It was recently announced that construction had begun on the revitalization of Boston’s Commonwealth Pier. The project aims to rejuvenate the Seaport World Trade Center, in Boston’s Seaport. It will serve as a modern, renewed, and reimagined iteration of the historic site, and will provide a myriad of benefits to the public realm.

Construction begins at Boston’s Commonwealth Pier designed by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects - Sheet1
View of the Proposed Seaport World Trade Center Building in Boston. ©Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects

The project is being developed by the international real estate developer, Pembroke, along with Schmidt Hammer Larsen, and Boston-based architectural firm, CBT. These firms integrated advanced design strategies at the building and site level for Boston’s Commonwealth Pier that would adhere to the 2070 resiliency goals and meet the prerequisites for a LEED Gold Certification. If these targets are met, it will ensure the pier’s continued enjoyment and reverence for years to come. 

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An Enlivened Public Space.  ©Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects.

Project: Revitalization of Commonwealth Pier, Seaport World Trade Center
Building Area: 65,500 sqm
Location: Seaport World Trade Center, Boston, Massachusetts, USA
Competition: International invited competition, 2017
Client: Pembroke
Executive Architects: CBT Architects
Design Architects: Schmidt Hammer Larsen
Landscape Architects: IBI Placemaking

Preserving The Rich Maritime Past

Built more than a hundred years ago, Boston’s Commonwealth Pier was once the largest of its typology in the world. The revitalization initiative aims to honor the space’s historic identity, while incorporating new materials, increasing the amount of daylight, and providing new and improved connectivity points.  

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Proposed Master Plan. © Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects.

The site currently houses a 705,000 square foot building and pier, and the design intent is aimed at retaining the neoclassical headhouse’s beautiful stone arches and cornice. The northern facade of the building will also feature exposed columns, and connections from the existing structure to blend historic architectural elements, with modern touches. 

In terms of context-responsiveness, curtain walls and other lightweight materials will be added, to ensure that Boston’s Commonwealth Pier integrates seamlessly with its neighborhood. Kristian Ahlmark, Schmidt Hammer Larsen’s Partner and Design Director stated that the most impactful architectural statement is usually made through what is left untouched. By unleashing the pier’s inherent potential as a gathering point, the project aims to transform it into an urban living room for Boston. 

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Proposed Sectional View. © Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects.

Creating A Dynamic Public Space

The project will transform Boston’s Commonwealth Pier into a multi-use community hub that accentuates, enlivens, and highlights Boston’s Seaport neighborhood. The project’s vision is to strengthen the building’s resiliency, improve accessibility to the waterfront, and offer different public amenities. 

The expansive, mixed-use development will include 45,000 square feet of retail space, 56,000 square feet of first-class Seaport Hotel event and meeting spaces, and a responsive, flexible and future-ready, workplace environment. 

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A Mixed-use Public Space is Proposed.  ©Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects.

Other exciting additions or revivals include the addition of dock space, for incorporating a water shuttle stop on the Commonwealth Pier in the future, to expand its role as a maritime transportation hub. 

Also in the works,are improved water transportation, and docking facilities, increased berthing areas, better designed, more comfortable ticketing and queuing spaces, and covered waiting for spaces.

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Boston’s Commonwealth Pier as a Maritime Hub. © Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects.

Talking about the project, Andrew Dankwerth, the Senior VP of Design and Development at Pembroke said the following, “This revitalization will bring new life to this iconic building, reconnecting it to the harbor and the neighborhood by creating a unique waterfront experience for Boston.”

The site design includes enhanced outdoor spaces, including open courtyards, lush green spaces, shaded walkways, and a stunning waterfront plaza. The plaza will be the core feature of the revitalization project and will serve as the pier’s central gathering point, complete with a flexible outdoor space that’ll encourage year-round activities. 

Other interesting landscape features include custom-designed seating, areas for movable furniture such as tables and chairs, and tree plantings. 

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Proposed Facade that Preserves the Elements of the Original Structure. © Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects.

The new Commonwealth Pier will open up a natural amenity to pedestrians, visitors, and community members while attempting to re-engage the waterfront. A proposed connection to the Harbourwalk, along with an open-air plaza will encourage street-front retail and open-air dining. Niches and alcoves will be carved along the building’s exterior facade, while an improved docking area will establish an active and inviting public space. 

The Harbourwalk is a paved pedestrian pathway that runs along the perimeter of Boston’s Commonwealth Pier. It offers picturesque and calming views of the Boston Harbor, downtown Boston, and East Boston. 

To further highlight these views, and give people a chance to view them, Schmidt Hammer Lassen designed shaded areas, integrated planters, and outdoor lighting. These minuscule details will provide a dynamic and hearty visitor experience.

In the words of Ahlmark, the firms involved in the revitalization of Boston’s Commonwealth Pier, have tried to take on a mindful and meticulous approach. By treating the existing historic site with curiosity and precision the architects and consultants have been able to carefully gauge the elements that make Boston’s Commonwealth Pier what it isa treasure trove of rich culture, history, and oneness. 

The project is a showcase of the importance of both cultural and architectural preservation. By engaging in a continuous dialogue with the building and site throughout the design process and collaborating with each other, the revitalization project which will be completed in 2024, is surely one to look forward to. 

References

  1. [image] Available at: <https://www.shl.dk/commonwealth-pier/> [Accessed 28 March 2021].

Pembroke. 2020. Commonwealth Pier Revitalization Construction Begins – Pembroke. [online] Available at: <https://www.pembroke.com/news/commonwealth-pier-revitalization-construction-begins/> [Accessed 28 March 2021].

Lomholt, I., 2020. Commonwealth Pier Boston – e-architect. [online] e-architect. Available at: <https://www.e-architect.com/america/commonwealth-pier-boston> [Accessed 28 March 2021].

Shl.dk. 2020. SHL – Commonwealth Pier. [online] Available at: <https://www.shl.dk/commonwealth-pier/> [Accessed 6 April 2021].

Deeksha Kamath
Author

Deeksha Kamath is a fresh graduate from Manipal School of Architecture and Planning, India, with a penchant for writing. She believes that words, when strung together beautifully, can evoke the greatest emotions in readers. With this precept, she aspires to proliferate her love for architecture, through her writing.

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