Who is proposing this idea?
All work on this project was done by volunteers
without compensation. A small group developed the ideas, prepared
the drawings, text and graphics, and built the website. The
group includes people who studied architecture, urban design,
planning, public administration, fine arts, film making, and
computer programming. Some of us reside around greater Boston,
others are further afield: One lives in Brooklyn, New York,
beside Frederic Law Olmstead's Prospect Park; another lives
in Hamburg, Germany, near the Alster Basin (a forerunner of
the Charles River Basin).
Why do this project?
Renewal of civic vision is the goal of this
website. This project was inspired by Karl Haglund's recently
published book entitled "Inventing the Charles River"
(with foreword by Renata von Tscharner, published in cooperation
with the Charles River Conservancy, 2003 MIT Press), which
chronicles a history of realized and unrealized urban visions
for the Charles River Basin and its surrounds. The introduction
to this book ends with the following paragraph:
- "In the history of America's cities,
the invention of the basin is an uncommon and remarkable
landmark. The place of the Charles in the city of the twenty-first
century will depend on a renewal of the civic vision that
created this extraordinary legacy."
Civic vision may arise from large institutions,
from professionals, and from community processes, but the
most resonant civic visions arise from discourse between all
these interests. While this website is not the product of
a community process, we hope it helps stimulate the vision
communities need if broad, unifying civic visions are to mature.
Here are several rephrased questions from the introduction
to Inventing the Charles River:
- In the invention of the Charles River,
who will propound the visions of the river's future?
- How will these visions be shared?
- What of new schemes might be realized?
- How might events of the twenty-first
century change Greater Bostonians' view of the public realm?"
Why make this website now?
The time is ripe. Harvard University has
recently taken several large strides in a long-range planning
and development process for Allston and Brighton. Their process,
named the Allston Initiative, advanced in earnest on November
21, 2003 with a speech by President Lawrence H. Summers. Here
is a link
to that speech.
Harvard University made four faculty committee Allston Initiative
reports available to the public in May 2004, and in June 2004,
announced the names of the design firms hired to do master
planning for Allston Initiative. HERE is a link to the faculty
reports. HERE is a link to the press release of design firms
A public process of long-range planning or vision-development
for urban areas around the Charles River Basin should really
be going on concurrently with Harvard's process. Since Harvard's
process has begun, it is time for discussion of public visions
to begin too. These two processes of vision development could
and should have enormous influence on one another.
Who has seen this
Access to this website was restricted for
several months to community organizations, neighborhood groups,
community development corporations in Allston, Brighton Cambridge,
and Fenway, and a few authors of books about the Charles River
Basin. Some non-profit organizations - such as the Charles
River Conservancy, the Charles River Watershed Association,
and the People for Riverbend Park Trust - also had access
to the site.
The groups listed above had time to review, digest, and discuss
this vision, and similar visions that this one may have helped
bring to light. Until this website it was opened for all,
in September 2004, no public sector groups, planning departments,
agencies, city, state or federal offices, no one from the
media, and no one from any schools, hospitals, or universities
Since the ideas in this website originated entirely outside
of large institutions, they may be more likely to help spawn
open public discussion. Vigorous, expanding civic discourse
preceding engagement with entities of power and resources
may strengthen potential alliances between communities and
those entities, conducive to bringing such visions to reality.
If this vision broadens and hones the discussion that Harvard
University will have with many interest groups in the near
future, then this website will have served one of its main
How accurate is this
The drawing is not 100% accurate, but it
is accurate enough for the purpose of sharing this vision.
It was drawn from scratch on AutoCAD LT. It began as a tracing
over an aerial photograph. While roads, bridges and the river
are more accurately drawn, the locations of existing buildings
are only roughly accurate.
Where did this idea
Much of the vision just grew as we drew.
Aside from the aforementioned book, Inventing the Charles
River, important sources of inspiration were the examples
of two people with civic vision:
- Isabella Halsted's vision for Riverbend
- Steve Kaiser's efforts to see his vision
considered for the new Charles River Crossing of the 'Big
Dig' (he called it the All-Tunnel Plan) as an alternative
to the highway interchange that has been built at the "lost
half mile" just below the Green Line Viaduct over the
New Charles River Basin.
Several people were
instrumental with the text and images, most notably Ghanda
DiFiglia, David Langton, Max Hall, and Judith Zinker. The
drawing was made by Christopher Schniewind Weller, as was
the initial draft of the text, and the initial concept.
This website was designed and built entirely by David Langton.
If the vision presented here is understandable, it is because
of David's tenacious effort, skill, and patience. Both Andy
Towl and Renata von Tscharner proposed vital revisions to
the concept and presentation. Werburg Doerr and Andy Towl
were centrally important through their early and steadfast
If you have questions, comments, or especially if you would
like to help, feel free to contact us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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