By Claire Cylkowski, Service Leader on the Foundation To Be Named Later Boston Civic Engagement Team

Gensler designed libraryBeing a Service Leader provides me many unique opportunities. Every project we organize is different, and gives our team a better understanding of the people and communities with which we serve. One project stands out amongst the rest as a unique example of the power of community collaboration. City Year Boston’s Civic Engagement team wanted to carry on a tradition started with City Year Chicago, where we collaborate with the architectural firm Gensler to really bring some radical change to the physical space of the school.

City Year Chicago paired with Gensler in the past and has accomplished some amazing work that they couldn’t have done on their own. Because of their longstanding partnership, Gensler and City Year Chicago brought substantial change to the physical environment of local schools. Together, their teams transformed several schools and libraries in the Chicago area, all the while maintaining student input as pillar in the creative process. We received news of this unique collaboration through the Civic Engagement network, and our leadership decided to pursue this blossoming partnership with Gensler’s Boston firm.

The Young Achievers Math and Science School in Mattapan, along with the Foundation to Be Name Later Boston Civic Engagement Team, and Gensler, came together to rebuild the school’s library and study spaces. The library was out dated with crippling shelves, dilapidated study spaces, and overrun with dull old colors, which created a stale energy and oppressive learning environment.

Gensler held visioning sessions with the students and school administrators, where they learned that the school community wished to see modern amenities, bright engaging colors, and more incorporation of school culture.

The outcome was absolutely breathtaking. The library is no longer recognizable to its former self. Gensler did a fantastic idea blending architectural knowledge with the input from visioning sessions. Every aspect of the new library is visually stimulating, from the electric colors, to the unique cut out study nooks, to the ergonomic and engaging furniture.

The best part about this physical transformation was witnessing the joy and wonderment the students expressed while passing by. While we were there for follow up, I spoke with numerous students about their feeling toward the new library, and how they were actually excitedly looking forward to staying after school and utilizing this new space.

The success of this event inspired us to challenge ourselves in partnering different aspects of the community in our next projects, and to utilize divergent methods of collaboration so that we can bring unique and engaging physical transformation to all of the spaces we enter. 

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