Portland, ME – The neighbors of Bramhall Square, a tiny public space in Portland, Maine, believe this 3,400sf, steeply sloped parcel is not living up to its potential. So late last year, local and regional groups banded 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.
WBRC’s proposed design, created by an in-house team, mitigates multiple site issues while creating an attractive, pedestrian-friendly gathering place serving multiple generations year-round.
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, freestanding 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 stormwater runoff 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 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.