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East of Harvard Square, botanical diversity has taken a decided upturn. Newly planted Quincy Square, which little more than a year ago was a deep hole in the ground, now boasts boxwood and magnolias, coreopsis and hydrangeas, black-eyed Susan, lady's mantle, thyme and sedum and azaleas. In fact, more than 30 different shrubs, 20 types of ground cover and perennials, and half a dozen ornamental grasses, some quite unusual, grow in this little park in front of the Inn at Harvard. The park provides a welcome green oasis at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue with Harvard and Bow Streets, softening the visual impact of the straight stretch of asphalt that runs between the brick façades of the Coop and the Inn at Harvard.
Landscape architect Craig Halvorson collaborated with sculptor David Phillips to design the new square, which actually isn't square at all. "It has a spiral footprint," says Phillips, who combined curving brick walls, brass-inlaid rocks, and moon-shaped crescents of granite to create the spiral. Phillips says he likes to use the chambered nautilus and the concept of the golden mean as a design principle in his work--he has even cast snails in bronze to serve as finials on the low, spiral-motif cast-iron fence that rings the plantings. These thematic clues to the park's underlying design may prove sufficient to alert visitors that there is more to Quincy Square than first meets the eye.
This is true in other respects as well. The money to build the square, for example, came largely from the proceeds of a lawsuit that the City of Cambridge lost--to Harvard. After Cambridge took a field from Harvard by eminent domain, Harvard contested in court the amount it was paid in compensation, charging that the city's reimbursement was too low. When the court found in Harvard's favor, the University told Cambridge to keep the money (more than $500,000, says Roger Boothe, the city's director of urban design), but apply it to a park outside the Inn at Harvard.
The result could be described as a happy ending with a seamy underside: Quincy Square, it seems, is directly over the main access hole to the Cambridge sewers. Says Boothe, "We may have to go pop some plants out at times to gain access to the lid."
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