Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of AECCafe.com, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.
District Hall in Boston, Massachusetts by Hacin + Associates
January 15th, 2015 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: Hacin + Associates
District Hall, the world’s first freestanding public innovation center in Boston. Designed by Hacin + Associates, the single story 12,000 SF pavilion is located in the heart of Boston’s Innovation District, the historically industrial South Boston waterfront now being transformed into an urban environment dedicated to fostering innovation, collaboration, and entrepreneurship. District Hall will serve as an anchor for this emerging district, conceived as a place for the innovation community to meet, exchange ideas, and host business and social events.
“District Hall is the centerpiece of a new and imaginative type of public infrastructure to promote the innovation culture and economy by providing a venue for the exchange of ideas, collaboration, and community. There is no precedent for this kind of building anywhere in the world. David Hacin and his team have created a beautiful building worthy of its mission that captures the aspiration of the district. It is functional and intimate, but also bold and expressive. It will no doubt become a memorable symbol for the Innovation District and Boston.”
-Kairos Shen, Boston’s Chief Planner
Located at 75 Northern Avenue, the facility includes a restaurant, Gather; a flexible assembly space with a capacity of 250 seats; a gathering space with lounge seating, and worktables; and a series of flexible “pods” meant to support a variety of uses, including pop-up retail shops, meetings, classes, and exhibitions.
Built on the site of the former waterfront rail yards, the building’s architecture is inspired in both material and form by the industrial and nautical uses that characterize the area. The building is comprised of two basic elements. A folded angular form containing the building’s main gathering spaces rises along the edge of the future public park, while its expansive windows and a cantilevered roof gesture dramatically toward the waterfront. A long box-car-like volume housing more intimate lounge and pod spaces with repetitive entrances defines the edge of a future street. Its interior spaces are organized along a central spine, creating a strong visual connection through the building, anchored at each end by major entrances. Dynamic LED signage at the building exterior engages the public and enhances District Hall’s presence within the district.
Within District Hall, Hacin + Associates created a dynamic hub for the Innovation Community by deploying flexible and interactive components throughout, including writeable wall surfaces by IdeaPaint, easily reconfigurable furniture by Haworth, and programmable LED lighting by Philips Color Kinetics. Roll-down overhead partitions that subdivide the large assembly space into smaller rooms, the potential for adding exterior doors at the pods to increase street access, and infrastructure to facilitate artwork and technology installations throughout the space on a rotating basis further allow for versatility and customization.
The landscape by Reed Hilderbrand mediates between the building program inside—business incubator, conferencing, and hospitality—and the busy city beyond. District Hall is set within a successionl landscape of native plantings, including a shrub thicket to buffer the current parking on the west, and a tall fescue meadow with a grove of native gray birch shading the new ICA connector. A raised dining terrace projects out from the building’s café into the landscape toward views to the harbor. The District Hall landscape prefigures the world-class urban public park, Seaport Green, which will become the defining public feature of the Seaport neighborhood also designed by H+A and Reed Hilderbrand.
“Our team recognized the unprecedented nature of District Hall from the earliest stages of its conception. At once a civic building, an informal gathering place, an urban lab, and a catalyst for innovation, the building demanded a design that was both formally distinct and programmatically flexible. As the development of its surrounding neighborhood unfolds, we can only anticipate the unique and personalized ways in which people will interact with District Hall and the impact it will have on the City of Boston.”
-David Hacin, President of Hacin+ Associates
District Hall is the result of a unique public-private partnership between the City of Boston and Boston Global Investors and is operated by the Venture Cafe Foundation, an organization that supports start-up ventures in Cambridge. The building’s restaurant and cafe are operated by the Briar Group.
The heart of District Hall is a flexible, publicly accessible gathering space directly connected to all of the major surrounding streets and the adjacent restaurant, Gather. Anchored by the restaurant’s sister cafe, Brew, this ‘lounge’ area can be programmed for multiple scenarios, including networking events, co-working, and more casual public use. With writable walls (provided by sponsor IdeaPaint) and a variety of innovative office furnishing configurations (provided by sponsor Haworth), the lounge area provides the surrounding Innovation District with a space for both the public and the burgeoning innovation community to gather and interact. Designed by H+A with sponsor Philips Color Kinetics, a lighting ‘spine’ of programmable colored LEDs visually connects the gathering space with entrances on Seaport Boulevard and Northern Avenue, reinforcing the role of the building as a public place and path.
A divisible, double height assembly space accommodates up to 250 people in a variety of configurations. Located at grade for maximum flexibility for trade shows and demonstrations of new technology or vehicles, the assembly space connects directly to the gallery/pre-function area along the main circulation spine and gathering spaces of District Hall. A series of adjacent retail and meeting ‘pods’ can also be programmed for related uses, either temporary or permanent. The space is directly serviced by
the restaurant and cafe and provides a venue for catered events, public or private, that allow the entire District Hall facility to be flexibly used and programmed to serve the Innovation District neighborhood into the future.
District Hall’s new restaurant, Gather, is located in a double height space with dramatic panoramic views of the ICA, Boston Harbor, Fan Pier Park and Marina, as well as the future Seaport Square Green. The restaurant, also designed by Hacin + Associates, extends the industrial architectural character of the building into the casual, full service dining room, bar and cafe. The space features a long angular tile and slate bar with a ceiling mounted beer tap and a main dining area. The restaurant opens onto a wraparound outdoor terrace partially protected by the building’s distinctive main canopy and directly accessible from the street and future park. Inside, a folded steel and plywood ‘light cloud’ with dozens of hanging light bulbs is suspended in the space to provide an intimate nighttime ambiance for diners as well as a unique visual design feature for pedestrians along Northern Avenue.
ABOUT HACIN + ASSOCIATES
Hacin + Associates, led by President, David J. Hacin, FAIA is a collaborative, multi-disciplinary architecture and interior design firm committed to the highest standards of professional practice, believing that architecture and design play a leading role in solving the problems of our time and defining the legacy and quality of our culture and society. Working at a wide variety of scales, H+A develops design solutions that bring clarity, meaning and a strong sense of place to the built environment.
Contact Hacin + Associates