Landing Studio is transforming Massachusetts’ infrastructure

Emerging Voices

Landing Studio is transforming Massachusetts’ infrastructure

P.O.R.T Park, Chelsea, Massachusetts, ongoing project by Landing Studio (Courtesy Landing Studio)

This article is part of our series of profiles on the Architectural League of New York’s 2022 Emerging Voices winners. The full list can be found here.

Estudio MMX and Landing Studio will present on their respective work on March 24 at 6:30 P.M.; more information can be found here.

Some of the country’s most vital spaces—port facilities, highway underpasses, public works depots—are criminally overlooked by the design professions. But not by Somerville, Massachusetts–based architecture and urban design practice Landing Studio.

“What our work is really premised on is sort of ‘fixing’ infrastructural spaces,” explained Dan Adams, who founded Landing Studio alongside partner in practice and life Marie Law Adams in 2005.

A Boston native who came of age in the era of the Big Dig, Dan, who also serves as director of the School of Architecture at Northeastern University, describes the work of Landing Studio as being decidedly less “aggressive” than the city’s $22 billion megaproject that rerouted an elevated stretch of the Central Artery into a greenway-topped tunnel. “Our work is nimbler than that, and also premised on the notion that the infrastructure is still used and still valuable but just needs to be made more human and sustainable.”

site diagram of a waterway and street
Marginal Street Community–Industry Seam, Chelsea, MA, ongoing (Courtesy of Landing Studio)

The PORT (Publicly Organized Recreation Territory) at Rock Chapel Marine in Chelsea, a small and dense city on Boston Harbor, illustrates Landing Studio’s agile but powerful approach in which industry and community coexist: What was once a 13-million-gallon oil tank farm is now a seasonal road salt terminal that gives way to a waterfront recreational hub complete with sports courts and public event space during the water months—that is, when road salt is less in hot demand and local spots for quick pickup games and neighborly alfresco gatherings are.

Among the most high-profile sites Landing Studio has engaged is the Frederick Law Olmsted–designed Charlesgate, where a vital piece of connective tissue for Boston’s three major historic park systems was forever altered by the construction of an overpass in the 1960s. Landing Studio has proposed mending the site through the creation of restorative natural landscapes and public open space. “A lot of our ongoing work is trying to improve spaces under highway viaducts and reconnect communities that have been separated or ecosystems that have been fragmented because of highway development,” said Marie, who also lectures at MIT on urban design.

While Landing Studio has taken on projects outside the Boston area, the practice is generally focused on forging long-term relationships with communities in its own backyard.

“We struggle with it a little bit,” said Marie of taking on projects in locales that are farther afield. “We’re just not getting as rich of results, because we just can’t be in the place long enough to do the kind of design advocacy work that we’re able to do more locally.”