Innovative Path In Cambridge Integrates Play Into Everyday City Infrastructure

An innovative shared walking and biking path developed by Cambridge Arts and the City of Cambridge integrates play into everyday city infrastructure.

The New York-based artist team of Chat Travieso and Yeju Choi were commissioned by the city in 2014 to create a distinctive public art project for a multiuse path along Fern Street between Concord Avenue and Field Street, near Fresh Pond. Completed in summer 2017, the concrete path shimmers with wavy lines of bold colors, embedded glass, playful topography, and plantings.

“Our idea was to really incorporate unique topography and pattern, to weave those two together, so that it’s really sensory, but also tactile,” Choi says.

The City of Cambridge is a national leader in pioneering new playground design with parks like the Alexander W. Kemp Playground on Cambridge Common. The Fern Street path, titled “On The Other Side,” continues in this spirit as a groundbreaking model of how to fully integrate play, for all ages and abilities, into sidewalks and other everyday city infrastructure.

The artists worked with students at the nearby Tobin Montessori and Vassal Lane Upper School on the design and the name. 

“The design itself came from really paying attention to how kids behave,” Choi says. “How they jump over from one material to another. They kind of instinctively relate to the environment … That kind of behavior, we want to really encourage that.”

“We had students go to the site and then go back to the classroom and design their own Fern Street project,” Travieso says. “In addition to being colorful and fun, they said it should be more engaging, it should be like an obstacle course. … They were saying it should have lava and canyons. We were like, ‘What if it had mounds?’”

The public art project is part of a larger sewer-separation construction project, led by the city's Department of Public Works, that’s designed to create a cleaner Alewife Brook and improve waterways throughout the region. The path also aims to calm auto traffic and improve the experience for walkers, bicyclists, wheelchair users, and people with strollers or scooters traveling between the Tobin Montessori and Vassal Lane Upper School area, nearby Danehy Park, and surrounding neighborhoods.