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The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation Award for Architectural Excellence in Community Design - Second Place

Landon Bone Baker Architects for Dorchester + Housing Collaborative

Eric Young Smith

QHow is it possible to turn vacated public housing townhouses into an affordable arts colony and rallying point for a reviving neighborhood?

AHave artist/urbanist Theaster Gates conceive the project, then make it a reality by engaging the likes of Brinshore Development and Landon Bone Baker Architects.

Gates’ Rebuild Foundation asked Landon Bone Baker Architects to re-imagine the CHA’s donated Dante-Harper Homes along 70th Street between Cottage Grove and Dorchester avenues. A series of “coffee hours” explored what Greater Grand Crossing neighbors wanted most. Many cited Gates-style art-as-renewal.

So four units at the old project’s center were removed to make way for a soaring, sunlit arts center featuring an artisan workshop and community room/ movement studio with a professional grade “sprung” hardwood dance floor. Oversized steel doors – one hanging from overhead rollers, another rotating on a center-pivot – give the center a loft/industrial feel ... and egress for oversized artworks

Walls separating another two units were removed to yield a pair of accessible “flats” for the mobility impaired. At least eight of the project’s 32 townhouses are leased to artists at market rents, 12 to public housing tenants and the remainder to limited-income families at reduced rents. Landon Bone Baker Architects “lofted” each unit’s second floor, opening them to south-facing windows that fill interiors with natural light.

Most important, says Demecina Beehn of Rebuild Foundation, has been the impact the Collaborative has had on the neighborhood. Gone are the dealers and bangers who kept kids from playing across the street in Chestnut Park. Here to stay are arts-making, Joffrey-taught ballet dancing and soul-healing yoga.

“People begin to understand that they’re worth the beauty of this space.”