Responses by Fritz Klaetke, design director, Visual Dialogue
Purpose: When the no-man’s-land under the I-93 expressway at the edge of downtown Boston became a key point connecting between the growing South End and South Boston neighborhoods, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation hired architecture, design and research firm Landing Studio to help transform the 8-acre space into an urban park. However, it wasn’t until National Development, developer of the neighboring Ink Block residential and retail complex, became stewards of the space that the Underground project really began. National then hired us, Visual Dialogue, to brand and activate the park for a diverse target audience: neighbors enjoying the open space, commuters using the nearby subway station, bicyclists riding the path to and from downtown, dog owners using the dog park, eventgoers attending a variety of happenings, art aficionados taking in the street art filling the walls, and even drivers catching a glimpse on their way by.
Reasoning: The line work is inspired by the angles of on/off ramps, while the colors reference highway and construction signs. The 170-foot mural at the main entrance gets people’s attention and lets them know that something interesting is going on “inside.” Twenty-two miles of “wayfinding” path stripes—that also reference official colors of highway sign—lead visitors back into the landscaped heart of the park where the art walls are. These multicolored stripes also suggest the “flow” of traffic, pedestrians, bikers, water, etc.
Favorite details: The highly Instagrammable eight-foot-tall “UNDERGROUND” entrance sign, hand painted by Andy Bablo of Steez Design, required a unique combination of math, design and craftsmanship.
New tools: To create the flowing path stripes, I found a tool that is normally used to paint straight lines on parking lots and soccer fields. We were able to adjust the line thickness of the inverted spray cans to get just the effect we wanted. Noted local artist Douglas Weathersby used his artistic eye and walked 22 miles to create the stripes.