The northeast corner of the Bolling building, which features the restored façade of the 1895 Ferdinand furniture store.
Mecanoo The northeast corner of the Bolling building, which features the restored façade of the 1895 Ferdinand furniture store.

Boston Public Schools employees are moving into the recently unveiled Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Boston, designed by Netherlands-based firm Mecanoo Architecten and Watertown, Mass.–based Sasaki Associates. The $123.9-million building sits at the heart of the redeveloping Dudley Square in the Roxbury neighborhood, and will also house the Roxbury Innovation Center business incubator as well as ground-floor retail.

The 215,000-square-foot building actually melds three old buildings: the Curtis Block, built in 1888, the 1890 Waterman & Sons building, and the Ferdinand Furniture Building, built in 1895. The firms restored the façades of the three historic structures, but the rest of the Bolling building—named after a former city councilor and Boston's first black city council president—is new construction. Mecanoo emailed ARCHITECT a statement about the scope of the project:

The original brief only included renovation of the Ferdinand building. Having visited the site, Mecanoo convinced the city to purchase the Curtis building and Waterman building so the entire triangle shaped plot could be redeveloped with one unified vision, creating an all sided building. The facades of the five story limestone and terracotta Ferdinand, the Curtis in its Queen Anne style of red brick, and the Waterman built in Boston Granite have all been carefully restored. The restored facades honor the area's history, bringing back its former significance for businesses and the community.

It's a little confusing to visualize, so ARCHITECT drew up a very rough map.

Basemap created in Google Maps

In September, critic Alexandra Lange wrote in The New York Times: "The new building does not seem parachuted in, but inflects to the existing fabric, taking its curves not from the computer but from the distinctive round corner of the 1895 Ferdinand building."

Mecanoo

Mecanoo

This is the first project that Mecanoo has completed in the United States. Farther down the East Coast, the firm is also working on a renovation of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's 1972 Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library with D.C. firm Martinez+Johnson Architecture.

"In my dream, this should be more like a village," said Francine Houben, Hon. FAIA, Mecanoo's founding partner and creative director, to The Boston Globe about the Boston project. "I call it Ferdinand Village. It should be welcoming from all sides. People on the street can see the craftsmanship in the bricks. Parents with children will come in and feel welcome; my dream is to have free computers here for children who don't have them at home. It will be a catalyst for the neighborhood. There can be educational events; the Roxbury Film Festival can have screenings here."

Creating community hubs seems to be the Houben ethos. In an interview with ARCHITECT last year about the MLK Library, she said, "The entrance, in my dreams, is that even a father with a five-year-young son or daughter could enter the building and both be inspired."

The southeast corner of the building.
Mecanoo The southeast corner of the building.

Southwest corner of the building, which features the restored façades of the Curtis Block (far left) and the Waterman & Sons building (left).
Mecanoo Southwest corner of the building, which features the restored façades of the Curtis Block (far left) and the Waterman & Sons building (left).

For more information and images, visit ARCHITECT's Project Gallery.

All images courtesy of Mecanoo.