Levinson Plaza

Mikyoung Kim: Levinson Plaza is situated within the campus of Mission Park, a fourteen acre Housing and Urban Development residential project in Boston. This residential development is in close proximity to significant Boston landmarks, including Fenway Park, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum and the Longwood Hospital district. This HUD community overlooks Frederick Law Olmsted’s Emerald Necklace park system and houses three mid-rise buildings, one high rise apartment tower, 147 town houses, as well as a swimming pool center, library, daycare center and gym facility. The project began with a phased landscape master plan with Levinson Plaza as the first phase of construction.

Envisioned as an urban grove, this central gathering space represents the convergence of community in this diverse, mixed income, residential development. The design accommodates a complex program, layering the varied multi-cultural and intergenerational uses with a number of meaningful gathering and recreational spaces for the residents. Tai Chi, chess, children’s play areas, and contemplative seating areas allow for various groups to utilize the garden spaces in different ways. Lawn areas can be used for sunbathing in the summer and also provide the community with areas for flexible programming during larger gatherings, such as celebrations for the Chinese New Year, Russian Unity Day, and other cultural and civic events.

The plaza landscape design focuses on providing Mission Park with a landscape which draws its spirit from the regional gardens of New England. The plaza uses pavement materials which will endure the long, challenging winters, while the patterning itself is designed based on the herringbone patterns of residential landscapes. The plaza pattern stitches the areas of gathering and passage together while bringing a human scale to this large plaza space. The paved areas within the garden are carved out of the grove to allow for direct access to major entry points and public transportation.

The planting is composed of species that have been naturalized in the New England urban landscape. This palette of plants is able to withstand the demanding conditions a city provides; high winds, winter salt applications, poor soil conditions, and high ranges in air/soil temperature. Design considerations addressed the residents’ concerns with both visual and sound screening from Huntington Avenue, a congested main thoroughfare which accommodates the train and four lanes of vehicular traffic. Layered hedge rows consisting of River Birch and Zelkova filter these urban conditions while maintaining views for safety throughout the space.

The design for this 30,000 square foot project creates a comfortable outdoor environment. Previously defined by a central raised plaza, the space was exposed to the traffic and train congestion on nearby Huntington Avenue. The redesign of the site removes the grade changes to create a universally accessible landscape for the residents of this community, while utilizing a rich plant palette that allows for multiple types of programmatic activities to occur simultaneously in various garden rooms. The layering of the canopy trees, plant beds and paved surfaces reinforce the unity and democratic nature of the plaza.

As the prime landscape architect and lead designer for the project, the submitting landscape architect carried out full services of design and construction administration on the project. The designers worked closely with the Mission Park Landscape Committee and administrators of the Roxbury Tenants of Harvard to realize the project. Over time, this urban grove will continue as the location for everyday activities and as a setting for cultural events within this diverse community.

Landscape Architecture: Mikyoung Kim
Project: Mission Park Plaza,
Location: Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Completion: 2008,
Area: 2800 m2,
Design budget: $82,000,
Construction budget: $1.2 million.
Client:Roxbury Tenants of Harvard
Photography credit: Lisa Garrity, Charles Mayer
Landscape Contractor: Paragon Landscape Construction
Text: Mikyoung Kim