The Children’s Wharf, Martin’s Park project won a 2020 Engineering Excellence Silver Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts, and a 2020 Engineering Excellence National Recognition Award from the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC). The award recognized Nitsch Engineering for its unique approach to designing the structural support system for the park, in collaboration with geotechnical engineer McPhail Associates, landscape architect Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, and project owner Boston Parks and Recreation Department.
Opened to the public in June of 2019, the Children’s Wharf, Martin’s Park project re-imagined a previously passive waterfront park with a goal to create a play-space that was more accessible, sustainable, and active.
Redesigning the site presented several engineering challenges, including safely addressing highly compressible soils while raising the site’s grade up to 15 feet in some areas, interfacing with a seawall, and locating an iconic (and heavy) playship directly over the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) Silver Line tunnel.
The interconnectedness of the site’s structural elements, the waterfront location, and the soil composition called for close soil-structural interaction to create a resilient yet structurally sound space. This required redefining the typical engineering process to involve continuous and close collaboration between the landscape architect, geotechnical engineer, and structural engineer.
To overcome the design challenges, Nitsch Engineering worked closely with the geotechnical engineer and design team to implement solutions that minimized settlement, addressed sustainability and resilience concerns related to potential flooding and climate change, minimized impacts to the seawall, and mitigated loads above the MBTA tunnel. Solutions included incorporating geofoam in a unique manner to reduce loads on the tunnel in spite of the raised grades, integrating a mat foundation to disperse loads atop the geofoam, and creating structural support using both precast-prestressed concrete piles (PPCPs) and micropiles.
The high-profile project brings an accessible active space for children into the Seaport, meeting the Boston Parks and Recreation Department’s goal of improving access, equity, and excellence in public spaces. Perhaps most importantly, Children’s Wharf, Martin’s Park supports the community’s future welfare while also serving as a symbol of healing through its dedication to Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the Boston Marathon bombings.
Representing thousands of companies, the American Council of Engineering Companies (ACEC) is the voice of the engineering industry throughout the nation. With roots dating back more than 100 years, ACEC is a federation of 52 state and regional councils representing more than 600,000 engineers, architects, land surveyors, and other specialists. Their primary mission is to strengthen the business environment for their member firms through government advocacy, political action, and business education.