructed topography drains storm water run-off from the impermeable regions of the loop as well as the rest of the park into the central skating bowl. Run-off is then stored on site in an underground cistern. The stored water is used to reflood the skating areas during winter months to create an ice skating pond and artificial river. The programming and circulation of the park are thus united in a single, multi-seasonal loop.

The planting plan is adapted to the various speeds and flows of the site. The paving gradient unzips between two main sections: the fast garden, featuring the primary skating bowls, and the slow garden, a lushly planted pedestrian space. While the majority of existing trees are retained on the site, new vegetation planted throughout the loop punctuates the various speeds of circulation. The fast bowls are surrounded by waves of miscanthus, which move in response to the wind as well as the speed of the skaters. The pedestrian paths are lined with alternating river and himalayan birches, creating a visual rhythm and textural interest for slower speeds. Enclosed by two walls of evergreen ivy, the slow garden provides a quiet space for contemplation, picnicking, and passive recreation. The slow garden also hosts a shady grove of European mountain ash, which provides a shock of red berries throughout the winter months. Throughout the site, plant species provide seasonal interest with minimal maintenance needs, and are sited based on the microclimates created by the new topography.

The slow garden and fast garden are united by the main feature of the park: the full-pipe bridge at the center of the loop. The main pathway to the new entrance of the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum ramps across the full-pipe bridge, allowing heightened views of the museum as well as the skaters moving beneath. From below, the bridge provides a three meter pipe for advanced skaters to showcase their skills. The slow garden also holds a food kiosk which, during colder months, is utilized as a warming hut and ice skate rental kiosk. An herb garden at the edge of the slow garden provides fresh, local herbs for the food kiosk. On the other side of the bridge, the skate bowls serve an additional role as art exhibition space for the adjacent art schools. The smooth concrete provides a perfect canvas for spray-painting or video projection, providing a rotating gallery of street art that can be viewed by passing pedestrians.

Environmental sustainability is an integral part of the design for Evans Way Park. Water conservation is integrated directly into the programming by creatively using storm-water runoff for ice skating ponds. The impermeable paving units not only direct storm water, but also recycle industrial waste materials. The bowls and pavers are constructed with an eco-smart concrete that uses high volumes of fly-ash, which improves the durability of the pavers while reducing the project's environmental impact. The project also addresses social sustainability by allowing spaces for active and passive recreation across user demographics. By linking students, residents, and museum visitors, Evans Way Park provides a place for strolling and sport, reflection and observation, art and activity. As Boston's first skate park, Evans Way celebrates and unites contemporary forms of urban circulation, while providing a dynamic space across speeds and seasons.

Additional Project Credits