In Deep Shift

We love the charm inherent in Boston's historic architecture, but the city's track record with more modern urban design is a bit spotty. Sure, the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway might look fabulous now, but we had to endure the Big Dig to get there. And the less said about City Hall, that ill-advised paradigm of the briefly trendy form of architecture known as brutalism (brutal on our eyes, perhaps!), the better. So we're excited to see what innovative ideas emerge from SHIFTboston, an architect-founded initiative that has brought together bright minds from the worlds of art, design, transportation, landscaping, and other related disciplines in a contest showcasing radically creative approaches to urban planning and public-space design. "How about a free-fall ride in the slot of the John Hancock Tower? How about turning Fort Point Channel into a large swimming pool?" Those were some of the (intentionally far-fetched) examples included in the group's original call for submissions, one answered by hundreds of brainstorming participants from countries all over the world. Originally intended to keep architects' creative juices flowing during a recession (the industry is notoriously one of the first to suffer and last to recover in tough economic times), the project received a great enough response to warrant a SHIFTboston Forum on January 14 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the ICA (100 Northern Avenue, Boston, 617.478.3100). The event features a cocktail reception, a panel discussion with the competition's jury members, and the presentation of several honorable mentions and the winning design idea, which receives a cash prize and publicity on local bus stops and billboards. Whether the concepts are deemed cool (and feasible) enough to be carried out is subject to the city, but since the forum is followed by a 9 p.m. after-party at Atlantic Beer Garden (146 Northern Avenue, Boston, 617.357.8000), maybe a little liquid courage will inspire you to convince the officials in attendance that your own fantasy of a water park on the Common or a conveyor belt to take lazy feet down the Freedom Trail is really a good idea, after all. The evening is free with museum admittance, but RSVP (and get inspired) at shiftboston.org.