Toronto firm designs Boston University’s new landmark building

Boston University’s new Center for Computing & Data Sciences is a 32,050-m2 (345,000-sf), 19-storey vertical building, designed in a stacked format, enveloped with patterned glazing, rising over the banks of the Charles River, dramatically re-shaping Boston’s skyline.

The building’s architecture and interiors are by KPMB Architects, an internationally recognized practice based in Toronto. The Center for Computing & Data Sciences is the firm’s largest academic building to date. Previous major U.S. academic projects include the Adams Center for Musical Arts at Yale University, the Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, and Robertson Hall at Princeton University.

The centre is one of the largest sustainable, fossil-fuel free buildings in Boston. The design maximizes opportunities for collaboration, interconnectivity, and innovation while bringing sustainability to the forefront.

The exterior is characterized by a 19-storey cantilevered, volumed silhouette rising 92.9 m (305 ft) into the sky, with eight green terraces to connect the center to the natural environment. The facade—composed of a series of angled and diagonal louvers—takes direction from the site’s unique sun patterns.

The podium is extended to occupy most of the outdoor frontage to complete the streetscape and generate maximum ground floor animation on the avenue. Highly transparent and porous, it functions as an urban porch for arrival, study, and gathering. The building is conceptualized to function as ascending academic neighbourhoods; with bottom floors devoted to math and statistics, middle floors for computer science, and the top floors for interdisciplinary work and public space. A central atrium ties the spaces together and an interconnected staircase emerges from the area, weaving upwards eight floors to connect various disciplines.

Open interior spaces take advantage of the building’s unique position in the heart of Boston, with expansive river views afforded from three sides of the structure. Classrooms and collaboration spaces are illuminated with an abundance of light with floor-to-ceiling windows. The stacked centre offers a spectacular event space and pavilion at the top level, with expansive views of the city.

While contributing to the building’s distinctive linear esthetic, these design elements also contribute to comfort and sustainability efforts, keeping the building warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. In line with Boston University’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce the institution’s carbon emissions to zero by 2040, the new building is targeted to attain LEED Platinum, and is 100 per cent fossil-fuel free, with a geothermal closed-loop system heating and cooling the building through a ground-source heat pump system. The building draws on renewable and alternative energy sources, including solar panels, ground water recharge system, and cutting-edge exterior shading systems.

“We’re proud to have realized a new home for the Center of Computing & Data Sciences that provides a place for ultimate connectivity, delivers on sustainability goals, prioritizes the well-being of students, faculty, and visitors, and sets a high standard for design excellence. Working closely with Boston University and our many outstanding collaborators, we aspired to design a space that fosters innovation, animates the neighbourhood, and serves as a beacon for the campus on the city skyline,” says Paulo Rocha, design lead and KPMB partner.

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