Three weeks ago we were in Boston and were able to analyze our site more in depth and experientially. As always, it was not quite as we expected – there’s only so much reconnaissance that can be gained through aerial views and Google Street View.
Our site is located in Cambridge between the banks of the Charles River and Memorial Drive which parallels the water. MIT’s campus is very near our site to the east and Harvard University is about a 10-15 minute walk westward. A distinctly urban, yet domestic residential neighborhood lies to the north, screened from the roadway by a one-story K-8 public school. Memorial Drive that bounds the north edge of our site was less hazardous than anticipated, despite quite heavy traffic during weekday rush hour.
The Boston University Bridge on the eastern edge provides vehicular and pedestrian access to the site from the MBTA Green Line and Boston University campus across the river. A viaduct carries Memorial Drive thru traffic over a large traffic circle at the intersection with the bridge. The traffic circle seems somewhat unnecessary and complicates pedestrian access from the residential area to the north, however the greatest hindrance is the visual and mental barrier created by the overpass.
The site currently is open green space with a soccer field, baseball diamond, and a third smaller athletic field. When I visited Sunday afternoon it was quite active with a soccer match going on and joggers out. In between fields are swails of native tall grasses and a earthen walking path runs along the river bank. Small trees and shrubbery crowd/hug the river bank so views are limited. The scale of the site is challenging to comprehend in relative terms. With no large buildings or structures bounding the space it is hard to get a sense of scale. Therefor it was not easy imagining a large velodrome facility in place there.
We went away with a clearer understanding of the scale and composition of our site’s surrounding and from where most spectators would likely arrive from (the Green Line across the BU Bridge). This has reinforced our notions about site orientation, circulation, and how to best [re]connect the residential neighborhood to the river.