Martin’s Park: A New Place to Play in the Seaport District

By Eva Hill, Editorial Production Intern, Design Museum Foundation
Martin’s Park, Boston’s newest playground, is an outdoor play space intended to provide an opportunity for creative play in the Seaport District. The city of Boston started construction on the park in 2017 after receiving a grant from the Martin Richard Foundation, an organization that honors Martin Richard, the youngest person killed in the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. 
Pictures and video provided by WS Development

In January of 2018, Design Museum Boston held a Design Museum Mornings, our monthly breakfast lecture series, hosted by Bergmeyer and sponsored by the Boston Society of Landscape Architects. Chris Donahue, the design lead and project manager of Martin’s Park, shared some of the concepts for the park that he and his colleagues at international design firm Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates (MVVA) had developed. According to Donahue, the park was designed to have many wheelchair-accessible “hills and ups and downs”, in order to make the park usable by children of all abilities without making the space overly flat. The centerpiece of the park is a large ship, which has many features designed to provide a variety of sensory experiences for users of the playground. Donahue explained that the park is intended to be a space that’s “truly transformative”, “completely new to the city”, and “a really happy place to be”. 

Kids and parents stopped by our Imagination Playground pop-up station on June 15, 2019 to create their own playgrounds from movable blocks.

On June 15, 2019, Martin’s Park had its grand opening, and thanks to the Seaport District and WS Development, it was a day of celebration. Design Museum Boston staff headed over to the Seaport District to help facilitate conversations about innovative playgrounds. We brought along the Imagination Playground, a set of foam blocks, ramps, and other shapes that people can construct into their own play structure. Groups of parents and children stopped by to try out building their own places to play and ended up creating everything from a tiny house with windows and chairs to a rocketship. One group had fun with the “noodles”, flexible rods that could be used either to connect blocks together or to have sword fights, while another built a complex track for a plastic ball to roll down. 

The Imagination Playground is one of many play spaces featured in Design Museum’s Extraordinary Playscapes exhibition and in Design & Play: Imagination Needs Places to Thrive, the exhibition’s catalog. The Imagination Playground was designed by architect David Rockwell of The Rockwell Group, whose firm has worked on restaurants, hotels, and installations around the world. Its multi-function parts and ease of assembly are intended to allow children to work together to design their own places to play. Some blocks have built-in channels, which allow water or objects to roll down a constructed track, while others can be stacked and reinforced with the “noodles”. 

The Extraordinary Playscapes exhibition is on view at the John Joseph Moakley Courthouse in the Seaport District until September 30, 2019. Open hours are from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. More information can be found here.