North Adams

North Adams is a city in Berkshire County, Massachusetts, USA., Historically, N. Adams was a mill town. Located in the valley created by the Hoosic River which runs through the city, today, its riverbanks are walled and floored with concrete to prevent floods. The Appalachian Trail passes through the western part of the city, crossing the summit of Mount Williams and briefly passes through Williamstown before heading north towards Vermont.

Due to loss of its manufacturing industries, its population has dropped from 20,000 in 1980 to 12,000 today. 18.9% of the population lives in poverty. It is the least populous city in the state. The tiny city is, itself, an anomaly, as it is also best known as the home of the largest contemporary art museum in the United States, MassMOCA, which has, in recent years, become a center for tourism, culture and recreation, drawing visitors from surrounding states and from New York City.

However, blighted conditions remain a major obstacle to attracting and retaining students, visitors, and employees. The visual impact of blight and condemned buildings upon entry to the city, concrete flood chutes and chain link fencing blocking off the river, vacant storefronts in the downtown, and the lack of aesthetic and other pedestrian and bike amenities, present challenges to attract new people and new economies to come to N. Adams.

This studio will focus on reshaping the landscapes of North Adam’s central core in response to their STRATEGIC REDEVELOPMENT PLAN of 2014. The plan’s uppermost agenda is, “to attract people to visit, work and live in North Adams through Rebranding and Marketing the city”.

The mayor of the city, Tom Bernard, aspires to create a landscape that represents the cultural aspiration of Mass MoCA to be integral within the fabric of the city, which connects the local people and the art-lover, making the landscape a civic platform for the community and its visitors while expressing the creative energy that has begun to transform the town.

The STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT PLAN also emphasizes that North Adams will “BUILD A RESILIENT CITY BY PROACTIVELY WORKING TO ADVANCE CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION AND MITIGATION BEST PRACTICE”.

Our studio will first propose a resiliency and adaptation landscape masterplan so to protect the city in the future to include the re-design of the riverfront, afforestation of the city, water management design, elimination of as much nonporous surfaces as possible, and enhance bio habitat etc. Students will work as a group to produce the masterplan and will be tasked to quantity and to measure effectiveness

The second half of the studio, students will design the Central Park of the city as a part of MassMoCA’s art offering and to create a brand for the city that can be enjoyed by residents and art aficionados alike.