Students show what could be in downtown Springfield

Date: 4/29/2015

SPRINGFIELD – Imagine a downtown Springfield that used the buildings and streets as a backdrop for art and creativity.

University of Massachusetts (UMass) graduate student Yu Yu is sitting in his extension of the park at Apremont Triangle. He has set up furniture made out of recycled items and has pushed the boundaries of the park out into the asphalt in an area marked off from traffic. Such a change should increase the use of the park, he believes.

 Yu’s concept was one of many offered by his fellow graduate students at the UMass landscape architecture program. The students and their instructor, Prof. Michael Di Pasquale, led a group of city officials and interested residents around downtown to show them the ideas that are part of “No Space Left Behind, the Activation of Residual Spaces in Downtown Springfield.”

Most of the temporary installations were just for the tour, illustrating the concepts the students had developed.

Di Pasquale said the students were practicing “tactical urbanism.” Each of the projects had a short-term goal that was “cheap and fun intervention,” but was part of long term vision.

In Steiger Park, opposite from Tower Square, Yuqing Wu and Maozhu Mao showed the group an oversized frame from Instagram. They hope that people will stop and take photos of themselves.

Walking up Worthington Street, the group arrived in a parking area near the 2012 gas explosion where three students showed how they could accomplish several goals though their temporary art installations. Michalagh Stoddard, RuYing Tang and Chris Counihan spoke about how they would mount a lit sign on the back of a truck or trailer with the phrase “No Vacancy.” The sign could be then moved in front of buildings to which attention should be called, preferably ones that have a “vacancy.” Counihan said this idea is to solicit ideas about redevelopment of a property.

Tang spoke of creating farmers’ markets under the Interstate 91 overpasses to make use of “dark and uncomfortable space,” while Stoddard spoke of a “mobile apple orchard,” a group of fruit bearing trees in planters that could be moved from space to space.

Other parts of the effort include hanging a ribbon curtain in Market Place and origami at Pynchon Plaza and a walking sign to direct people to the riverfront.

Katy Moonan, the director of the Springfield Cultural District, said the one-day installation were part of the strategies the UMass students have developed for downtown and will be presenting long-term ideas at a meeting at 10 a.m. on May 1 at the Office of Planning and Economic Development.