Gateway Nubian

Nubian Square, Boston Architect / Zephyr Architects
Landscape Design / MASS Design Studio
Developer / New Urban Collaborative
Developer / Upton + Partners

Project File

quizzically The New Urban Collaborative identifies Roxbury, and specifically Nubian Square as a place that is of the greatest importance to the health and future of the City Of Boston. This historically rich, diverse, energetic place has been left uncared for by the City for far too long. Fortunately, this is the time for the square to address its problems, build on its many positives, and move confidently into the future as a focal point in the fabric of this great city.

Parcels 8 is proposed to be developed into a gateway into and out of Nubian Square. As such, this new place will function as a threshold–a places that is always reforming for the common good. Our proposal strongly emphasizes the uniqueness of the land in Parcel 8, and emphasizes the uniqueness of Nubian Square itself. Our architecture, landscape, and urban design renders a cleaner, safer, more inclusive, and sustainable place.

One of our many goals is to build upon decades of research that has been done to try and establish a feeling of unity and beauty in the area. We bring an urban design strategy to the area that fosters connectivity into the Square via beautified streets, lighting, and communication nodes, including wifi access and narrative public art. The need to access other important areas in Boston is recognized by the extension of these landscape benefits into the connector streets that link the neighborhood to the Orange Line (for Downtown access), to Longwood Medical Center (for jobs and public health), and to the Library and new planned open space at the Gateway.

We believe in building for the common good. Our proposal is the result of an intense period of engagement with community members to ensure we fit the design to the needs and desires of those who will engage with it the most. We listen and learn with the objective that our landscape and architectural proposals will disrupt patterns of decay, establishing new precedents for a healthier environment. Positive neighborhood change built on the foundation of trust and openness is our goal. We recognize the challenges of building in this place, and we are proud of our respectful relationships with the many residents of the area we have already met.

Our architecture, landscape, and program of Parcel 8 are unified in their goal to reframe the aesthetic and functional value of their sites. They share a high degree of sustainability– we are expecting LEED Platinum and Passiv Haus ratings–and compliance with best resiliency practices. Each is also focused heavily on affordable housing and neighborhood programs that support culture, education, creativity, and active street life. The building will reinforcing the street edge and introducing new life to the area. On Washington Street, the building takes a different position, stepping away from the land to allow open space and meaning to be developed. The form follows the established height of the abutting structures at the podium, placing an active program of community culture on the adjacent open space. A dense residential piece rises up in the center of the block, preserving views and shadows for the existing neighbors as well as possible.

As a transit oriented development, it is important that we place density close to the busses and trains that serve the city. Washington Street is an edge-property, and thus features below grade parking and a substantial bicycle parking and amenity facility. Our systemic approach to the neighborhood is pedestrian friendly and oriented toward beautification and connection. The neighborhood will be programmed with regular nodes of art and softscape in conjunction with our project at 40-50 Warren, and the new buildings will feature occupied green roofs, well lit entries, and activated street edges.

Parcel 8 is not only LEED Platinum, but also structurally innovative. A highly sustainable emergent structural system is being proposed. This will be a mass timber tall building– the first of its kind in Boston, and will establish new ways of thinking about how we build buildings in America. We expect to work with the various agencies in the city and state to bring this concept to fruition. Along with the Bolling Building and the Department of Neighborhood Development’s E+ projects, this will further establish Roxbury as one of North America’s most important architectural (hence cultural) vanguards. This is a flexible design that is adaptable to the technologies approved or requested at the time of construction. The building’s lowest floor is anticipated to contain the Museum of African American History, as well as space for King Boston, and a generous Nubian Square community amenity. The second and third floor are programmed with commercial office tenants, along with a amenity roof terraces for each program. This sets up the theme of the building: one of openness and fresh air. Cultural programs and educational  opportunities, equitiable living, and innovative building systems provide a healthy building that will support a high quality of life.

Beginning on the fourth floor, residential program begins to dominate, with a community residential space and terrace adjacent to work-live units. As the program transitions to a strictly residential one, the building begins to sweep away and up from the Gateway Park below, exposing handsome wood detailing that forms the backdrop to a system of terraces that climb the facade all the way to the top floor. As each rising floor’s terrace shrinks, its uses become more connected to the dwelling units behind them, reinforcing the idea that a tall building can be a humane place to live. The relationship between history, understanding the land, and a narrative building that functions as a neighborhood threshold will define and invigorate the Nubian Square streets and businesses for many years.