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City of Boston, BRA, and Boston Society of Architects to hold Innovative Design Alternatives Summit on May 6 and 7

Apr 27, 2015

Thought leaders to convene on Mayor Walsh’s challenge for innovative design

Next week, the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and the City of Boston, with sponsorship from The Boston Foundation, the BSA Foundation, and Autodesk, will bring together designers, community leaders, developers, city officials, and academics in a unique two-day event called IDeAS: Innovative Design Alternatives Summit. The summit, set to take place at Faneuil Hall and BSA Space on May 6 and 7, is intended to jumpstart the conversation about enhancing design and architecture in Boston through an inclusive, interactive visioning process. The events are free and open to the public, and interested attendees are encouraged to register for one or both days.
The summit emerged in response to a challenge Mayor Martin J. Walsh issued in his December speech to the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce. At the time, the Mayor observed, “Boston is home to the world’s most innovative thinkers – in science and technology, and in business, art, and architecture. Our City’s built environment should reflect this culture of imagination. Too often, in recent decades, new buildings have been merely functional. I believe Boston can do better.” He encouraged developers and designers to “reach beyond your comfort zone” and “take design to a new level” to build inspiration into Boston’s landscape.  
IDeAS will open with remarks from Mayor Walsh at an afternoon plenary session focused on design at Faneuil Hall on May 6 at 3:00 p.m. The summit will then transition to BSA Space on May 7, where a daylong series of interactive panels will bring thought leaders together to discuss a variety of topics related to Boston’s identity, economy, open space, environment, and, of course, buildings. The group hopes to begin a robust conversation about how innovative design, broadly speaking, can enhance the quality of life for people in Boston.
The event is expected to draw an array of influential leaders in architecture and design, including Andrea Leers, co-founder and principal at Leers Weinzapfel Associates, Bill Rawn, founding principal of William Rawn Associates, and Francine Houben, founder and creative director at the Dutch firm Mecanoo, which helped design the newly opened Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Square. Major developers, community leaders, and city officials will help round out the panels, making sure that the discussion is informed by diverse perspectives. By having such a wide cross-section of stakeholders represented, organizers of the summit hope to underscore the level of collaboration that is needed to foster design excellence throughout the city.
“The Mayor’s remarks in December were a clear call for all of us in the development and design communities to step up our game,” said BRA Director Brian Golden. “People are already beginning to embrace the notion that taking a bit of risk isn’t just acceptable, it’s expected. I’m excited to see a fruitful discussion about the future of architecture and design unfold at IDeAS. We couldn’t ask for a better partner and host than the Boston Society of Architects, and I thank all of the participants and sponsors for coming together around this important topic.”
BRA board member and President Emeritus of Boston Architectural College Ted Landsmark was a driving force behind organizing the summit. Autodesk, which makes design software and recently announced that it will open a new office in Boston, The Boston Foundation, and BSA Foundation are sponsoring the event.
The agenda for May 7 includes the following six panels:
Who We Are
How do we design the City to best respond to Boston’s emerging demographics? This discussion will focus on how demographic diversity influences design decisions that affect the cultural fabric of the city, neighborhood identity, historic preservation, entertainment, and sports. How do we describe ourselves to those who do not know Boston? What kind of community do we believe we could be in 2020, and 2030?
How We Grow
This panel will address how design enhances economic development, regionalization, transportation, transit-oriented development, and infrastructure. What is our plan for smart growth? How can big data and new approaches to design inform our planning processes and how we assess our resources? What can we achieve using civic technology and big data to better understand how we live and play?
How and Where We Live
This panel will explore housing, income equity, affordability, and design in a global environment. How do we ensure affordability to attract and retain a middle-class economic base? How do we design intelligently across generations and for individuals with disabilities? What are the possible effects on housing and transportation of Boston’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games?
How We Survive in our Environment
How do form, materials, technology, energy management, sustainability and resiliency affect planning the built environment? This session will tackle building forms, innovative technologies, construction practices, and design tools, energy management strategies, and climate change and design opportunities. How do we engage and experience the city through digital interfaces?
How We Share Resources
As we engage diverse communities in design, we must consider how alternative financing mechanisms, regionalization, and new infrastructure needs can foster equitable access to economic development resources. How do we assess and finance community and cultural benefits from design interventions?

Creating Common Ground
Open and community space planning can support place-making, facilitate way-finding, and enhance cultural identity. How do we explore design solutions that support the public good? This panel discussion will address accessibility, design interventions for health and safety, neighborhood needs and scale, and how innovative design enhances the experience of the city. How should we experience the City in 2020, and 2030? 

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