Each city within the United States has to confront challenges in the built environment that may resemble or differ from those impacting other geographical regions. When conceptualizing space in a city, whether coastal or inland, historic or young, the influence of the public and private realms, as well as the natural world continue to shape the fabric of our communities.

This week, we were honored to attend Architectural Record’s “Record on the Road – Boston” event for the “Urban Futures: Designing New Commercial/Mixed-Use Projects in Historic Cities” panel discussion, in which leading local designers identified how Greater Boston’s unique composition and perceived constraints can be harnessed to develop forward-looking, cohesive community developments. in which leading local designers identified how Greater Boston’s unique composition and perceived constraints can be harnessed to develop forward-looking, cohesive community developments.

Here are a few key-takeaways on the differentiating design elements that are working to bolster Greater Boston vibrancy, resiliency and connectivity:

  • Blurring the Private and the Public: From Harvard to MIT, Boston College to Boston University, and beyond – academic institutions in Cambridge and Boston continue to render the region an intellectual hub. Designers contributing to the real estate expansion of such institutions are currently working to make this cultural and intellectual capital more accessible by designing public spaces on institution-owned properties that can host everything from a festival to a sports event. This welcoming of the public through spatial programming is an integral facet of developing a community that is integrated and outward-looking.
  • Designing for Climate Resiliency: Designers and developers are currently implementing systems to accommodate rising sea levels. Whether elevating critical mechanical systems or evaluating the long-term value of building a storm surge barrier, like the Netherlands’ Oosterscheldekering, developers, politicians and architects are analyzing and installing design solutions of all scales to accommodate Greater Boston’s evolving environmental landscape.
  • Cultivating Connectivity through Alternative Transportation: Via biking, walking and public transit, many Greater Boston residents employ alternative modes of transportation to get around the city and its neighborhoods. To adhere to this shift, designers are promoting the development of narrower streets, protected bike lanes and pathways that link to extensive transportation networks. In doing so, new developments can contribute to a future that is less reliant upon vehicles.

As Greater Boston’s population continues to grow and change in composition, so too is the built environment. By looking into the future needs of the city, designers and developers alike are employing solutions that stand to make Greater Boston more open, environmentally-conscious and dynamic – and what a beautiful future that will be.