SHIFTboston blog

Conversation with Installation Artist Lee Mingwei at the Gardner Museum, Tomorrow 1-3

Join me tomorrow afternoon at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for a conversation with Lee Mingwei, a fascinating and truly engaging participatory installation artist from Taiwan and NYC. I will be hosting a conversation with Mingwei in the Living Room from 1-3pm, as part of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Living Room series.  Please find more  information on Lee here:


Hope to see you!

A Web of Sparkle + Wonder in Evans Way Park for Opening Our Doors ‘14

Have you seen the twinkling sky in Evans Way Park? I passed near sunset and was mesmerized by what appeared to be a milky-way of tiny dancing stars– I’ve not seen anything quite like this!

It has been two years since my team and I installed the first Evans Way Park installation — ENfold — to commemorate the Fenway as Boston’s first designated cultural district. ENfold was one of the first to pave the way for others and being the first has its distinction but is not always fun. City of Boston approval of the piece required a grueling 6-month review process!

What we did not know at the time, was that our hard work would not only inspire — but make it much easier to build temporary installations in an annual tradition for an event, the Fenway Alliance’s Opening Our Doors (OOD), that continues to grow and flourish each year!

The Fenway OOD installation build has become a highly desirable opportunity in the architecture community and now many more young architects have had an opportunity to participate! Last year a design team at Goody Clancy was selected to produce a ground cover comprised of simple folded armatures titled ‘Interlace’. This year, due to an increased demand for participation, the Fenway Alliance tightened the selection process by hosting a juried internal competition to select work. The process — which brought forth some spectacular ideas, including the winning installation design ‘Sparkle + Chime’ by Jean Kim of Shepley Bullfinch. (See video below of Kim and his team at Shepley fabricating and installing the piece)

Kim’s concept is simple– he has affixed a lightweight web of stainless steel cable and fishing line between trees and from the network the team suspended hundreds of reflective disks—hardware parts from old Shepley computers to make the chimes. Kim’s inspiration for the piece came from a contraption his grandmother made in her garden to keep pesky birds from eating her produce.

Kim’s concept and the support he received from his colleagues at Shepley — is truly outstanding. When standing beneath this beautiful little universe you understand the power of successful teamwork.

I commend Kelly Brilliant Director of the Fenway Alliance and Jean Kim and his design team at Shepley Bulfinch for making this happen!

The Fenway Alliance includes all these amazing installations in its Public By Design initiative. Kelly applauds ENfold Evans Way 2011 which garnered significant mainstream and architect-specific media recognition and a competitive honor from the BSA. She says she marvels at what each dedicated creative has brought to transform an underutilized yet beautiful park into a beautiful and vibrant place of connection, conversation, smiles, awards, and every so often, sparkles and awe.

Lets face it, there is a new exciting tradition happening in Boston, one we have all been waiting for! Spread the word — and don’t miss the opportunity to get in on it next year!

Experience Sparkle + Chime  with a wash of metallic swells, crashes and rhythms of  the ‘Jungle of Sound’ cymbal performance from 2-3 pm tomorrow, Columbus Day.

Video: See the team at Shepley Bullfinch assembling Sparkle + Chime.


Enfold  2011:

Want to get involved next year? Stay tuned:

Reimagining the Maple Sugar House with the Studio North 2014 Summer Workshop

Studio North is currently seeking applicants for the workshop of June 23rd – June 28th, 2014. The workshop this year will focus on the design and construction of a new maple sugar house. The studio is open to interested students of all abilities. Previous construction experience is not required.

Studio North is a six day intensive building workshop. The workshop will offer students the opportunity to engage with the rural landscape and to imagine, develop and construct inventive design solutions. An architectural education is best experienced through engagement in all aspects of the building process. This workshop will be a fully immersive design experience.

The workshop will take place on a 117 acre farm in Norwich, Vermont. The workshop will investigate a particular interest and respond with the design and construction of a complete prototype structure. The workshop will be limited to ten students and led by architect Keith Moskow FAIA and Robert Linn AIA of the Boston based firm, Moskow Linn Architects.

For more information and to apply visit:

Or contact us at:  617.292.2000 ext. 28  or email


Working Side by Side to Help Rural Rwanda: The Masaro Project by the GA Collaborative

This captivating story landed in my mailbox two weeks ago from Michael Beaman of the GA Collaborative – a non profit organization composed of designers and educators from Syracuse, Harvard and RISD – in Boston and Syracuse, New York.  I was so moved after reading about this compassionate effort to improve living conditions in rural Rwanda that I’m delighted to share it.  I hope this project will inspire more efforts like it around the world and here at home in the United States.

Launched in 1996, the Imidugudu program, which relocates rural and low-income settlement dwellers into planned housing developments, has begun to reshape both urban and rural landscape in Rwanda. Under this program, current land owners can trade their property for housing plots, leaving many renters to search outside cities and villages for shelter. In rural areas, those living in the dispersed settlements are now being congregated to flattened sites, often away from their families, jobs, and the relationship they have developed with the landscape that formed out of an agrarian tradition. The Imidugudu program has been both controversial and transformative. Often left out of the equation however are low-income Rwandans who either do not own land or can not afford to resettle.

The act of planning, designing, and constructing housing in Rwanda is an act of engaging the Rwandans’ right to space. GA Collaborative, a design nonprofit organization comprised of practitioners and educators has been researching viable housing models for Rwanda with this in mind. At the core of GA Collaborative’s mission is that all have the right to benefit from design. Since 2008, GA Collaborative has been working with villagers in Masoro, Rwanda to design housing and accompanying gathering spaces.

The Masoro Village Project was initiated to bring design thinking to Masoro in the form of new housing. The first house built in 2013 used low-impact building materials, engaged both skilled and unskilled local labor, and was a vehicle to test and teach building techniques new to Rwanda.

Committed to reduce importation of construction materials, GA Collaborative introduced EarthBags construction, the first application of its kind in Rwanda. EarthBags, originally developed as a military bunker construction technique, are woven polypropylene bags comprised of three chambers which can be packed with excavated earth and used to form stable load bearing walls. To teach villagers how to construct stable structures using the EarthBag technique, GA Collaborative invited an EarthBag building expert to conduct a month-long workshop. Earthbag construction is comprised mainly from soil on site which reduces transportation and material costs. GA Collaborative also worked with villagers to leverage local weaving techniques to create design solutions at an architectural scale. Beyond generating visual separations between kitchen, front terrace and bath, the woven screens break down many of the gender roles associated with building construction in Rwanda.

To sustain the newly gained knowledge within the country, GA Collaborative worked closely with local architecture students from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology who were involved with the project at each stage, and worked side-by-side with the villagers. The project has had wide support throughout Masoro where villagers are now planning additional EarthBag buildings and teaching others these new construction skills.

The Masaro Project team has completed one of fifty planned houses and  are currently fundraising for the second house. Please consider donating to this cause. For more information please visit the following link:

Please share this story and this link!

Project Credits

Name and Location:
Masoro Village Project
Masoro Sector, Rulindo District, Northern Province, Rwanda

S 01° 49’ 52”
E 30° 03’ 31”

Architectural Design Firm:
GA Collaborative

Design Team:
Yutaka Sho, designer and construction manager, GA Collaborative
James Setzler, designer and construction manager, GA Collaborative
Michael Beaman, designer and graphics, GA Collaborative
Zaneta Hong, designer and graphics, GA Collaborative
Killian Doherty, KD|AP, consultant

Rwandan architecture student partners from the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (KIST):
Theophile Uwayezu
Doreen Ingabire
Rene Isabane
Patrice Ndababonye