During the fall of 2013, we held our first outdoor lab where residents of Upham’s Corner were invited to step in, work with us and local artists, designers and builders to prototype and re-imagine everyday aspects of public space. It resulted in many sketches, temporary social furniture, outdoor knit-work and board games, stair murals, an outdoor alley gallery and many residents’ stories.
Over the course of five Saturday afternoons, our team would set up at the same alleyway at the heart of Upham’s Corner off of Columbia Road where ideation and prototyping tools were available for residents to engage with. We began by identifying a handful of possible public spaces that we hoped would inspire others to take action and spark conversation about spaces we might not have known about.
As people gave their ideas, we took action in three areas by popular demand: two high-traffic bus stops and an alley stairway that was a critical connection between a neighborhood and shopping district. Our team built and planted furniture at bus stops gaining attention and eliciting discussion. While iterations were being made with benches, people continued to drop in and play with our questions, contribute to a collaborative knit piece and we gathered many people’s stories about their experience living in Upham’s Corner. Another group of people also worked with the business owners who share the alley in cleaning it and preparing it for transformation.
Tactical urbanism refers to quick, often temporary, affordable projects that aim to make a small part of a city more livable, lively or enjoyable. STREET LAB: UPHAM'S aimed to put tactical urbanism in the hands of the Upham’s Corner, Dorchester community.
While tactical urbanism involves installing community-identified needs, like a bike lane, parklet or bench, it takes a degree of authority and imagination to ‘reclaim the streets’. We hope to see more tactical urbanism projects in neighborhoods like Upham’s Corner and until then, STREET LAB continues to evolve with the intention to expand not just the level of ownership residents have with their neighborhoods, but expand their ability to imagine what can exist then take the steps to leverage their networks to realize ideas.
Thank you to our all our participants and our team! Our team of regulars consisted of Cedric Douglas, our lead artist, and volunteers including artists Justin Almeida, Charlie Crowell and Greg Rubin, master knitters Margery Buckingham and Mollie Tobin, designer/builder Liam Van Vleet and our volunteer builders Bernard and Ben from the Carpenter’s Union. Thank you to our interview crew: Renee Hopkins, Anna Elzer, Jasmine Omeke, Caleb Canas. Our photographers, John B, Rafael Feliciano Cumbas, Jay Pix Belmer and videographer Louis Thomas helped us capture it all.
Big thank you to Upham’s Corner’s Linda Webster of Pacific Auto Insurance who graciously provided us with the alley, electricity and storage space, Max MacCarthy of Upham’s Corner Main Street for all his support and office space. Thank you to Canton House Restaurant, Wallgreens branch at Upham’s Corner and Pisces Hair Salon for supporting us in the alley with water and power. STREET LAB: Upham’s is part of the Upham’s Corner Art Place Initiative funded by The Boston Foundation.