The South End Landmarks Commission Approves the Light Well Installations of Public Art for Library Park; Commissioners Say They'd Like to "See Them in All Parks" (But Would it Fly on Beacon Hill?)

light well 3The South End Landmark Commission last week enthusiastically approved the request by a small group of designers interested in sustainable architecture to place two public art installations, called Light Wells,  in Library Park.  Two areas in Library Park have been outlined for DigSafe to make sure there are no dangerous impediments in these locations. The project could be completed by the time the South End Garden Tour takes place. The Light Well project was one of the winners of the Walsh administration's Public Space Invitational competition held last year, for which there were 70 submissions and nine winners. The proposal was submitted in the Random Awesome Design category by Michelle Laboy, assistant professor of architecture and urban planning at Northeastern University, and two associates, Seth Wiseman and Joshua Fiedler. Laboy, a Chester Square resident, says the LED-powered Light Well inspires many interpretations, including an art object, a seat, a planter, a light fixture, and a vegetated dry well for storm-water infiltration. The installation will light up at night as a softly glowing art object with the energy collected by solar receptors during the day. According to Laboy, the Landmark Commissioners were excited by the project and commented they'd like to see light wells in every park.light well 2

South End Library staff and neighborhood association board members were approached to consider the idea for this installation by City Hall’s New Urban Mechanics group in February 2015. The Light Well project lends itself well to small parks in areas with groundwater recharge issues, according to Kris Carter, from the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. The group, which included the Parks Department’s chief landscape architect Liza Meyer, met with library staff, a member of the library Friends group, and the Rutland Square Association during the winter, after which it was decided to install two light wells inside Library Park: one near the corner of the library building and the alley behind it; the other on the opposite side of the park, close to the intersection of Rutland Square and Tremont Street.

James Hohmann, of Mahoney’s Garden Center, who last year generously planted perennials and grasses in three areas of Library Park as part of the South End Garden Tour, has expressed interest in working with the Light Well design team to provide additional plantings appropriate for the installations. The Public Space Invitational is a project of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. Proponents were asked to "dream of new ways to bring function and wonderment to civic spaces within a budget of $4,500."