Site A former 13-million-gallon oil tank farm on the bank of Chelsea Creek, in Chelsea, Mass., at the northern end of Boston Harbor.

Program A shared-use infrastructure combining a distribution center for road salt with public park and seasonally expandable recreation facilities that include an amphitheater, a “play dome,” and a platform for viewing barges.

Solution Chelsea is the second-densest municipality in Massachusetts—it’s also home to both the largest concentration of industry and the least amount of public space. With Rock Chapel Marine, the design team at Landing Studio sought to reconcile those factors by turning industry into public amenity for Chelsea’s inhabitants. Starting with the removal of the oil tank farm, the master plan transforms the port city’s industrial area into an urban playground with waterfront views.

But the project appealed to the jury members because it wasn’t just another brownfield conversion: “Plural infrastructure is really what it’s about,” juror Reed Kroloff said. “It doesn’t say it’s a collection of salt piles that we are now converting into a greenway. It’s still salt piles.” These salt piles at the still-active road salt distribution terminal will gain containment covers, allowing them to function as dynamic storm surge barriers that shift in scale according to the seasonal demand for salt, and also as backdrops for artistic light projections. Structure from the steel oil drums is retained and reused as support for lighting within the recreation areas of the site, and an old tugboat is repurposed as a security tower for the salt plant’s operations.

The end result of Rock Chapel Marine will be the conversion of an industrial wasteland into a community gathering area, with the skeletons of oil drums framing views into the harbor through the once-blighted site. “I think one of the appeals of the project is its multifaceted—instead of absolutist—solution,” juror Steven Ehr­lich said. “We’ll see that problem arising more and more.” In Chelsea, the hope is that although industry may carry on, citizens will see it less as a blight than as an opportunity for fun.

Rock Chapel Marine
Location  Chelsea, Mass.
Client  Rock Chapel Marine
Architect/Urban Designer  Landing Studio, Somerville, Mass.—Daniel Adams, Marie Adams, AIA (principals-in-charge); Philip Chaney (design team)
Environmental Engineer  Haley & Aldrich—Deborah Gevalt
Maritime Engineer  Childs Engineering—David Porter
Civil Engineer  Nitsch Engineering—William Maher
MEP/FP and Structural Engineer  Buro Happold, Boston—Stratton Newbert
Landscape Architect  Marshall Gary—Ben Gary
Size  5.1 acres (216,700 square feet)
Cost  Withheld