Howeler + Yoon Architecture
Boston, MA, USA
Eric Höweler, J Meejin Yoon
ARUP (Structural Engineer), AHA Consulting Engineers (MEPFP Engineer)
Boston Society of Architects
The new BSA Space houses the Boston Society of Architects in a 16,000 sf space at Atlantic Wharf in Boston. The new space houses meeting rooms as well as 5,000 sf of exhibition space dedicated to architecture and design. The design of the BSA Space, won by competition in 2010, creates a single gesture of a soffit, a stair and a billboard to make the BSA Space both visible and accessible to the public. The soffit on the second floor acts as a facade, visible from the sidewalk below. Drawing the public up to the second floor, a grand stair drops down from the ceiling above, and provides a fluid transition between floors with a single gesture. The stair is made out of 3/4” steel plate and gives the impression of thinness and lightness. It acts as the main icon for the BSA Space, creating a strong sculptural figure behind the glass that attracts attention, offers a means of circulating to the gallery level, and connects to the gallery soffit elements. Conference rooms are distributed within the free-flowing gallery zone on the second floor, forming an “archipelago” of program distributed within the flows of public gallery, maximizing the contact between the BSA members, visitors, stakeholders, and members of the general public.
Located between the Boston Greenway to the west and the Fort Point Channel and Innovation District to the east, the new BSA Space is a key node in an emerging network of cultural institutions and public spaces. The newly completed Boston Society of Architects (BSA) accommodates lectures and exhibitions that were not possible in its previous location on Broad Street, and represents an institution in transition towards a more accessible and engaging public institution. The new BSA Space provides greater visibility to the general public and provides an identity for its membership of 5,000 architects and design professionals. As a contribution to the urban landscape of the city, the BSA is integral to fulfilling the aims of Massachusetts Chapter 91 laws that protect access to the waterfront and see architecture as an integral part of improving the relationship between city, landscape, and infrastructure. The new BSA Space has already made a large impact in the Boston architectural community with new numerous events addressing various audiences, both professional and general public, academic and community-focused. The design for BSA Space expands the mission of the BSA, using architecture as an active instrument for its goals of education, leadership and outreach.
The BSA’s mission of public engagement and outreach was difficult to achieve in its previous location on Broad Street, where members of the general public rarely ventured. Its new location in Atlantic Wharf positions it within an emerging cultural network of the Greenway and the Innovation District. Its ground floor street presence and visually prominent gallery on the second floor are inviting to the public and allow the BSA Space to act as a public interface. Programing of the space includes exhibitions and lectures as well as committee meetings and administrative uses. Since opening in November 2011, the BSA Space has hosted nearly 30 exhibitions and numerous public lectures and events on topics ranging from urban mobility to digital fabrication. The ability to reach these audiences and host these events allows the BSA to achieve its mission of education, leadership and outreach through the design of its own spaces. The BSA Space makes architecture the vehicle for public engagement.