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Richardson Plaza renovation to include colorful sculptures, new seating

In this computer rendering of Richardson Plaza on the Boston campus, a woman sits on a C-shaped bench covered in planks of cypress wood. The actual project begins in earnest this summer to provide more comfortable outdoor seating in the plaza located near the School of Law. Courtesy photo

Looking for an artsy place outdoors on campus to shoot a TikTok? Or how about somewhere to recline all the way back and soak in some rays?

The next renovation phase of Richardson Plaza, which is nestled off Huntington Avenue by the School of Law, starts this summer and will include a new art installation by a Brooklyn duo that specializes in bold, colorful sculptures that draw the eye and capture the imagination, according to Thomas Vannatter, Northeastern’s public art manager. 

Also in the works will be additional relaxing seating areas. Instead of sitting on the concrete planter boxes that run along either side of the plaza, or the C-shaped benches, cypress wood will be installed atop those spaces. The wood is softer, weather-proof, and locally sourced from New Hampshire.

Colorful sculptures by a pair of Brooklyn artists will be installed throughout Richardson Plaza this summer. Courtesy photo

The planks will be angled, allowing students to recline. A planter box on one side of the plaza will have six seats, while a longer box on the other side can seat eight people. Both areas will be under shade trees.

“The goal is to make Richardson a flexible, more active space,” says Vannatter, who worked with the Landing Studio architecture firm on previous renovation phases to the plaza. The studio was founded by Dan Adams, associate professor of architecture at Northeastern.

Earlier phases included the installation of modular furniture that can be arranged in different configurations to support classes or club meetings. About 20 trees in rolling planter boxes were also brought in to add shade, and the plaza was the site of a public art installation in 2019.

More vibrant splash is on the way when New York artists Adam Frezza and Terri Chiao install their large, whimsical sculptures decorated in swirls, dots, and stripes. A bright yellow, heart-shaped piece with blue squiggly lines will be as tall as 11 feet. The sculptures are made of a papier-maché-like material and can withstand the elements.

The exhibit, dubbed “Lumpy Notes,” is similar but smaller in scale to work the artists did at Coachella, the music and arts festival held annually in California.

The wave benches sit atop existing concrete planter boxes and are designed to allow students to recline. One bench measures 36 feet long and the other measures 62 feet long. Both benches are 21 inches wide.

The installation, as well as the existing multi-colored banners by Berlin-based street art duo Quintessenz, are part of rotating exhibitions of sculpture and public art in Richardson Plaza. The area is being steadily transformed into a destination for outdoor classrooms, performances, and events.

“These projects are meant to help to redefine our campus and showcase the impact of art and design,” says Vannatter.

Construction is expected to finish in time for the return of students in the fall to in-person learning.

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