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This blog is a place for dialogue on issues and actions relating to Boston's unique built environment and the preservation and continuing evolution of historic resources within it. My goal, as the Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance, is to post timely, relevant and thought-provoking intelligence, ideas, and insights that will engage conversations, inform our actions, and broaden perspectives on preservation.

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Greg Galer, Executive Director, Boston Preservation Alliance

Executive Director

AllianceViews Blog

2017 Preservation Achievement Award Winner: Shawmut Design and Construction Headquarters

In conjunction with our 29th Annual Preservation Achievement Awards, we are profiling each of this year's winning projects. Follow this series to get a special look at projects that honor and update the character of Boston.

September 18th, 2017  |  Posted by: Boston Preservation Alliance

Shawmut Design and Construction has offices in Boston, West Springfield, New Haven, Providence, New York, Miami, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Since 1994, the headquarters for this national construction management firm have been located in a classic brick-and-beam warehouse at 560 Harrison Avenue. The imposing South End structure was originally built in 1890 for the Emerson Piano Company. Rather than moving to a different space, the Shawmut team envisioned updating their existing offices to suit the company’s evolving needs, while embracing the building’s historic, industrial character. With the help of CBT Architects, the team capitalized on the original aspects of the building while simultaneously creating a thoroughly modern workspace.

Before: Shawmut Headquarters



The new renovation highlights iconic features of the warehouse like its brick masonry, ornamental metal, historic wood floors, and original beams, while also using constantly evolving spaces to inspire collaboration and energize the working environment. Not only did the team transform a disjointed office into a fluid, light-flooded, and employee-focused space, they also overcame the logistical challenges of working in the occupied company headquarters. The project team carefully strategized and phased the renovations to preserve a high-quality, productive environment for employees working adjacent to an active construction zone.

AFTER: Shawmut Headquarters

The renovation managed to reconfigure the offices form 69% private offices and 31% isolated workstations to 9% private offices and 91% fluid workstations embracing the openness of the industrial space. Previously, natural interaction was limited by the fractured environment, but now communication between team members occurs organically. The project team created a flexible array of workstations to accommodate the various needs and working styles of this multi-generational user group. To do this, they developed a simple furniture kit that can be easily reconfigured to accommodate the needs of any employee. These individual workstations feature sit-to-stand desks and minimal obstruction to the rest of the office. Most importantly, the kits adapt to fit the working style of the employee.

The project team was also able to create an assortment of collaborative spaces for company meetings, social gatherings, and casual conversations. Employees enjoy the eighteen types of multi-use areas now positioned throughout the headquarters, including a no-talk/no-phone room dedicated to individual, focused work. There are also now ten different types of work areas, as well as an increase in total open space.

“The building is a set of contradictions: it is a solid structure that still remains flexible enough to successfully survive decades of transformation,” says Shawmut. 560 Harrison serves as a reflection of Shawmut’s identity, craftsmanship, and respect for Boston tradition within the ever-evolving SoWa Art & Design District. Now the company itself benefits from the outstanding skillfulness, agency, and consideration that they are known for. They can demonstrate themselves why preservation works to meet—and even enhance—modern life and work styles.


Project Details: 560 Harrison Avenue, South End
Owner/Developer: GTI Properties
Architect: CBT Architects
Project Team: Red Thread Spaces Shawmut Design and Construction

Written and researched by Jessica Saunders

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