Boston College Master Plan and City Regulatory Review
Boston College | Chestnut Hill, MA
Sasaki worked with Boston College to create a comprehensive campus master plan for the school's urban Chestnut Hill, Brighton, and Newton campus districts. A significant amount of the college's core-campus landholdings were acquired in 2004, affording the team the opportunity to think creatively and broadly about the campus' framework of open space, sustainability, transportation, infrastructure, and environmental systems. This move also enabled the team to articulate strategic goals for improving academic, social, recreational, and spiritual dimensions of learning, and to reimagine relationships between campus districts. The plan creates an implementable vision based on the college's mission: to create a holistic education for their students. Buildings and landscapes reflect both the learning and living components of the campus community, and the plan also provides solutions for integrating campus lands with the surrounding urban streets and neighborhoods.
Sasaki's plan comprehensively addresses Boston College's future and how their mission will be translated into a unique physical environment. It directs the next 30 to 50 years, folding in significant short-term building and site needs, renovations, and replacements. Challenges included a recent acquisition of land that lay across a major thoroughfare, a campus district that housed both the law school and housing for students, a complex site with topography that drops more than 200 feet, conservation overlays and adjacencies to a regional open space system, neighborhoods that shared boundaries with the both historic campus and with the recently acquired parcels, and campus landholdings that spanned two cities.
Sasaki assembled a team of architects, landscape architects, campus planners, urban designers, site engineers, historic preservationists, transportation planners, sports experts, and infrastructure engineers. Strategies to keep the process accessible and transparent included the use of creative graphics to demonstrate complex ideas, a physical model that enabled groups to test ideas and to view recommendations, and a 3D digital model that allowed eye-level views into proposed spaces. Sasaki developed extensive design guidelines that allow the college to be opportunistic as funding and programs evolve, and create a framework for building massing, setbacks, materials, open space character, and connectivity. During the public process, the Sasaki team worked closely with the college, the neighborhood groups, and the city to provide a comprehensive assessment of needs over a 10-year period.
The plan successfully integrates the Brighton acquisition into the main campus, moves undergraduate housing to the main campus, shifts housing from the neighborhood to the campus, and creates a playfield district. The plan also provides opportunities for academic infill and sequencing to shift uses to better adjacencies, creates a more vibrant Lower Campus, simplifies the transportation network, and creates a landscape framework for all areas of the campus. Once the plan was approved by the Board of Trustees, the planning process evolved through the public regulatory process, including nearly 100 meetings and reviews by the appointed neighborhood task force and numerous city agencies. The plan has since been adopted by both the college community and by the city of Boston.
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