Public Engagement, Pop-Ups, and Play

| October 5, 2015 | 2 Comments

The hammocks nested on the Greenway, surrounded by the skyscrapers of the Financial District, make it feel as though you are being cradled by the city itself.

Permanency penetrates the buildings, cobblestoned streets, and sense of history found throughout Boston. The scholarship, architecture, and plaqued buildings are a constant reminder of the firsts and the oldests that are found here–a reminder of the strength and solitude of Boston as a city. This endurance is endearing and certainly helped draw me into the city and start to call it ‘home.’ However, in recent months, my favorite parts of Boston have been those that are not fixated in time, location, history, or structure. “When Did Boston Get So Fun?“ The Boston Globe and others recently asked. As for me, I haven’t questioned it; I’ve just run with it.

Perhaps ‘just running with it’ is part of what unites me with my fellow millennials. We have been endlessly presented with expanses of options. With just a few small movements of our fingers and milliseconds of our time, we can have answers to all of our questions, limitless music and books to ease bus rides or plane trips, games and social media to speed up lines and long lectures, and updates on what all of our favorite people–and our favorite people to follow–are up to. Permanency and tradition have a hard time competing with spontaneity and innovation when the changing and expanding world is in our pockets. While Boston has undoubtedly always been fun, the current growth of installments and art designed for public engagement, such as pop-up parks and community spaces, are a clear effort to engage the college students and young professionals that dominate the population of Boston. These developments alter the definition of fun to better fit that of the modern world: interactive, unconventional, and dynamic.

With the expansion of Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and other technology that normalizes publicly sharing the coolest parts of your day, public engagement and pop-ups thrive. This summer, I finally went to the Lawn on D and The Greenway Echelman Sculpture. I say finally because by the time I got around to going, I felt as though I must have been the last person in Boston to do so. I had been seeing pictures of the light up swings on The Lawn on D and the colorful aerial sculpture on The Greenway for months. Advertising freely through the willing public worked and I continued the cycle, cementing the moments with evidence to make sure that all of my friends on Instagram and Snapchat knew that I, too, had visited these installments. But besides that fact, I had an incredible amount of fun at each of these places.

The Lawn on D has events during the day and at night. While the line up is always changing, the swings remain a defining attraction of the space.

The Lawn on D has transformed a previously desolate convention center space into an open, interactive, and inviting experience. Taking a picture on the swing was only a speck of my time there. I was able to play corn hole and giant Jenga with my friends, grab a snack from the food trucks, and check out the installation of the week (which was, at the time, a giant inflatable space station). There was music playing and children running around and a general atmosphere of connection. The Lawn on D and spaces like it are a great way of connecting with the community around us and the people in it. It can give you a sense of human comfort to see others enjoying the space and to enjoy it with them. Similarly, the Greenway serves as a way of connecting with the city.

The changing colors on the aerial sculpture combine with the sounds and the lights of Boston to create a sensory symphony.

Previously an elevated highway, the Greenway is a linear series of parks and gardens that connects some of Boston’s oldest, most diverse, and most vibrant neighborhoods. Starting in the North End, the Greenway runs alongside the harbor and the wharfs all the way to Chinatown, spattering a series of parks and public art along the route. Installed this past May, the Echelman Sculpture quickly became a sensation. Located on the Greenway in the Financial District, the sculpture is over 100 miles of rope laced into three skyscrapers to create a colorful and awe-inducing viewing experience for those lying in the hammocks on the Greenway below. The ropes light up and change colors, reflecting beautifully against the surrounding skyscrapers and tying together the viewer, the sculpture, and city that surrounds them.

These installments often threaten to be gone as quickly as they appear. They force us to live in the moment and ensure that we are experiencing the dynamic and lively history of our city. In a world full of change and constant connection, engaging and innovative public spaces and public art which take people out of the digital realm and into a world full of buildings, city life, and human connection can definitely only be a good thing–even if we do all need to post about it on Instagram afterwards.


All photos property of Mackenzie Morgan

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Category: Boston, East by West by T, featured

Mackenzie Morgan

About the Author ()

Even though she's not sure how it happened, Mackenzie is a senior. She is also a cake connoisseur, self-declared hobby architect, and co-Editor-in-Chief of Culture Shock. She hails from a small snow globe of a town deep in the mountains of Colorado and is ridiculously proud of the fact that she's half Australian. She's working towards molding young minds as she studies History Education and American Studies with a minor in Political Science, but she would also like to be a princess (or maybe a lawyer). Her weaknesses and greatest enemies include mornings, ketchup, and mascots. Mostly Mackenzie likes to tweet about sandwiches (@Kenz_LM), eat soup, look at the moon, and work towards being Hermione Granger.

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  1. Ceci says:

    Love this lots.

    I went to the Lawn on D on a Friday night and it was SUCH a stressful experience! I feel like people were fighting over photo-ops on the swings, but there were no lines, and I’m an odd combination of shy and righteously stubborn that doesn’t do well in such anarchic situations … But I imagine it’s lots of fun when it’s less busy and the lines go down. Your pictures make it look like a good time! :)

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