Wentworth Institute of Technology - 555 Huntington Avenue Residence Hall
Architect: Contacts Without Company
Siting and design of this 112,000 square foot residence hall occurs on a tight urban space along Huntington Avenue, a major Boston thoroughfare. The residence provides a strong visual link between WIT's residential district and the academic district to the south. In scale, massing, and materials, the design responds in a delicate balance, to the neighboring Massachusetts College of Art's imposing contemporary classroom building to the west, to Wentworth Institute of Technology's classically formal academic buildings on the main campus and to Tetlow Park, a small but very visible "pocket" park directly adjacent to the residence.
An extensive design review process met the expectations of the Boston Civic Design Commission as well as the housing needs of WIT. The apartment-style residence offers modern amenities desired by today's students. This includes wireless communications, a central living room, computer lab, game room, mailroom and laundry facilities.
The design intention provides an attractive and modern housing facility for the rapidly growing on-campus student population at WIT. The building's design accommodates current housing needs as well as future student living requirements. In addition, the building reflects WIT's values of "innovation, honesty, and economy" and provides the institution with expanded presence and identity in the crowded and highly competitive Boston higher education market.
The residence hall serves as an important element in the residential precinct, while creating a friendly pedestrian edge and reinforcing Huntington Avenue as the "Avenue of the Arts". Given the historic, residential neighborhood, the design also reflects the local context of nearby Fenway community parks and row houses. The building's orientation, color, materials, and texture were important factors. The exterior masonry mirrors the scale and rhythm of the neighboring buildings while offering a long, lean, and narrow aesthetic that suits the site.
The light brick selected for the residence hall offers a clean and contextual look for the building. The façade crenellation breaks down the scale of the building mass and relates to the row houses. Stability is provided by the use of horizontal regulating elements such as the cornice, precast masonry bands, belt course, and horizontal patterning. The glowing, two-story corner window lends light to Tetlow Park at the primary entrance, and relates to the nearby buildings.
Light buff field brick is used throughout the exterior. At the base, a granite water table with dark gray accent brick offers slight texture and interest. The cornice is also light buff color and textured to match the feed brick, which draws visitors to read the engraved WIT name at the top. The building's orientation towards Huntington Avenue attracts attention and emphasizes the WIT sense of place.
This building is successful in its integration of multiple contextual elements, incorporating a wide range of design characteristics. WIT students and facilities staff are pleased with the final design which addresses each of the original design goals.