The Pedestrian Prototype Project was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts as a case study to test design ideas for the creation of new forms of urban public space during the demolition of Interstate 93 and its reconstruction underground. Constructed in a parking lot adjacent to Boston’s Freedom Trail and the Interstate, the 100 foot long Prototype provided public access to view an archaeological excavation and served as an outdoor classroom for the Boston Public Schools. Kennedy & Violich designed an exhibition, The Temporary City, within the Prototype that was open to the public 24 hours a day. The exhibition presented historical documentation of the construction of the Interstate in the 1950’s with images of archaeological artifacts found each day at the excavation site. Where the structural Bent #28 of the elevated highway interrupts the Prototype’s envelope, it is reframed as an artifact of the exhibition.

The Prototype uses a standard wood frame construction system to form a conical volume. This form expands the gap between the structure and the exterior skin to provide space for the exhibition and establishes a generosity of enclosure along the public walkway. The need to use affordable materials and modes of assembly in the Prototype required a reconsideration of the idea and role of the detail in this provisional architecture. The detail resides in the material choice of the fiberglass envelope, and in an activation of the inherent properties of its surfaces and their capacity to reflect and radiate light.

The Pedestrian Passage Prototype creates a new kind of public space where tourism and public education intersect with the disciplines of archaeology, engineering and urban planning. The Prototype connects the daily activities of commuters and the experiences of tourists on the Freedom Trail to the future location of the new roadway underground and the past life of the city. The project engages the circumstances of the archaeological excavation and the reconstruction of the Interstate as contemporary urban events that make visible the economic, political and legal forces of property allotments, eminent domain, and zoning regulations that shape the physical form of the American city.

Date: 1991
Status: Completed
Client: The Public
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Design Team:
Frano Violich, FAIA
Sheila Kennedy, FAIA
Matthew VanderBorgh
Architecture & Exhibit Design : Kennedy & Violich Architecture, Ltd
Engineering Consultant: Lim Consultants, Inc

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