BAC’s Huxtable Fellows Tackle Resiliency

Six students explore how to make Boston more resilient in the face of climate change

Huxtables work together with the community; Photo by David Morgan

Huxtable fellows work together with the community; Photo by David Morgan

The Boston Architectural College's Ada Louise Huxtable Fellows, who were chosen for the fellowship based on their genuine interest in design and community engagement, have been on the ground tackling one of today's most relevant topics: resiliency in the face of climate change. Over the past four months, the six students have been exploring ways to make Boston's homes and businesses more resilient against projected sea level rise and extreme temperatures associated with the world's changing climate.

The students started their Spring 2015 semester by working with the Community Design Resource Center of Boston (CDRC) to curate and develop public material related to the Boston Society of Architects (BSA)'s Living with Water design competition, an international call for design solutions envisioning a more resilient and sustainable Boston. The students created the brochure for the competition, which they initially designed to serve as a guide.

"As the creative process unfolded, however, we saw the guide as a chance to continue and lengthen the public conversation surrounding Living with Water," explained David Morgan, Huxtable Fellow and Bachelor of Architecture candidate at the BAC. "With this new vision of the brochure's purpose, we ultimately created materials with a longer shelf life that include a thorough explanation of the competition and an informational matrix for the projects. I see everyone grab one and look at it, then put it in their pocket, which is what we wanted. The designers and people in the field who know of the project have been very happy with its outcome."

As the semester continued, the students also began working closely with the Neighborhood of Affordable Housing (NOAH) in East Boston, in addition to the CDRC, to help develop community actions toward becoming more resilient. The Huxtables analyzed predictions and compiled research while carefully examining residents' real situations and the buildings where they live. They documented the neighborhoods, worked through a series of maps, and generated solutions and actions for the East Boston residents to use on their quest to resiliency.

The students' main goal was to help the residents of East Boston achieve resiliency against climate change, and they observed how the socio-economic and cultural factors play into that. They worked to understand the neighborhood and its current condition, directly communicating with residents about what property owners and renters can do to improve their home's resiliency.

"As design professionals, we are now called upon to create a new way of living in a new era of modern communication and technology, economic institutions, and political power structures, which our physical world must react to and serve," said Annika Nilsson Ripps, Huxtable Fellow and Master of Architecture candidate at the BAC. "Working as a Huxtable Fellow has given me the opportunity to see the realities of what these changes and challenges means at the building and neighborhood scale. I am not only observing and understanding these realities, but learning how to integrate them into real work."

For the Fall semester, the fellows have ideas about starting a resilience Gateway project and a working manual for resilience solutions and understandings, which they look forward to exploring more when they are all together again on campus.

The Huxtables would like to extend a warm thank you to the CDRC, the Boston Harbor Association (TBHA), Artemis, BSA, the BSA Foundation, NOAH, and the BAC's Practice Department for all of their support through their experience so far. You can read more about Huxtable Fellow David Morgan's summer travels on his blog!