Neighbors of Bramhall Square, a 3,400 SF public parcel in Portland’s West End, believed this urban space was not living up to its potential. So in late 2017, local and regional groups organized an Ideas Competition inviting design professionals to re-envision Bramhall Square. WBRC’s winning 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.
Created by the confluence of three busy streets, 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 with 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 stepped 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.
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.”
The Bramhall Square Ideas Competition was organized 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.