Boston’s Public Space Invitational Winners Announced

Projects coming to a public space in the city near you include portable libraries, video conferencing with other cities, and—finally!—City Hall will get 'Stairs of Fabulousness.'

public space invitational awards

Mayor Marty Walsh speaks at the first-ever Public Space Invitational Awards at City Hall on Wednesday. Quoting his mom, ‘you’re all winners tonight.’ / Photo by Yiqing Shao

The “brick desert,” as Boston City Hall has come to be known, is about to get a little facelift.

In February, Mayor Marty Walsh announced the first-ever “Public Space Invitational,” an open contest where designers, engineers, and architects were asked to submit ideas for improving the city’s public spaces. Projects had fall within certain parameters, including a proposed budget of $1000 to $4,500 for construction and implementation.

More than 70 projects proposals were submitted for the contest hosted by the city’s Office of New Urban Mechanics. The winners were announced Wednesday night at a reception in City Hall, where the challenging acoustics and faulty PowerPoint only further emphasized the need for the Public Space Invitational.


One of the Public Space Invitational winners, Rhodes, is an outdoor life-size video conference between Boston and another city.

Posters for the submitted projects were displayed at the event. Ideas ranged in scope: while some called for better utilization of neglected nooks and crannies of the city, such as the traffic island at Packard’s Corner and the empty space trapped within Cambria, St. Cecilia, and Boylston Streets; others proposed foldable islands for the Charles River, a luminescent “Tree of Life,” and MBTA-oriented activities, even though one of the contest specifications was to keep them limited to the city’s purview. One proposal to improve City Hall was admittedly simple, with the poster reading:

There’s not much to explain via schematics. I just want gilded rocking chairs on the 3rd floor mezzanine in City Hall. They would not be fastened in place and could be moved around by anyone as needed. They could be put away when they would hinder events here.

Winners for the Public Space Invitational were selected in three categories: The Streetscape, Random Awesome Design, and City Hall. In addition to honorary green hoodies, awardees will also have their projects funded and carried out, some as soon as this summer.

For The Streetscape, the winning projects were The Uni Project’s pop-up libraries, Portable Reading Rooms; The Hub, modular public seating proposed for Huntington Avenue; and Seat Light Control, which turns unsightly utility boxes into public benches.

The Random Awesome Design, or RAD, winners were Tidraphone, a tidal vibraphone by the water; Chair City Mountain, a bench that doubles as a play space; Light Wells, sustainable planters with seating and LED lighting; and Rhodes, a life-size video conference with another city.

And for City Hall, what we’ve all been waiting for: color. Nate Swain’s “Lobby Sky” plasters a blue sky mural above the proposed Wicked Free Wi-Fi area, and Liz LaManche’s “Stairs of Fabulousnes” will make city hall “400% more fabulous.”

city hall

Nate Swain’s “Lobby Sky” will light up the ceiling of City Hall, while Liz LaManche’s “Stairs of Fabulousness” will brighten up the stairs.


A gallery of the winners and all submissions will be on display in City Hall until early July. Learn more about the projects at and