written by:
June 15, 2010

If you're in the Northeast this upcoming week, you might want to swing by Common Boston, Boston's fourth annual week of celebrating architecture and urban spaces. Focusing all the city's design energy at a number of "common points" on the neighborhood level, Common Boston is a little bit different from all the other Salones and ICFFs around the world. I wanted to find out why, so over two cups of tea at Toscanini's, I caught up with Justin Crane, budding architect and co-founder/co-chair of New England's biggest design festival.

Justin Crane, architect at at Cambridge Seven Associates and co-chair of Common Boston 2010
Justin Crane, architect at at Cambridge Seven Associates and co-chair of Common Boston 2010
2 / 3
commonbos fins

How did Common Boston emerge?
It originated humbly about five years ago, with a bunch of recent architecture grads just sitting around in a cafe. We were thinking about Boston...about how it has the highest percentage of architects of any city, and a general public that's very active in their community -- yet the two don't always see eye-to-eye. Boston is in many ways a birthplace of community activism, and we wanted to get the neighborhoods excited about such a big part of the city -- architecture.
What was the first Common Boston like five years ago? How has it changed since then?
It was actually originally called ArchFest, a one-week celebration of art and design. Now, we're focusing more on a cross-pollination of disciplines -- the organizing committee is still volunteer-based and made up of young professionals working in design, but we're incorporating much more diverse perspectives. We're opening buildings, giving neighborhood walks, and tapping into local experts in media, transportation, food, nonprofits, preservation, public art, and more to share their knowledge.
Which of your countless tours would you highlight and recommend to us?
We're holding a Public Art Tour of Jamaica Plain; a nighttime exploration of lighting design; a youth-guided tour of Chinatown; a wayfinding walk at the Arnold Arboretum led by graphic designers; a tour of the new Red Line T-stations given by the MBTA's Director of Design....there are so many!
And the special events? How do they relate to the choice for this year's theme, 'Where We Connect'?
There's the design-build competition Common Build, which we tried out last year to great success. This year, we'll be giving each team a site, three days, and a capped budget to work with neighborhood members to develop design solutions geared towards wayfinding and making communities more pedestrian-friendly. One thing that kept coming up over and over in discussion is the lack of physical, cultural, intellectual connections between neighborhoods, so we're partnering with LostinBoston to address this through a design-build challenge.
We're also debuting the Youthwalks Media Project -- a series of walking tour videos created by Boston teens that are personal portraits of their own neighborhoods.

commonbos books

[photos:2:Right]How would you respond to people saying that Boston is a city full of designers, but not necessarily as a city on the cutting edge of design?
Of course there is a lot of creative talent and teaching coming out of here, with some of the best architecture schools such as Harvard, MIT, Northeastern, Boston Architectural College, and more. Part of the issue is that people consider Bostonians to be kind of stogey -- and that is the belief of the general public. So with Common Boston, we are trying to connect two. Being on the cutting edge of design is not just about things being good looking -- but it's also about raising the level of dialogue about the city.
I've heard so much about the kick-off dParty this Thursday. Can you tell me more about it?
We're really excited about that -- it's being held at the Artists for Humanity Epicenter, and we're featuring inflatable architecture in the form of dressing rooms, thanks to co-organizer Mary Hale and her collaborator Brandon Roy. People are coming dressed in head-to-toe monochrome, or you can donate $10 or 5 pounds of clothing to rent a monochrome outfit for the night!
So what would you say is the appetite of design around here, and what's in store for the future?
We've had a lot of interest, and the level of design activism here is definitely on the rise. Common Boston has grown to become ten days long, and the future is going to see even louder of a rumbling appetite for these kinds of events all over the city.

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

45 dva 2270 persp1 cmyk 0
The prospect of retirement doesn’t just signal the end of a career; it offers the chance to recalibrate and re-prioritize in life.
July 25, 2016
You don’t have to choose between sustainable energy and curb appeal.
July 19, 2016
jakemagnus queensland 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
July 06, 2016
content delzresidence 013 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 29, 2016
abc malacari marwick stair 01 0
A simple set of stairs is a remodel’s backbone.
June 28, 2016
Design Award of Excellence winner Mellon Square.
Docomomo US announces the winners of this year's Modernism in America Awards. Each project showcases exemplary modern restoration techniques, practices, and ideas.
June 27, 2016
monogram dwell sf 039 1
After last year’s collaboration, we were excited to team up with Monogram again for the 2016 Monogram Modern Home Tour.
June 27, 2016
switch over chicago smart renovation penthouse deck smar green ball lamps quinze milan lounge furniture garapa hardwood
A strategic rewire enhances a spec house’s gut renovation.
June 26, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent coralie gourguechon treviso italy cphotos by coralie gourguechon co produced by isdat planche anatomique de haut parleur1
Coralie Gourguechon's paper objects will make you see technology in a whole new way.
June 26, 2016
green machine smart home aspen colorado facade yard bocci deck patio savant
Smart technology helps a house in Aspen, Colorado, stay on its sustainable course.
June 25, 2016
Compact Aglol 11 television plastic brionvega.
The aesthetic appeal of personal electronics has long fueled consumer interest. A new industrial design book celebrates devices that broke the mold.
June 25, 2016
modern backyard deck ipe wood
An angled deck transforms a backyard in Menlo Park, California, into a welcoming gathering spot.
June 24, 2016
dscf5485 1
Today, we kicked off this year’s annual Dwell on Design at the LA Convention Center, which will continue through Sunday, June 26th. Though we’ve been hosting this extensive event for years, this time around is particularly special.
June 24, 2016
under the radar renovation napa
Two designers restore a low-slung midcentury gem in Napa, California, by an unsung Bay Area modernist.
June 24, 2016
Exterior of Huneeus/Sugar Bowl Home.
San Francisco–based designer Maca Huneeus created her family’s weekend retreat near Lake Tahoe with a relaxed, sophisticated sensibility.
June 24, 2016
light and shadow bathroom walnut storage units corian counter vola faucet
A Toronto couple remodel their home with a special emphasis on a spacious kitchen and a material-rich bathroom.
June 24, 2016
Affordable home in Kansas City living room
In Kansas City, an architecture studio designs an adaptable house for a musician on a budget.
June 23, 2016
modern lycabettus penthouse apartment oak vertical slats office
By straightening angles, installing windows, and adding vertical accents, architect Aaron Ritenour brought light and order to an irregularly shaped apartment in the heart of Athens, Greece.
June 23, 2016
kitchen confidential tiles custom cabinetry oak veneer timber house
A modest kitchen addition to a couple’s cottage outside of Brisbane proves that one 376-square-foot room can revive an entire home.
June 23, 2016
feldman architecture 0
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
June 22, 2016
Blackened timber Dutch home
A modern dwelling replaces a fallen farmhouse.
June 22, 2016
hillcrest house interior kitchen 3
Seeking an escape from bustling city life, a Manhattan couple embarks on a renovation in the verdant Hudson Valley.
June 22, 2016
Atelier Moderno renovated an old industrial building to create a luminous, modern home.
June 21, 2016
San Francisco floating home exterior
Anchored in a small San Francisco canal, this floating home takes its cues from a classic city habitat.
June 21, 2016
modern renovation addition solar powered scotland facade steel balcony
From the bones of a neglected farmstead in rural Scotland emerges a low-impact, solar-powered home that’s all about working with what was already there.
June 21, 2016
up in the air small space new zealand facade corrugated metal cladding
An architect with a taste for unconventional living spaces creates a small house at lofty heights with a starring view.
June 21, 2016
young guns 2016 emerging talent marjan van aubel london cwai ming ng current window
Marjan Van Aubel makes technology a little more natural.
June 21, 2016
urban pastoral brooklyn family home facade steel cypress double
Building on the site of a former one-car garage, an architect creates his family’s home in an evolving neighborhood of Brooklyn.
June 20, 2016
Modern Brooklyn backyard studio with plexiglass skylight, green roof, and cedar cladding facade
In a Brooklyn backyard, an off-duty architect builds a structure that tests his attention to the little things.
June 20, 2016
the outer limits paris prefab home living area vertigo lamp constance guisset gijs bakker strip tablemetal panels
In the suburbs of Paris, an architect with an eco-friendly practice doesn’t let tradition stand in the way of innovation.
June 20, 2016