Reimagining stoop culture in Boston’s Chinatown

Reposted from N+T. https://www.nowandthere.org/blog/2021/11/1/accelerator-artist-ang-li-place-of-assembly

So honored to work with talented artists and share stories about our Chinatown! An honor to meet Boston Mayor, Michell Wu!

Text of blog:

A vacant lot at 8-12 Hudson Street in Boston’s Chinatown, known as Chinatown Backyard, is being transformed into a gathering space recalling the neighborhood’s stoop culture. “Place of Assembly” by Ang Li, a member of Now + There’s 2020 Public Art Accelerator cohort, is using bricks to replicate different versions of stoops as a place for socializing. 

Ang Li is an architect and Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture at Northeastern University. She is the founder of Ang Li Projects, a research-centered design practice that operates at the intersection between architecture, experimental preservation and public art to speculate on the maintenance rituals and material afterlives behind architectural production.

The project invites visitors to reflect on the cycles of building and rebuilding that have shaped the development of the neighborhood. Using reclaimed brick pavers sourced from Boston’s City Hall, the installation recalls the historic row houses that once defined Chinatown’s residential fabric and the vibrant stoop culture these buildings supported. The project reimagines the familiar symbol of the stoop as a series of modular, brick structures that could be reconfigured to allow for different seating arrangements.

As Ang puts it, “Once I started digging into this topic, I realized a lot of other artists and residents were doing something similar and preserving the oral histories from the neighborhood, specifically around the historic row houses that were demolished during the highway construction projects in the 1950s and 60s. It’s been exciting to plug into this history in some way and consider how to recreate this social environment that isn’t really there anymore.”

N+T’s Executive Director Kate Gilbert adds, “Ang Li’s project brilliantly captures and reimagines the history and spirit of Chinatown’s stoop culture with a nod to the development forces threatening the liveability of the neighborhood.  We are proud to support this project that honors traditions while also asking audiences to reimagine how intergenerational dialogue and storytelling can enhance and preserve a vibrant neighborhood.”

A set of nine structures make up an informal and interactive playground that complements activities of the nearby community garden. Each unit can be rotated to accommodate programming needs during events from story circles to movie screenings to outdoor concerts. In partnership with the Asian Community Development Corporation (ACDC), the project opens on Saturday, November 6, from 1-4 pm with stories by Cynthia Yee and the Chinatown Story Cart, and a musical performance from Juk Sing. The event is open to the public and will take place at 8-12 Hudson Street in Boston’s Chinatown.  

As its title suggests, “Place of Assembly” aims to provide two parallel experiences: as an adaptable gathering space that reflects the collective needs of the Chinatown community and a relatable, human-scale monument that draws attention to the rapid material turnover of the city.

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