Decoding Design

In Boston, architects design a public face for the profession

In Boston, architects design a public face for the profession

Posting in Architecture

The Boston chapter of the American Institute of Architects is rebuilding its offices and its image to promote architecture culture in the city of Boston.

Do you know the location of your local AIA (American Institute of Architects) office? How about its purpose? Taking some of the valuable design advice its members give to clients, the Boston chapter of the AIA is designing and using its space to broadcast its mission.

The Boston AIA is moving into a newly constructed space, designed by a member firm, that presents a more accessible, more open, and more inviting organization. Even their name has been renovated, replacing the dignified but stodgy sounding Boston Society of Architects with the sleeker BSA acronym.

Howeler + Yoon won the competition to design the center, named BSA Space, which will include gallery, office, multimedia and meeting spaces for members, potential members and the general public. The two story, 17,000 square foot center will give the BSA a very public presence in an area with lots of foot traffic among restaurants, stores, and public transportation in the Fort Point Channel district.

Since the majority of the BSA’s functions are on the second floor, the designers used a dramatic green stairway and dynamic ceilings to guide eyes—and feet—in and up. Organic shaped pods (signature design elements of the firm) house conference and meeting rooms, and also lead visitors around the open gallery space. A band of LED signage and digital projections animate the stairway wall.

Howeler + Yoon suggested expanding the gallery space and giving the public areas larger and more prominent space, a reversal of the usual office layout. The architects also proposed ideas for using mobile methods of communication like smart phone applications that give information about Boston architecture.

Facing a sluggish building market and a disinterested population of young professionals, the AIA is trying to mold a public face to promote itself and the profession. Inspired by the success of architecture centers in New York City (e.g. Storefront for Art and Architecture, the Architectural League, and the AIA Center for Architecture), more cities in the US are preparing to open architectural centers.

The BSA is expected to occupy its new headquarters by the end of 2011.

Images: courtesy Howeler + Yoon

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Sun Kim

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Sun Joo Kim is an architect and creative consultant based in Boston. Her projects include design and master planning of museums, public institutions, hospitals, and university buildings across the U.S. She holds a degree from Carnegie Mellon University and is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure