Boston is a great place to live if you are a designer at any of time of year, and summer is an especially fun time to enjoy the amazing landscapes, roof decks, exhibits and events that Boston and the surrounding area has to offer for design lovers. We’ve gathered some of our favorite places, upcoming events we’re excited to attend, and tips for exploring our city with an architect’s eye. What spaces and experiences would you add to our list?
Design Museum Boston: Extraordinary Playscapes
Since the mission of the Design Museum Boston is to engage our communities in conversations and education about design, including them on my list was a no-brainer! This summer the Design Museum Boston is hosting an exhibit that is particularly well suited to enjoying the spirit of summer: Extraordinary Playscapes. The program includes an exhibit hosted at the BSA Space, including an opening reception on June 8, but even more exciting is the installation of play cubes that is part of the exhibit at Chinatown Park!
Gropius House, Lincoln, MA
Located about 40 minutes from downtown Boston in Lincoln, MA, the Gropius House is a must-see for devotees of modernism. I’ve visited twice, one with Payette’s YDC and once with my extended family to share with them my passion for twentieth century historic houses and remind them that Gropius designed his house in the 1930’s even though many of the design elements reminded them of home trends that became commonplace in American homes 30 years later! While open on weekends all year round, the Gropius house opens Wednesday-Sunday during the summer for tours from 11:00 am – 4:00 pm. There are also special events during the summer, like evening tours that highlight Gropius’ lighting designs.
Boston Harbor Islands Park
Take a break from the city to enjoy the nature and scenery that the Boston Harbor Islands Park has to offer. Information and tickets are available at the Harbor Park Pavilion located along the Rose Kennedy Greenway, near Quincy Market. The pavilion is a remarkable intervention along the Greenway designed by local Boston firm Utile Design. Cast concrete canopies drape over split steel beams in order to channel water into catch basins, and visitors can chart their trip to the Harbor Islands on the map incised into the granite floors.
The park itself is not one single territory, but comprised of thirty-four islands and peninsulas, each with their own unique features. Some of the more notable landmarks are the Civil War-era Fort Warren on Georges Island and the Boston Light, the oldest lighthouse in the U.S., on Little Brewster Island. The islands provide visitors and Bostonians with exceptional connections to nature and cultural resources closely tied with the historical and physical development of the city.
Lawn on D
Lawn on D is a small public parked tucked behind the Boston Convention Center in the Seaport District. The lawn is an innovative space with the intent of activating and engaging the community through special events, live music, food and drinks, and art installations. The space presents itself as a playground for adults, boasting ping pong tables, cornhole boards, jenga and an inventive swing set designed by Höweler + Yoon architects. Ring-shaped swings hang from a canopy lined with solar panels that power LED lights within the plastic rings. The swings light up at night, giving the park even more character and vitality. You never know what you’ll be confronted with at Lawn on D as you round the corner onto D Street. Last summer, larger-than-life, inflatable rabbits took up residence at the lawn for several weeks and delighted visitors.
MIT Museum & surroundings, Cambridge, MA
Clad in modest gray with a decided departure from your usual white box gallery, the MIT museum celebrates designers, makers, scientists and engineers whose work take on uncompromised aesthetic quality besides their primary causes. Summer is a special time to view Projects and Prototypes from the past academic year that fuse art with science – a good occasion to expand your definition of design. The calendar also includes a kids-friendly weekend program Idea Hub, exploring topics in design and engineering with artistic circuits, 3D programs, and a variety of other hands-on design and making topics.
If you can get into the nearby MIT building N52, take a glimpse at the intricate scale model of Boston by engineers from The Tech Model Railroad Club of MIT in Room 118, where the Green Building by Araldo Cossutta and I.M.Pei is wired for a Tetris game on its modular façade, with consoles accessible from the window. Otherwise, stroll down Massachusetts Avenue to critique the newly completed Novartis complex by Maya Lin Studio and Toshiko Mori Architect, or in the opposite direction towards Boston’s best ice-cream at Toscanini’s.
Brooklyn Boulders, Somerville, MA
Past a low-ceiling entry opens a vista down a canyon-like climbing gym rich in spatial complexity. Lines, angles, perspectives and colors add to the thrill of scaling a 22 foot height wall, a mental canvas requiring focus and strategy as a perfect break from office-bound weekdays.
Although the slanted walls might occasionally put your confidence in check, Brooklyn Boulders climbing gym offers walls for all levels and introductory orientation to welcome first-timers. In the spirit of work-play, you can comfortably spend a significant chunk of a day working out, climbing, lounging and collaborating over the free wifi within the 40,000 SF facility over two expansive floors. Check out these incredible photos of the space from TEDx Somerville. And don’t forget to visit Aeronaut Brewing Co. and the award-winning Tasting Counter next door for a post-climb feast.
Community Boating on the Charles, Boston, MA
Experience the Back Bay, Beacon Hill and Cambridge from the water! Community Boating is a sailing and watersports nonprofit club that aims to make sailing accessible for everyone. Located on the esplanade between the Charles MGH Red Line station and the hatch shell, they offer sailing, kayaking, windsurfing and paddle boarding. Visit during an open house weekend for a free sail, rent a boat for a day, or get a membership for full access and free classes. CBI even has a universal access program to get those with disabilities sailing.
The Colonnade Hotel Rooftop Pool
Check out the skyline and look down at the Christian Science Center from the Colonnade Hotel’s twelfth story rooftop pool. This dramatic space feels like a sliver of Hollywood floating 200 feet above Huntington Ave. It’s awesome so it gets crowded – check the hotel’s website for specific policies, hours and prices before you go. A $10 cover charge gets you access from Monday to Friday after 5pm (21+).