By Jeremy F. van der Heiden
Assembly Row is one of the hottest areas in Somerville today, as the shops and restaurants have already started to open and the new MBTA station is set to be functional within the next few months. While the attractions have already started to attract more Somervillians and others from neighboring towns, several events will likely send traffic soaring even higher.
The Design Museum Boston, along with the support of the Federal Realty Investment Trust, will be putting on a Summer Series that will have several events at Assembly Row. The first, a free event open to the public, will feature an urban design keynote from Vancouver-based writer Christine McLaren and will take place on July 24 between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at 1 Assembly Row in the amphitheater.
McLaren was the lead researcher for Happy City, a forthcoming book by celebrated Canadian journalist Charles Montgomery, which hones in on the impact urban design has on the livelihood of those living in the areas. At the Urban Design Keynote next Thursday, July 24, McLaren will provide insights related to environmental issues and urban planning as they intersect with local populations.
All of the events will focus on this interaction between urban design and the community members living in these environments, making the brand new Assembly Row an exceptional venue for these types of discussions.
In an interview with The Somerville Times, Sam Aquillano, the co-founder and executive director of Design Museum Boston, affirmed that the developers involved in the creation and management of Assembly Row have had the proper mindset throughout the various stages that have taken place.
“We work with a lot of different developers and you do not hear the word ‘people’ a lot, it’s all about buildings and it’s not about the human-centered approach,” Aquillano explained. “I think that’s what I’ve heard a lot from the Federal Realty folks – how are people going to interact with the space – they know that it’s at a different scale than Somerville is used to … it is like building an entirely new neighborhood from scratch.”
He also pointed out that the developers have been specifically focused on street-level aspects of the environments along with the buildings themselves, helping to create a mixed-use space that can act as a central hub for commerce and the community itself.
As for the opening event for the Summer Series, Aquillano highlighted some of the reasons why Somervillians would want to come out and listen to McLaren’s keynote.
“She’s going to talk about how you can design a city to make people happier, and you’re going to be sitting in a new neighborhood that is being built to make people happy,” he added. “You’re in this context of a new neighborhood being built and designed, and you’ll have this presenter basically talking about the latest thinking and thought leadership behind designing cities.”
McLaren’s keynote speech will mark the start of the Design Museum Boston’s Assembly Row Summer Series, which will be followed up by a screening of The Human Scale, a Danish film that discusses urban area optimization on August 29 between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. This event will also feature a live question and answer component conducted via Skype with the filmmaker.
The final event will be an Urban Design Panel that will thus far include senior urban designer and architect at the Boston Redevelopment Authority Corey Zehngebot, Landscape Architect and Principal at Sasaki Gina Ford, Senior Vice President of Federal Realty Trust Don Briggs and Architecture and Design principal at ADD Inc. B.K. Boley. This will take place on September 25 at 6:30 p.m.
When asked why Somervillians should be interested in the design going into Assembly Row and other areas throughout the city, Aquillano said the following:
“From our perspective, our whole tagline is ‘design is everywhere,’ and it affects every aspect of our lives, from the design of our phones to the design of our buildings and neighborhoods. You might not be designing your neighborhood, but if you aren’t a part of that, someone is going to be making the decisions for you … we’re trying to educate people that everything around them is important to curate.”
All of the events at Assembly Row are free and open to the general public, while the Design Museum Boston is putting on several other events around the Boston area throughout the summer as well. More information about the series and the Design Museum Boston itself can be found through the organization’s main website, designmuseumboston.org.