Transformation of an Iconic Landmark in Back Bay
BOSTON, MA Boston University, one of the city's largest educational institutions, has been using a Bay State Road townhouse as its admissions center for many years. As the university's popularity grew, that facility's limited ability to accommodate the increasing number of visitors (40,000 visitors per year at the time to now 70,000 visitors) became a challenge.
There was no space to handle large groups for informational briefings, necessitating the use of nearby academic spaces, it was virtually inaccessible to visitors, and it simply did not adequately represent Boston University as the vital, forward-looking and welcoming institution it is.
Boston University took ownership in 2009 of the former Hillel House, a unique international-style 1953 building at the west end of Bay State Road in the Back Bay West Historic District. It's attached via a party wall to the historic Castle, and overlooks both Storrow Drive and the Charles River. The Building had been vacant for several years following Hillel's move to a new location down the block. The university had entertained several ideas for reuse, but had not found a program that fit.
The university engaged Boston, Massachusetts, -based architects Goody Clancy to evaluate the building's suitability for reuse as an admissions reception center, but also left options on the table for demolition and replacement. Goody Clancy's studies concluded that reuse was viable due to the strong match between unique program requirements, such as space for an auditorium, its central location and the intangible fact that renewing and adapting the building would preserve this Boston landmark for future generations. The building's iconic "flatiron" shape and its location make it instantly recognizable to drivers headed eastbound on Storrow Drive, and its immediate surroundings could be upgraded to provide the kind of adjacent outdoor space that the admissions program required.
The completed Alan & Sherry Leventhal Center incorporates not only the preservation and renewal of the original building's shell and structure, but also announces bold modifications and discrete additions. It demonstrates how historic buildings can be given new life and meet and institutions's modern needs. Goody Clancy's design respected the inherent clarity of the building's form, while completely reimagining the interior to facilitate the flow of visitors - which now number nearly 80,000 per year.