For the terminally online, “Cop Slide” should need no introduction. On August 2, a Boston police officer went viral after tumbling into the new $95 million plaza outside Boston City Hall designed Sasaki, and onto meme pages around the world. The happening was deemed so newsworthy, it was picked up by major outlets like CNN, Huffington Post, CBS News, the New York Post, and even the Daily Mail in London.
Boston, MA – A Boston Police officer sustained a head injury after a mishap at a playground on Congress St downtown. Boston EMS treated the officer. pic.twitter.com/tVjsK2N252
— Live Boston (@LiveBoston617) August 1, 2023
“Cop Slide” has gotten so popular, it now appears on Google Maps with its own geolocation. Children, adults, and influencers flocked to Cop Slide after TikTokkers doused our feeds with footage of the police officer’s blunder, activating a nascent urban space that, for decades, the city has struggled to attract the public to. “My buddies and I went down [Cop Slide] after a Celtics playoff game while we were drunk,” said @garbear1313 in a tweet that got 117 reposts. Local reporter Matthew Shearer was briefly stuck inside Cop Slide when he visited.
But for those looking to take their own selfies with Cop Slide, you may have missed your chance. Boston officials barricaded the slide Friday night, closing it off to the public after hundreds of people made the pilgrimage to take selfies with it. The media journalist Taylor Lorenz shared on her Finsta (fake Instagram) that Boston officials “arrested the cop slide” prompting the Washington Post reporter to write “end of an era.” One disgruntled Tumblr user said the choice was made by “people who hate fun.”
— Matt Shearer (@MattWBZ) August 3, 2023
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu has since assuaged concerns related to Cop Slide and public safety. She told local reporters “We want all of our public spaces to be beloved, and if it looks like we need to make sure there’s more signage that ‘this is for children’ or something, we can do that too,” she said. “But we want everyone to have access to all of the spaces we’ve been creating across the city.”
For decades, Boston City Hall has struggled to attract crowds, something the new design by Sasaki sought to change. Could “Cop Slide” mark a renaissance in the public imagination about a place it’s so long avoided?
Indeed, there are few moments in architecture’s history where a new design goes truly viral, and the new plaza by Sasaki finds itself at one of those precipices. When Minoru Yamasaki’s World Trade Center opened in 1973, New Yorkers derided the towers as alien and foreboding, much like Boston City Hall Plaza’s modernist ensemble was once regarded. After the trapeze artist Philippe Petit hung a cable between the towers and traversed them, hanging 1,355 feet above thin air, the world watched and public perception of Yamasaki’s Twin Towers changed forever, and New Yorkers came to love the buildings.
By barricading Cop Slide from the public, is Boston losing out on a once-in-a-lifetime similar opportunity?