How do you remake a city that's already been made? That's the question a group of students at the Boston Architectural College (BAC) will be tackling in a new design competition sponsored by the Chelsea, Massachusetts–based firm The Architectural Team. With a directive to bring the mixed and multi (mixed-use, mixed-income, multifamily) ideals of 21st-century sustainability to downtown Boston’s commercial and retail districts, students who are enrolled in the competition’s studio course will develop new visions for a downtown that they could want to—and even afford to—live in one day.
The competition, called “Transforming Boston’s Neighborhoods: The Future of Multifamily Housing,” offers a $2,500 prize, which will be awarded in December. It asks students to imagine how downtown’s existing stock of office buildings and retail stores—much of it protected by historical preservation statutes—can be repurposed as housing for Bostonians, who generally live everywhere but downtown. “A city without people is not a city, and a city without housing doesn't have any people,” says Robert J. Verrier, FAIA, cofounder and managing principal of the Architectural Team. “It's very important to have people living in the downtown area so the lights are on at night and there's activity in the streets, and that's what makes Boston have a lot of vitality.”