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Harvard Graduate School of Design Graduate Tapped as Vice Chair of Civic Design Commission

Harvard’s Graduate School of Design is located at 48 Quincy St.
Harvard’s Graduate School of Design is located at 48 Quincy St. By Truong L. Nguyen
By Dylan H. Phan and Jack R. Trapanick, Crimson Staff Writers

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu ’07 announced the appointment of Linda Eastley, an alumna of the Harvard Graduate School of Design, to the vice chair of the Boston Civic Design Commission in late February.

The BCDC, a division of the Boston Planning and Development Agency, reviews large or public development proposals for aesthetics and their impact on the city.

Eastley — the founding principal of Eastley + Partners LLP, a university campus design firm — has served as a commissioner on the board under four different mayors. She graduated from the GSD in 1993.

Joining Eastley as commissioners will be Laura Solano, an associate professor in practice of landscape architecture at the GSD, and Shauna Gillies-Smith, an adjunct professor in landscape architecture at the GSD and an alumna of the school.

In a press release, the BPDA said the new appointments will “provide diverse perspectives that will help shape Boston’s growth in a way that will ensure both residents and visitors experience Boston as a City for everyone.”

Some people might misunderstand the BCDC’s mission to mean making sure that buildings “look like or affirm the buildings around it,” Eastley said. However, she clarified that the board chiefly decides how to “improve the way that we experience our city,” including clarifying how a project might contribute to public space and interact with existing design features.

Eastley said she has found her tenure on the board gratifying. She said she often recognizes developments in her daily life that were once brought to her as proposals for review.

“Whenever I walk through the city, I note the buildings that we’ve worked on,” she said. “We’ve been able to really improve those projects for the betterment of the city.”

Eastley said she was moved by the impact that she has been able to have on the local landscape throughout her career, which began while she was a member of the Harvard Real Estate and Planning Group at the GSD.

“There’s a tremendous satisfaction in knowing that others are enjoying — in this case other Cantabrigians — are enjoying the spaces that you had designed and that they were impacting the beauty of the city,” she said.

Sarah M. Whiting, dean of the Graduate School of Design, said in an interview that she was “thrilled” to learn about the trio’s appointments to the BCDC. She referenced the school’s focus on design in the greater Boston area.

“We want to be a resource to help the city of Boston but also Cambridge,” she said, citing the example of GSD studio courses, many of which are based on projects in the area.

Whiting specifically discussed the need for a design education to address contemporary challenges, including the addition of a “Climate by Design” course to the landscape curriculum.

“The significance of climate and social justice has permeated the role of design,” she said.

Whiting said the GSD’s curriculum emphasizes the role of design in how people experience the world around them.

“Design affects how people are organized in the world — how our city is organized, how a building is organized, how people interact,” she said.

“To be a designer, you need to be tuned into things going on at the local level,” Whiting added.

Eastley similarly pointed to the value of design in crafting a positive city environment for Boston’s residents.

“The way that those projects are stitched together create that unforgettable series of moments for all of us Bostonians,” she said.

Eastley, Gillies-Smith, and Solano will take up their new posts in April.

—Staff writer Dylan H. Phan can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @dylanhieuphan.

—Staff writer Jack R. Trapanick can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jackrtrapanick.

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