The Community Rowing Boathouse offers access to the waters of the Charles River in more ways than one: It serves as the first riverside home for a largely volunteer-run nonprofit (which has been operating seasonally out of a nearby hockey rink for the past 20 years), and it is the only publicly accessible boathouse in the university-dominated world of crew. Located on a site leased from the state of Massachusetts and allowed to be built on the floodplain only because of its classification as a river-dependent building, the boathouse is a cleverly restrained project that is almost self-conscious in its simplicity.
The 30,000-square-foot facility offers storage space for more than 170 boats on the first floor of the two-story main structure and in a separate, single-story hangar; the upper level of the main building houses classrooms, exercise rooms, boat repair, and administrative spaces. Site constraints necessitated the storage of boats parallel to the river (rather than the traditional perpendicular). Operable composite wood veneer louvers—measuring 30 inches by 18 feet—on the perimeter of the main structure's ground floor allow for light and ventilation in the boat storage spaces. A ventilated system of open-joint laminated glass shingles mounted on aluminum clips serves the same purpose in the adjacent hangar, while placing the boats on display and saving them from potentially damaging UV rays. A further series of fixed composite wood veneer louvers allows light into the upper level of the main structure while still shielding locker rooms and hiding mechanical units from view.
One of the aspects of the project that the jury most appreciated was the textural quality of the buildings' surfaces. Juror Coleman Coker said that “[the building] has a tactile quality, and I like the way that it opens and closes feasibly. I think that's a really interesting thing for a building, particularly a building that has movement in it.” Karen Van Lengen also appreciated the project as a whole. “It's a very simple, crafted structure that holds these very beautiful boats. And that sort of simplicity, the formal simplicity of the building against the sort of beautiful, sleek geometry of the boats, is very nice.”