design thinking initiatives for a better urban life
City of Snowmen was a project about exploration, production, and memory in the context of winter in Boston, Massachusetts. Participants were encouraged to build snowmen in public spaces and then photograph and map them to a website. The project aspired to provide users with a map of their city’s snowmen, a guide for seeing the built environment through a new frame. Participants were few but enthusiastic. With strong and consistent energy directed towards outreach and communication I believe a City of Snowmen project could flourish in a snowy region, becoming a public activity requiring only minimal investment on the part of several organizers.
I grew up about six miles from downtown Boston, and compared to most of my classmates at the Harvard Graduate School of Design I knew the city with a degree of intimacy and awareness. Boston is known for its colleges and universities, but experience taught me that relatively few students made efforts to discover the area’s many neighborhoods. Fields Corner, Roslindale Square, and Fort Hill are, to me, delightfully different from more trafficked neighborhoods, such as Allston, the Back Bay, and Harvard Square. Interviews with Boston natives, however, indicated that this unfamiliarity with other neighborhoods was not limited to students from outside the state. I found that native residents were very loyal to their own neighborhoods, but they saw few reasons to venture beyond their comfort zones. This led me to wonder how I could foster in both permanent and transient Bostonians a sense of curiosity and mystery around places so close yet unknown. What would it take to excite someone enough to leave their apartment in Brighton and spend a leisurely hour in South Boston? (more…)