WBRC Team Reimagines Bramhall Square

The neighbors of Bramhall Square, a tiny public space in Portland, Maine, believe this 3,400 SF, steeply-sloped parcel is not living up to its potential. So late last year, local and regional groups banned together to sponsor an Ideas Competition inviting design professionals to re-envision Bramhall Square.

Thirteen designs were presented at a public forum in January. WBRC Architects Engineers’ solution was deemed the winner, with a close second by Terrence J. DeWan & Associates. Several other entries received the judges’ accolades.

WBRC’s proposed design, created by an in-house team that included architecture and landscape architecture professionals, mitigates multiple site issues while creating an attractive, pedestrian-friendly gathering place serving multiple generations year-round.

Contest judges commented that WBRC’s winning design “handled the complexity of the site extremely well — including safe buffering of the heavily trafficked intersection, storm-water run-off and use of vegetation, and creative platforms for multi-generational users at various times of day and play.”

Created by the confluence of Bramhall Street, Congress Street and Deering Avenue, Bramhall Square sits atop one of the highest hills in Portland on a steeply-sloped triangular parcel, making its development complex and potentially costly. In coming up with the proposed design, the WBRC team focused on devising a solution that would be inspiring and engaging, yet also be accessible, buildable, and sustainable.

WBRC’s design divides Bramhall Square into three levels, with grade changes held in place by stepped seating and raised planting beds. The south end features a covered bus stop facing Congress Street. A play area with whimsical pods is at the north end and includes permanent seating and raised gardens. The central area accommodates pedestrian through-traffic while providing shaded space for additional activities and seating. Ground level lighting and fun free-standing light bars are also part of the design concept, making Bramhall Square inviting even after the sun goes down. The grading concept is designed to mitigate storm-water run-off while simultaneously creating three small outdoor “rooms” where people can rest, gather, and play.

The Bramhall Square Ideas Competition was organized by Peloton Labs and Parkside Neighborhood Association with advisory assistance by the Maine Section of the American Society of Landscape Architects and the Portland Society for Architecture.

When Jocelyn Boothe, AIA, a WBRC Firm Associate and Senior Architect, heard about the contest, she quickly organized an enthusiastic team, which included architecture and landscape architecture professionals Brad Baker, Siobhan Baker, Paul Brody, Josh Burke, Adam Comstock, and Ben Stoodley.

While the WBRC team was gratified to be given top honors, Boothe said, a number of creative ideas emerged through the contest which she and the team hope will be considered for the final design.

The WBRC team added: “The Portland design community is an active, engaged group and we truly enjoyed partaking in a competition alongside people with a shared vision of the city’s future. We are excited to share a role in the ultimate transformation of Bramhall Square and look forward to helping raise awareness and funding for this intriguing project.”