Boston, USA

USA belong to the so called first world, but we all know how in realty social inequality is present. Precisely in the east coast cities, whose image is filtered through the business districts skylines, it is easy to forget about the critical situation of many peripheries and their housing problems. Moreover the actual deep economical crisis, partially issued from the same downtown skyscrapers, made those problems even more acute today.
Fifteen students of the Accademia di Architettura of Mendrisio will face the social housing topic in the Boston metropolitan area. The group will participate to a study travel in the USA and will follow a series of seminars hosted by Professor Felipe Correa at the Harvard Graduate School of Design in Cambridge. The design activity will start in the USA with an intensive workshop where the fundamental character of the projects will be defined and will continue in Mendrisio.


Project 1

The highway represents from several years one of the most controversial theme in the city of Boston; the construction and its subsequent burial has required a sequence of serious economical efforts that didn’t produce significant results. Trying to sewing the two part of the city cut by this street, the government of the city developed a process of negotiation based on the so called “air-rights”, namely the chance of building above the level of the highway. The project faces this sensitive theme in one of the lots still unbuilt. The functional program is subdivided in a 40 meters tall tower, following the logic of the mixed use: in the lower part is located the shopping mall, surrounded by a crown of houses for low and medium income; in the central part, a sequence of parking floors and, in the upper part, the most valuable residences are articulated around a great courtyard and create generous terraces overlooking the whole city landscape. The structure is pivotal in the project: five large pillars containing the vertical circulation, start from the only few buildable points at the level of the highway and rise up for the whole length of the building. From these, it articulates a structural system of V elements from which starts the series of pillars and tie-beams that significantly reduce the efforts if the slabs and allow a more efficient distribution of the weights. At the ground floor, free from the secondary structures, there are the entrance lobbies to the residential part and to the shopping mall: five large openings reveal the highway below, maintaining a voluntary physical relation with an element so aggressive and yet so vivid in the city life.

site area 4'712 m² (built: 2'713m²)
units 402
inhabitants 912
density 0.35 (0.6) inhabitants/m²
program housing + shopping mall + parking

Gianfranco Panza

Project 2

The area, located in the north-west part of South Boston is the gateway of the entire neighbourhood: a flyover enters in the site, curving and going along the south side of the project area. The ambition of the project is to offer a new definition of the whole area which is currently without any kind of order and interest. An in-depth reading of the site, allows to identify two different areas facing on Dorchester Avenue that become the central point of the project: here is designed a park defined by three new buildings that form the edges of the public space. The buildings house different functions and offer an answer to the research of an economical sustainability. In fact on the west side an office tower is designed as the only relevant landmark of the entire South Boston; on the east side, two lower buildings are related to the surroundings: here there is the real housing project. Different typologies are investigated trying to be the more adherent to market requests as possible. At the ground floor a learning center and a series of cafeteria and restaurants strengthens the life of park.

site area 9775 m² (built: 4642 m², housing: 1543 m²)
units 35 flats + 2 collective houses
inhabitants 209
density 0.13 inhabitants/m² (housing)
program housing + learning centre + park + office

Vitor Pessoa Colombo

Project 3

The area is located in the north west part of South Boston, along the edges of an industrial area near to the residential district that is quickly modifying its use. The careful consideration of the site keeps in serious regard a more wide reading that collects the potentials of a future development and departs both from a restrictive urban planning and from an unplanned expansion without quality.
Therefore we decide to study a sort of prototype block, able to contain in itself the needful freedom in combining its pivot urban element: a large pedestrian boulevard crosses in diagonal the block and its combination with other of these allows to think the creation of a linear park that links all the blocks.

site area 10'970 m² (built: 4'672m²)
units 102
inhabitants 510
density 0.1 inhabitants/m² (housing)
program housing and private gardens + public passage

Joao Lima Bragança

Project 4

Located on the north edge of the South Boston district, the site is a large void dominated by the presence of the Boston Generating Company building and characterized by few industrial existing warehouses, dating back to the early XX century. Some of these, retrained and again in use, contain shops, ateliers and small offices.
The project assumes these pre-existing buildings as relevant elements to preserve and consolidate, redefining completely the nature of the place. The area which is today a wide parking, is re-thought as a large public space dedicated to the meeting: a series of four main public spaces is placed around an old warehouse which, for the occasion, is undressed of all the secondary walls and left as an inhabited ruin.
This is the heart of the project, a covered open space that reminds, in position and type, the medieval “broletto”. Starting from this centre, a large open space is defined as a park for the whole neighbourhood where the wide green areas vanish in mineral surfaces which link the commercial buildings to the housing ones, unifying the entire intervention. The housing buildings, arranged in groups at the corners of the block, are long parallel bars, cut at the ground floor by large passages creating an enfilade on the urban vegetable gardens alternated to the different buildings. By doing this, the spaces among the buildings are characterized, using the opportunities generated by the private green areas in the spaces between the fabrics; these spaces are dedicated to the ones who don’t want to lose the link with the nature.

site area 27'561 m² (built: 10'727 m²)
units 192
inhabitants 960
density 0.21 inhabitants/m² (housing)
program housing, private gardens + public park + square

Davide Casoli

Project 5

The port authorities want to enlarge the commercial harbour, located on the north east part of South Boston; this will offers the chance to redefine the entire area and rethink, maintaining the main guidelines suggested by the masterplan, the buffer zone expected between the container yard and the neighbourhood. As a matter of fact, this stripe, narrow and thin, extends from Medal of Honor Park to Marine Park and represents the opportunity to think this area as a linear park that defines the north side of the district. On this edge, a long building is articulated in a series of courtyards of different dimensions that designs the public spaces on both sides.
The project also approaches the theme of the edges of the port area, designing the extension of the existing canal: by doing this, the water becomes a designed integrated element of the park and creates a new link with the neighbourhood, stimulating the use of this area as a mooring for small private boats.
On the east side of the canal there is an artificial hill, made by using the polluted soil within the project area: beside being a memory of the industrial past, the hill allows to observe from a privileged position the gigantic container yard, giving a new radical perception and transforming the yard in a sort of piece of landart.

site area 39'340 m² (built: 14'698 m²)
units 535
inhabitants 2407
density 0.16 inhabitants/m² (housing)
program housing + public park + canal + containers

Sho Kurokawa

Project 6

The project fills the entire block on the north-east corner of South Boston district: a corner plot completes the neighbourhood and offers an opportunity to think on the peculiarity of this part of the city, that is a merely residential district where the obsessive repetition of three – four storey houses is the main distinctive feature. The project intends this strong aspect, but, at the same time, maintains the desire of creating a dense and well structured block. Studying the relations with the nearest blocks and the dimensions of the streets, we decide to continue the three storey front without exceptions; behind this line a series of terraces rises up remaining below the projection of the point of view of the pedestrians: doing so we take full advantage of the constructive potential of the entire lot, without creating an impending presence on the street and giving the chance of setting up a series of terraces that overlook the sea and the downtown. Moreover the block is crossed by three wide 15 meters parallel streets: this width represents the standard dimension of the neighbourhood streets.

site area 11'492 m² (built: 5'490 m²)
units 224
inhabitants 896
density 0.16 inhabitants/m² (housing)
program housing + public passages

Benjamin Covarrubias

Project 7

The project settles in an irregular site, surrounded by the railway tracks, the bus maintenance station and the South Boston Bypass Road, street currently used as a direct connection between the highway and the harbour; set at a lower level than the district, this street represent a privileged access to the port, area involved in a strategic resettlement of new public functions. The fact that this district will develop around the Convention Center giving a new life to the whole area, produced a series of thoughts on the strategic relevance of the project site; assuming a considerable increase in traffic and of interest for the new Innovation Center, the project aims to create a huge park and ride parking linked to a new bus station. The accesses to the station and to the parking garage are at different levels, giving the chance of creating a wide square, perfectly horizontal, were the bus station overlooks. A L-shape building aims as sewing among the different street levels and contains all the offices and the services dedicated to the station; the roof also becomes the entrance and the parking of the housing building above. A wide cylinder lays on five pillars containing stairs and elevators; untied from the logic of the ground, the building becomes a landmark for the entire area. The gigantic pillars dance around the L-shaped building: where the two elements touch, there the building entrances are; they bring you directly to the courtyard.

site area 5'937 m² (built: 3'397 m²)
units 192
inhabitants 796
density 0.23 inhabitants/m² (housing)
program housing + park and ride station + public parking

Salvatore Di Marco

Project 8

A large abandoned area in the south-west part of South Boston represents the head of a being redefined block that borders the railway tracks all along the west edge of the district. Outside the railway, a wide industrial area comes before the highway that cuts the city in the north-south direction.
For these reasons, the site couldn’t be thought as a possible connection between the two areas; it’s much more similar to a conclusion, a point of interest in itself and, at the same time, a metaphorical gate to the neighbourhood. Therefore we decided to underline the public nature of the area, conjecturing the creation of a large public park on which a various and articulated building, made by bars, bridges and small towers, the height of which increases as they move into the park, is designed. The feet of the buildings contain public facilities: shops, ateliers, nursery, sport activities and the office lobbies. We are in front of a big mixed use building in which, over the complex combination of volumes, is very relevant the variety of the facades far away from the logic of an obsessive repetition of just one module.

site area 44'750 m² (built: 14'297 m²)
units 596
inhabitants 2'384
density 0.17 inhabitants/m² (housing)
program housing + mixed use + public park

Alessandro Cairo



Workshop in Cambridge


Workshop in Mendrisio


7,5 ECTS


Felipe Correa
David Gamble
Mirko Bonetti
Dario Bonetti
Felix Wettstein
Carlos Garcia Velez

Intermediate reviews

Dario Bonetti
Mario Bonetti

Final reviews

Felipe Correa
Felix Wettstein
Carlos Garcia Velez


The Wish Project, an introduction
Martino Pedrozzi

Accommodating growth and changes in Boston
David Gamble

Urbanism primer: exploring the canvas of the urbanistic project
Felipe Correa

MASS Studio: on public housing in Boston
Antonio Torres



A line in the Andes: rethinking Quito through its sub.surface
Felipe Correa



WISH—Dealing with South Boston edges:
8 housing projects


MAD, mostra delle attività didattiche presso l’Accademia di Mendrisio


Visits in Boston:

  • Graduate School of Design of Harvard, John Andrews
  • Simmons Hall, Steven Holl
  • Exeter Library, Louis Kahn
  • Gropius House, Walter Gropius
  • Boston City Hall, Kallmann McKinnell & Knowles
  • ICA Museum, Diller Scofidio
  • Carpenter Center, Le Corbusier
  • Undergraduate Dormitory, Jose Luis Sert
  • Stata Center, Frank Gehry
  • Media Lab extention, Fumihiko Maki
  • Baker House Dormitory in MIT, Alvar AAlto
  • MIT Chapel, Eero Saarinen
  • Kresge Auditorium, Eero Saarinen
  • Campus MIT
  • Campus Harvard


is a project
of the
Accademia di Architettura,

Directed by

Martino Pedrozzi


Andrea Nardi

2012 edition

Hosted by Prof. Felipe Correa
at the Graduate School of Design of Harvard University