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An Intern's Perspective: Pine Street Inn Site Visit

By Isabella Barani

Isabella is RODE’s high school intern, part of our long time partnership with Cristo Rey High School in Dorchester. The intern program is designed to give students access to and understanding of a wide range of career options.

There are a lot of things high schoolers don’t know about. When I came to RODE as a high school intern back in October, I was excited—but nervous, since I knew absolutely nothing about architecture. But I’ve always known I had an interest. During my time here, I’ve taken on many tasks, and embarked on many journeys, one of my favorites being visiting the Pine Street Inn construction site. I could never have guessed how much fun you could have at a construction site—classrooms can only teach so much!

Site Visit 1

My first site visit was in early December. I went with Eric [Robinson] and Nick [Ruggeri], and they were helpful to me the entire time. There was so much to take in. I remember the first thing I did was stare at the exterior. It was mostly finished in the front, but the sides and back were still under construction.

Eric showed me to the garage, which was also still in progress at this point. We walked up and down a lot of stairs as we traveled around the site, eventually reaching the lobby. Looking around the lobby, it looked like it was barely begun. The walls weren’t even built yet, but you could sort of figure out how the design was going to look. There was a lot of construction dust on the floor and many workers were focused in front of the building.

We headed down the hall and reached a room that Eric told me was going to be a kitchen. I honestly couldn’t picture it at this early stage, but it was a pretty big space that would host room for a lot of residents.

We walked up the stairs, and Eric told me that the first floor would be used for assisting formerly homeless in retaining housing.

As we advanced up the stairs, we saw larger units meant for multiple residents. These units were not far along yet—most every room I peeked into was just a bare room with maybe a plastic sheet on the floor.

We went up to the roof, which I noticed was slightly angled. Eric told me it was so all the rainfall can go straight into the drains ingrained into the roof so the water doesn’t have to sit at the top of the building.

One thing I love is the garden they’re going to make available to the residents. People who live there can admire the plants while relaxing or taking a walk around in case they want to get fresh air.

I wasn't sure how far along the construction was, but at the time I went, my guess was about 40-50% complete.

Pine Street Inn is a huge project and has been underway for years, but one or two site visits can’t really fully comprehend the amount of effort that has been put into this building. I love how everyone works together as a team, no matter what their role is.

Site Visit 2

Here’s where you start to see the project. After wanting to for so long, I was finally able to go back to the Pine Street Inn on Valentine’s Day—2 months after my last visit. From the outside, there weren't any big, noticeable changes—just more noise. It was also very cold that day, so we headed inside quickly!

Nick, Eric, and I met with Rashmi [Ramaswamy] again; she has been doing a great job at leading the project. The lobby was still mostly as I remembered it, with small changes. Eric told me it’s because the plan was to work from the top down to the bottom, which makes sense to me.

I was curious about the garage, but we didn’t go inside this time. It looked nearly the same, just more developed since it was finally completed.

Something that surprised me was the progress in the first floor units. I walked around in amazement, looking at the countertops, microwaves, and cabinets. Some of these rooms were almost finished!

As a high school student with an affinity for architectural concepts, I really took note this time of how everything was structured. On both of my visits, I drew out things I found interesting in my notebook, and I took photos as well on my second visit. I took a picture of the roof (unfortunately we couldn’t go out this time) and the amenities inside each unit.

We spent a little more time outside, and I was mesmerized by the workers building a staircase on top of some large rocks. I took more notes about things I found interesting. The scenes were fascinating to me and I couldn’t help but admire the fact that this project alone would help so many people who were in need, and so many people would be able to appreciate the work everyone involved has put into this building.

Another thing I love is how the people involved not only had those in need in mind, but also the residents surrounding the Jamaica Plain area. The original plan was to have an additional level, but comments from the residents reduced the scale. I think it’s great to have a project that can not only help new inhabitants, but also the ones who already live around there.

Overall, my experience has been exciting and my curiosity has been tested to the limit. I love exploring new places, so this project was a great opportunity for me to see how things work around a construction site.

Pine Street Inn’s goal of helping people in need acquire a permanent home and community inspires me to help those around me, as well. And who knows, maybe someday I’ll be able to help out on such a huge project like this!


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