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Reprogramming the City

BU alum’s urban design exhibition featured at the BSA

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When you drive past a sign warning “Bridge may be icy” on an 80-degree day, you know you don’t have to worry about ice on the upcoming bridge. But on a frigid winter morning, there’s no way to be sure. What if there was a better way to know for certain when ice poses a hazard?

Designers in the Netherlands have proposed one solution. They’ve developed a Smart Highway plan that includes heat-sensitive paint that would tell drivers when the temperature has dropped to the point that conditions are icy.

That is just one of dozens of designs for reusing and repurposing existing urban infrastructures featured in a new exhibition at the Boston Society of Architects Gallery. Titled Reprogramming the City: Opportunities for Urban Infrastructure, the show highlights innovations being undertaken in such cities as Hong Kong, London, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Los Angeles, and Boston that give new function to existing objects.

For example, one design in the exhibition would transform billboard structures into living, air-cleaning bamboo gardens, while another would repurpose parking meters so that they can also print out updates on repairs to local infrastructure problems.

The idea behind the exhibition is to work with the infrastructure already in place to create improvements. Another design in the show calls for transforming increasingly obsolete phone booths into electric car charging stations. Reprogramming the City treats the urban landscape as an unlimited platform for finding new uses for systems already in place.

The show is curated by leading urban design director Scott Burnham (COM’91), who has worked on projects around the globe.

Reprogramming the City: Opportunities for Urban Infrastructure is on view at the BSA, 290 Congress St., Boston, through September 29. Hours: Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; admission is free and open to the public; phone: 617-391-4039. Find more information here. By public transportation, take the MBTA Green Line to Park Street, head southwest on Tremont Street, turn left onto Winter Street, continue to Summer Street, take a left onto Atlantic Avenue, and a right onto Congress Street.

Irene Berman-Vaporis can be reached at imbv@bu.edu.

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