The Lawn on D



Boston, MA | Sasaki Associates, Inc. | Client: Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA)


The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA), in partnership with its design team, conceived of the 2.7 acre Lawn on D—a flexible, vibrant, and temporary urban space—to be an "early arrival" on D Street, setting the tone for civic impact and expressing the ambitions of a new district along D Street. This district aims to be interactive, flexible, technologically advanced, inspired by art and events, and inclusive of many constituents (residents, workers, conventioneers, tourists). Composed of the plaza and the lawn, The Lawn on D achieves its aspirations as a hub of activity for a wide range of events, installations and programs. Since it’s opening in August of 2014, the Lawn on D has attracted thousands of visitors, neighbors, and conventioneers. Lawn on D sets a high bar for future development along D Street, and stands out as a new model for open space.


As the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) plans for the future growth of the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC) and the potential redevelopment of its land assets along D Street, it seeks to create a vibrant new urban district unlike any other in Boston. D Street was - until the construction of the Lawn on D this past summer - a bleak and under- used landscape composed mostly of vacant lots, aged industrial buildings, and surface parking.

An urban design team was brought on board by the MCCA to help shape a vision for D Street. In collaboration with representatives from the surrounding community, the MCCA along with the design team conceived of the Lawn on D - a flexible, vibrant, and temporary open space that would be an “early arrival” on D Street, setting the tone for civic impact and expressing the ambitions of the new district. Months later, the design team was re-commissioned as landscape architect of the Lawn on D.

This new district occupies a critical mid-point between South Boston, the Innovation District and Liberty Wharf, and the Fort Point and Channel Center neighborhoods. This new district aspires to be interactive, flexible, technologically advanced, inspired by art and events, and inclusive of many constituents (residents, workers, conventioneers, tourists). The Lawn on D demonstrates and pilots these ambitions. The lessons learned in the design, spatial configuration, and programming tested at the Lawn on D will eventually be deployed to a future event space that will anchor the new district along D Street.

Packing multiple agendas and possibilities into 2.7 acres required skillful design and strong vision. The Lawn on D is conceived as a platform for innovation; an armature for infinite programming. It was designed for flexibility and ease of transformation. Knowing that the Lawn on D would operate in an interim condition, client and design team developed a low-cost, high-impact scheme. A construction budget under $1.5 million was achieved by concentrating investment in a small and intimate area within the landscape (the plaza), by making playful use of low-cost materials (painted asphalt), using signature furniture and fixtures to set a playful, flexible tone, and focusing on elements whose life might be ultimately reused and thereby extend beyond the 18-month landscape.

The Lawn on D is composed of two parts: the plaza and the lawn. The plaza at the Lawn on D is a hub of activity for events. Its paths blaze trails from D Street to the side entrance of the BCEC, its signature lights describe a right-sized space for gatherings, its bright, playful, movable furniture invites visitors to make the space their own.

The lawn at the Lawn on D - sited where 4’ of urban fill used to block views and preclude access - plays host to art, installations, music, furniture, events. This space is a comfortable background to and incubator of strong design, hosting a range of shorter-term installations and projects.

In the short time since its opening in August of 2014, the Lawn on D has set social media ablaze, been praised in the press, gained critical acclaim both locally and nationally, hit tops of “to do in Boston” lists, been embraced by its neighbors, enlivened the BCEC, and set a new standard of design excellence and civic performance for D Street. From the first “selfie” taken on its signature swing installation, Lawn on D has captivated young and old, tourists and residents, regulars to its ongoing programming and passing-through conventioneers. Its successful programs have kept the space alive and vibrant through the summer (art, bocce, concerts, food trucks, ping pong, sunbathing…), fall (beer tasting, finger knitting, local crafts, pumpkin carving, trivia…), and even Boston’s snowiest winter on record (fire juggling, ice carving, skiing, sledding, #slopefest, snowman making, tubing…)

A clear vision, ambitious and astute client, nimble and tactical design team, and an outstanding programming strategy enabled lawn on D. With relatively modest investment, Lawn on D has become a truly unique open space that sets a strong precedent and high bar for other projects that aspire to do a lot with a little.

"Yes, it’s temporary. But the very fact that it is temporary gives us an opportunity to try things we might not otherwise do. I’d like to encourage more of these temporary spaces."

- 2015 Awards Jury


MCCA - client and collaborator
I.W. Harding Construction Co., Inc. - Contractor
Tetra Tech - Civil/Structural
Cosentini Associates - Electrical
HR&A Advisors - Programming
Zaragunda - Programming
Sasaki and Utile - Urban Design


Catenary Lights: Bega
Catenary Poles: Valmont
Site Furniture: Loll Designs
Swing Time: Höweker + Yoon Architecture
Pavement Paint – Plexipave Coloring System: California Products of Andover
Painting Installation – New England Sealcoating
Pedestrian Lights: SpecLines

Plant List

Honey Locust
Stella de Oro Daylily