Architects meld development with global industry at new Chelsea park

Many New England residents will say salt is good for flavoring food and keeping ice off roads during the winter.

But for Daniel and Marie Law Adams, life partners and faculty members in the School of Architecture, salt offers a unique opportunity to blend industry and development in an urban setting.

Their vision is represented in the new Rock Chapel Marine terminal on the shores of the Chelsea River in the eponymous city, a shared-use marine industrial salt dock and public access area built by their architectural design firm Landing Studio.Daniel, an assistant professor of urban landscape, and Marie, a lecturer, designed the new venue with a key architectural question in mind: “How do you take unique landscapes that are usually underappreciated and better the design so they become more appreciated, while also bringing community and industry together,” Daniel said.

The first public event at the Rock Chapel Marine will be Monday evening’s 10th annual Taste of Chelsea, in which local restaurants will offer guests a sampling of their cuisine. The event will benefit HarborCOV, an organization that provides support for victims of domestic violence.

An architectural rendering of the Rock Chapel Marine terminal.

An architectural rendering of the Rock Chapel Marine terminal.

Landing Studio started working on the project in 2006 after Eastern Salt, a Chelsea-based salt company Daniel worked with as a graduate student, purchased a former oil terminal next to its salt dock.

The multi-phase design includes improving the dock’s infrastructure and turning the oil terminal into a park called the Publicly Organized Recreation Territory. Daniel said it is the first public access area built on Chelsea’s industrial waterfront.

The PORT, which sits on about one acre of land, includes an amphitheater built in a carved out oil tank; green space; a walkway along the waterfront; and viewing towers.

Daniel noted that his firm worked with both city and state officials to find a balance between business and development. “The city wants development and the state needs to continue to bring goods in,” he explained, adding that the salt delivered to the dock is used to salt all the roads in Massachusetts during the winter.

One part of the Rock Chapel project represents a literal melding of the salt dock and public access area. In the spring, summer, and fall, the space between the salt dock and the PORT will feature a basketball court and bike track for public use. But in the winter, when the demand for road salt is at its highest in New England, the space will serve as an extra storage area for salt.

“It is quite literally a sharing of the landscapes,” Daniel said.

Adams is also working with Northeastern’s Marine Science Center to install sensors along the Rock Chapel Marine shore to determine the feasibility of installing oyster reef.

Part of the demolition and development of the public space includes using recycled materials. The skeleton of three of the oil tanks’ domes are now shaded sitting areas, and pieces of a ship dock were used to build the viewing towers.. “The whole strategy is to locally source as much material as possible,” Daniel said.

Northeastern alumnus Philip Chaney, who earned his undergraduate (2009) and graduate (2010) degrees in architecture, has worked on the project for Landing Studio for about two years. His responsibilities have ranged from working with the design team to preparing construction documents to visiting the site during the building process.

“It is really the full spectrum,” Chaney said of his role. “It is the type of project you would hope to work on.”

During his time at Northeastern, Chaney did three co-ops including two with Kyu Sung Woo, the firm that designed International Village. “The transition from co-op to the office environment was seamless,” Chaney said.