American Society of Landscape Architects ASLA 2006 Professional Awards
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South Boston Maritime Park is the centerpiece of a new mixed-use neighborhood being created on formerly industrial docklands owned by the Massachusetts Port Authority. Complementing the Authority's public-private partnerships with office, hotel, retail and housing developers, the park was developed and is operated by Massport itself. (Image courtesy of Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
A strong diagrammatic structure underlies the park design. The center of the park is elevated to improve views to the harbor and create a focus. This focus is reinforced visually with bold 35' high pergolas, and functionally with café and comfort facilities that provide a destination within the park. (image courtesy of Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
More than a half-a-dozen different forms of seating are offered, including granite seat walls, backless teak benches, benches with backs (both free-standing and integrated into walls), monumental stairs, café chairs, benches integral with the café façade, and the lawn itself. (Image courtesy of Ben A. Watkins.)
The park's architectural and landscape architectural details evoke South Boston's maritime industrial heritage, including teak columns that recall ships' masts, robust granite walls and cast iron-glass bullet stair treads. (Image courtesy of Steven Lee.)
The Park's main entrance is flanked by Carlos Dorrien's gateway sculpture. The "fish scale" concrete pavers in the foreground were designed to knit together all of the new waterfront uses in the district as part of a comprehensive streetscape standard. (Image courtesy of Steven Lee.)
Many park elements repay close observation because of their careful fabrication, installation and artistic quality, as in this detail of Carlos Dorrien's gateway sculpture. (Image courtesy of Steven Lee.)
The western half of the site formerly carried the northbound portion of D Street, a major artery. The traffic lanes were moved to expand the park area but relocating the utilities from the original r.-o.-w. was cost-prohibitive. This not only limited the café location, it necessitated maintaining emergency utility access, shown here by the alignment of the main path and gaps between the pergola columns. (Image courtesy of Steven Lee.)

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South Boston Maritime Park, Boston Massachusetts
Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc, Boston Massachusetts

"The level of craftsmanship is so appealing and responsive to the maritime legacy."

— 2006 Professional Awards Jury Comments

Project's scope
The park sits at the center of Massport's extensive redevelopment area in the Commonwealth Flats district of South Boston. Massport goals for the park design were: to evoke the maritime ambience of the working harbor in concept, materials and execution; to create a "signature park" that would attract a mix of neighborhood residents, local employees and visitors to the waterfront; to create a contemporary public park would serve the day-to-day needs of the area as well as being a location for special / seasonal events. And, since much of the surrounding land was yet to be developed, Massport wanted a high-quality design that would attract developers and tenants to the surrounding parcels.

The overall objective of the park is to provide additional public green space along the waterfront that supports a range of activities that are inviting to a broad range of people. These include those working or living in the immediate area, and South Boston residents and visitors (Convention-goers, tourists, restaurant patrons, etc.). The programming and design of the park are focused on a maritime theme that celebrates both the heritage and contemporary activities of the Port of Boston. The park is located adjacent to and complements the existing Eastport Park.

Size 1.1 acres

The "diagram" of the park has four parts: the front lawn, the pergolas, the pavilion and the bosque. The lawn is like the space traditionally found in front of a public building-serene, strongly defined, inviting spontaneous use by all. The pergolas, when seen from the water's edge along Northern Avenue (or from the lawn), act like a large civic colonnaded frontage, while also evoking a forest of masts in the harbor. On a more intimate scale, the pavilion features wood siding that folds to form benches, reminiscent of the decking and cockpit seats in a sailboat, while its prow-like roof hovers above, parting the waters, as it were, profiled against the sky. The bosque with its stone dust ground plane and abundance of teak benches provides a shady sanctuary .

Design challenges
D Street, one of South Boston's major arterial streets, passed directly through the middle of the proposed park site, carrying numerous subsurface utilities (trunk sewers and the like). The project called for relocating the street (dividing it into separate (narrower) North- and South-bound sections.), with the park to occupy the wedge-shaped parcel thus created. The presence of underground utilities greatly constrained the park design, particularly the location and configuration of the pavilion building and utility maintenance access requirements.

Materials and installation methods used

  • Large lawn with canopy trees framing the edges overlooking Boston Harbor / Fish Pier
  • Café with outdoor tables and chairs
  • Plentiful bench seating
  • Extensive tree and perennial plantings
  • Two public bathrooms and water fountain
  • Extensive public art and interpretive elements (mosaic "memory wheels", granite sculpture, mist fountain, tide lights, and nautical information, sayings, etc. engraved on granite walls, steps and pavement throughout the park)
  • Two large shade structures (pergolas)
  • Generous paved pathways through the park and sidewalks around the perimeter
  • On street metered parking spaces (6)
  • Fully accessible design

The planting design is lush and exuberant, using 28 varieties of trees, shrubs, groundcovers, vines, perennials, bulbs, and grasses, all chosen to survive the marine conditions.

Community context
Located at the water's edge, the park is surrounded by a variety of uses, including the working Boston Fish Pier, the new Manulife Office Building, the Boston World Trade Center development (including two office buildings, the Seaport Hotel and Eastport Park), new residential towers and a new hotel under construction. D Street which straddles the park site is the primary connector from South Boston's existing neighborhoods to the emerging waterfront redevelopment district.

During design, a broad range of people were invited to participate in meetings and work sessions:

  • South Boston residents, organization representatives, youth and art associations and elected officials
  • Open space, harbor, and universal access advocacy groups
  • Massport tenants in the Commonwealth Flats district and on the Fish Pier;
  • City of Boston representatives (Boston Redevelopment Authority, Parks Department).

Environmental impact and concerns
Built over historic landfill, just yards from the edge of Boston Harbor, the park was at risk for saline infiltration into the groundwater. It is also an exposed site for wind and salt-spray. Care was taken to elevate the park area to move tree roots out of the zone of salt water.

Sustainable elements were featured, including low-albedo pavements, permeable surfaces and captured roof run-off to recharge the water table.

Collaboration process among the owner and designer(s)
Massport, the owner of the park and its surrounding district, has a division which oversees its urban redevelopment activities (planners) and another that oversees and coordinates all of the agency's construction projects (engineers). A third coordinates community relations. Design meetings involved representatives from each group, making for a complicated designer-client interaction, but the finished park benefited from each of their perspectives and concerns.

Other design issues
The park's material palette was chosen to weather gracefully, and includes granite, teak, ipe wood, and copper. The site's configuration encourages a variety of public uses, arranged around several distinct functional zones, each defined by elements such as benches, café seating, or a bosque of closely planted trees.

Already featured in Landscape Architecture magazine and local periodicals, and recipient of an Honor Award from the Boston Society of Landscape Architects, the park and its café are among the most popular sites in the emerging Seaport district.

Project Resources


Machado and Silvetti Associates, Inc.


General Contractor:

Carlos Dorrien

Ellen Driscoll


Granite features throughout the park are engraved with maritime and nautical lore, such as tide tables, weather warning symbols, the outline of Boston Harbor and this "Rule of the Road", an historic mnemonic poem for remembering which vessels have right of way on the high seas. (Image courtesy of Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
The park incorporates many sustainable features, such as these low-albedo pre-cast pavers, which lead to the permeable stone dust surface of the bosque area. (Image courtesy of Steven Lee.)
All run-off from the café roof is conveyed via an extended scupper to a rock-lined, ornamental swale to recharge the ground water. (Image courtesy of Steven Lee.)
A fog fountain a the edge of the bosque is contained in an oversized stainless-steel "lobster trap." (Image courtesy of Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
Little surprises proliferate through the park, including this 35-foot-long maritime "speaking tube," a big hit with kids. (Image courtesy of Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
The Great Lawn is protected from adjacent foot traffic by raising it above the pavement with beveled granite curbing, which is periodically interspersed with grass ramps to allow access for wheelchairs, strollers and mowing equipment. (Image courtesy of Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
Custom design features are integrated throughout the park, such as extra-long wall-top benches that recaptiulate the design of the teak catalog benches used in the bosque zone. (Image courtesy of Steven Lee.)
Two of the park's edges do not face on active uses (a parking garage entrance and a busy six-lane arterial). Along these boundaries, large planting beds with drifts of shrubs, grasses and perennials are massed. (Image courtesy of Halvorson Design Partnership, Inc.)
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