Sasaki, in collaboration with the Netherlands-based design firm Mecanoo, worked with the City of Boston to design a municipal office building in Nubian Square (formerly Dudley Square). Located in the heart of Roxbury, Nubian Square is a mass transit hub rich with culture and history. The facility is a part of former Mayor Thomas M. Menino's Dudley Square Vision Project, which sought to revitalize the once-thriving urban neighborhood. Using the past to create the future, the facility preserves and incorporates the iconic Ferdinand Furniture Building, an emblem of the square's historic commercial vitality. The 215,000-square-foot structure has become the headquarters of Boston Public Schools (BPS), and includes a green roof, state-of-the-art office space, retail, civic spaces, and community meeting space.
The Sasaki/Mecanoo team was selected through a high-profile public process, and stood out by envisioning the municipal building as the centerpiece of what will eventually become a transformed neighborhood animated with shops, restaurants, and public spaces. "[Nubian] Square is a historic neighborhood at the heart of our city and its revitalization is one of the most important development projects currently underway in Boston," said Mayor Menino. "I am thrilled to have Sasaki/Mecanoo as part of the [Nubian] team that will unlock the potential of [Nubian] Square and make it a thriving center of city life once again."
Achieving the appropriate balance between the vision of the future and the historical integrity of Nubian Square was a critical component of the design process. In addition to the Ferdinand furniture building, the design incorporated the historic Curtis and Waterman buildings, creating a triangle of historic facades connected by new construction. The restored Ferdinand, Curtis, and Waterman buildings maintain the existing feel and scale of Nubian Square, and the building adds a powerful modern aesthetic. Together, these elements create a rich texture both physically and conceptually.
The ground floor of the facility serves as a public zone, providing both community gathering space and opportunities for economic advancement through retail and dining. The second floor is outfitted with meeting rooms to provide an interaction zone for BPS, while the sixth floor public meeting space and roof terrace is open and accessible to all.
Sasaki's design for the BPS offices creates a new model for municipal workers, promoting collaboration and transparency through an open layout. To support not only the staff members, but also the students and parents they serve, the design is welcoming and punctuated with spaces that facilitate interaction between BPS and the Boston community.
The design process involved extensive public outreach and several open design forums. The Sasaki team worked closely with the city, including the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Public Facilities Department. In addition, the process has necessitated frequent review from Boston Landmarks Commission.