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Shade is Social Justice


Music Performance at Lafayette Square

Jill Brown-Rhone Park, a heat spot in Central Square


Cambridge Arts and the City of Cambridge are working with artists and designers to create temporary shade structures that also serve as places for community gathering. For our Shade is Social Justice program, projects will provide cooling for people in our warming world and use the power of design to prompt imagination, community-building, and action addressing climate change in cities. Each approved project will receive a budget of approximately $27,000.

Shade is Social Justice is funded by an Accelerating Climate Resiliency grant from the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC). It is one of the innovative ways the City of Cambridge is building climate resiliency and preparedness—and using the power of art and design to shape perception, strengthen communities, and find solutions.


Imaginative solutions: Artists are uniquely skilled at cross-disciplinary responses to complex challenges that also engage a multi-generational public. Shade is Social Justice is an opportunity for artists and designers to explore imaginative solutions to the problem of heat islands throughout the city, particularly in areas with the highest risks. Because we know that social connection increases preparedness and resiliency, we are looking for solutions that combine reasons for gathering with cooling.

Material science and Engineering:Shade is Social Justice is also an opportunity to investigate material science and engineering to identify ways in which sustainable material choices and methods of fabrication can best serve the mission of the project.

More Than Shade: Shade structures are not effective unless they are used. Shade is Social Justice is an opportunity for artists and designers to consider how to incorporate interactive attractions in a shade structure, such as playful elements, data collection, lighting, educational messaging, or misting. Seating will be an important part of the design. Programming will further the impact and promotion of the project.

Social Justice and Replicability: Climate change is complicated to communicate, heat is invisible, and heat risk is unequally distributed across the city. The problems and the solutions around climate change go beyond any one municipality. Shade is Social Justice aims to offer replicable designs for shade structures that could be used in multiple neighborhoods and by other municipalities.


  1. Jill Brown-Rhone Park, also known as Lafayette Square, in Central Square 
  2. Donnelly Field, near Frisoli Youth Center and King Open/Cambridge Street Upper School complex 
  3. Russell Field and playground, off Rindge Avenue 
  4. Additional locations TBD.


Cambridge map with site locations





Heat in Cambridge

The City of Cambridge is taking a variety of actions to create a resilient city and address the impact of a warming climate.

Neighborhoods across Cambridge are experiencing hotter summers and more severe heat waves. Average summer temperatures in Cambridge are expected to increase 6-10 degrees Fahrenheit by the 2070s. Extreme heat exposure is a health risk and has a disproportionate impact on communities of color and lower income levels. Increasing development, use of building materials that retain heat, loss of tree canopy, and socio-economic factors contribute to heat risks for residents, workers, and visitors. The city is actively addressing these factors through efforts such as green building requirements, promoting reflective roof materials and green roofs, urban forestry planning, and numerous programs to strengthen community cohesion and individual health. Finding ways to stay cool and safe, both at home and outside, is more important than ever.

Cambridge map with an overlay of ambient temperature

Estimated Ambient Air Temperature

Improving access to open space and increasing tree canopy and shade are key priorities of the Resilient Cambridge Plan. Locations identified for this project are places of community interaction and work and play activity, offering opportunities to expand social services. Social connection, a key ingredient in building community resilience is critical to ensure that people have access to services or spaces that are, by design, resilient to extreme heat.

For more information see:

Extreme Heat Resources


Teams developing projects to be installed in 2024: 

 Gabriel Cira and Matthew Okazaki: Gabriel Cira and Matthew Okazaki practice collaboration – with community groups, nonprofits, scientists, advocates, artists, students, and friends. They believe common-izing spatial thinking and material knowledge helps build collective power and a sense of belonging in the public realm. Cira is a licensed architect and Assistant Professor in the History of Art at MassArt. He received a Master in Architecture from Princeton University. Okazaki is a Professor of the Practice in the History of Art and Architecture at Tufts University and received a Master of Architecture from Harvard University. 

The MIRROR is an interdisciplinary team composed of BuildingwaysCitizens of the WorldEquity RoadmapOlin College of Engineering, and Pneuhaus alongside international architectural collaborator Yusuke Obuchi Laboratory. The group brings expertise from community organizing to computer science, from restorative justice to youth-centered placemaking. We are guided by the question: “What can we do together, as a network of nonprofit partners, a community, and a college, that we can't do alone?” 

Alejandro Saldarriaga: Alejandro Saldarriaga Rubio is a Colombian architect who was born and raised in Bogota. He has had an international professional trajectory, having lived and worked in various countries including Denmark, Switzerland, and the United States. He holds a master's degree in architecture from the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 2020, he founded his architecture practice, ALSAR-ATELIER, during the midst of the pandemic. The studio is dedicated to investigating low-cost and low-tech design solutions for global states of emergency, focusing on sustainable construction methods and community engagement. He currently resides in Cambridge MA and will be joining the Northeastern University Faculty as a Research/ Teaching fellow for the 2023-2024 academic term. 

Teams developing projects to be installed in 2025: 

Carolina Aragon: Carolina Aragón is an associate professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the director of Art for Public Good Group. Her award-winning creative work blends artistry and transdisciplinary practices that bring together research, craft, and community engagement to address issues of climate change and environmental justice. Carolina’s artwork has been recognized by national and international organizations. In 2021, her FutureSHORELINE project was awarded the Climate Change Communication Award “Rebecca Ballestra” by the Euro-Mediterranean Center on Climate Change. Carolina was named as one of the top 25 Creative Revolutionaries by the CODAworx organization in 2020. Her artwork has been displayed at the World Bank’s Art of Resilience Exhibition 2019 in Washington, DC, as well as showcased in multiple venues, including the U.S. National Park Service’s video: 100 Years of Arts in the Parks. 

Calvin Zhong + Justin Brazier: Justin Brazier is an architectural designer based in Boston, interested in sustainable architecture, housing, food security, and cultural spaces for historically under-represented and under-served communities. Calvin Zhong is a spatial designer, fabricator, and informal cultural critic. Together, they are one-half of the design collective, Architecture Group of New York, which currently operates out of Cambridge, Chilé, and Mexico City. They work on books, exhibitions, advertisements, fashion, research, websites, and last, but not least, architecture. 

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