The new Fort Point District embraces water as part of its history, its daily rhythms, and its future. Its diverse character – combining manufacturing, artistic production, and increasingly, offices and homes – is enhanced through urban design interventions that communicate the natural and human rhythms of water and energy in Boston while generating power and fostering climate resilience.

The new Tidal Canal, which cuts perpendicular to Fort Point Channel, becomes a recreational, educational, and productive axis for the neighborhood. A tide gate between the Canal and the Channel closes at high tide, so as the tide ebbs, the Canal water level becomes higher than that of the Channel; Canal water is released through turbines at low tide, generating energy as well as an educational spectacle. The daily tides, once only perceptible from the layer of scum on Boston’s seawalls, become a celebrated phenomenon, as passersby cross over the tidal barrage and residents and tourists enjoy its landscaped edge. The Canal further offers onsite water storage during increasingly frequent storms.

Fort Point Falls, a new neighborhood icon, not only produces power for the grid, but also visually expresses daily cycles of energy use. The Falls and adjacent buildings take advantage of the unobstructed solar exposure over the Convention Center to generate abundant solar energy. During hours of off-peak energy demand, solar-powered pumps bring water to higher floors of the building; this water generates hydroelectricity as it is released through turbines during times of peak energy usage, making visible the hidden temporal aspect of energy consumption. Just as artists and creative professionals once drew inspiration from Fort Point’s industrial architecture, a new generation is attracted to this uniquely dynamic feature. The Falls and the Tidal Canal also introduce localized cooling for a future characterized by extreme heat events.

At the Falls and the Tidal Canal, water is offered a bold invitation into the district; the Catwalks, in contrast, are testaments to society’s failure to curb sea level rise, an adaptation that weaves through and serves the community while reminding it to not only live with, but also listen to, water. Extending from Summer Street — the only street in the district that will remain dry through the end of the century — the Catwalks first simply provide an elevated view of the growing district and its attractive new waterscape. Buildings gradually develop second-floor entrances and retail, complementing ground-level activity, but also testifying to its precariousness. Over time, streets are inundated more and more frequently, until they are permanently submerged, requiring the abandonment and filling of ground floors. Lost floor area is replaced with new floors added to existing buildings, as new, flood-resilient buildings are constructed to meet local needs for affordable housing and workspace.

Company Name
Harvard Graduate School of Design

Team Member(s)
Jonathan Sandor Goldman, urban planner
Dave Hampton, architect, resilience consultant / team leader
Xinhui Li, landscape architect
Thaddeus Pawlowski, urban designer / inter-team coordinator
Steve Apfelbaum, ecologist advisor
Nancy Seasholes, archaeologist and historian advisor
Jamie Blosser, community engagement advisor
with contributions from: Gege Wang, Olga Semenovich, Jared Katseff, Nupoor Monani, and Oscar Natividad