First developed in the 1830s, Boston’s Fort Point neighborhood, now a Landmark district, is a vibrant assemblage of former warehouses and manufacturing buildings sensitively converted for office, retail, and housing. Because a single company, the Boston Wharf Company, developed much of the district, the buildings are cohesive in materials, scale, and massing. When it came time to construct a new building in Fort Point on an empty corner lot, the design team was faced with a challenge. They needed to design a building that was unquestionably new but simultaneously fit within the context of the historic architecture and also met the guidelines of the historic district. To do so they extensively studied the contextual framework of the surrounding neighborhood. The new building embraces the scale and rhythm of the historic streetscape and the muted, industrial color palate allows the building to recede so that the rich colors of the historic masonry around the site dominate. And yet, the new building at 10 Farnsworth makes its own, modern statement creating a dynamic blend of old and new.
Another challenge the project team faced was the imminent threat of floods, already impacting this part of Boston. To prepare for the impacts of rising waters, the design incorporated flood proofing elements at the ground level including a concrete-walled “bathtub” up to a specific height within the façade itself, hidden from view. This “bathtub” will protect the ground floor retail space and access to the residential units above from flood damage. Designing a new building in an old neighborhood with acute risks of flooding is a challenge, but this project is a great example of an innovative, sustainable design that is appropriate in its context.
“Replacing lost buildings in historic neighborhoods is never easy. The infill challenge has dogged preservationists forever. Bold new? Mimicry? Modern interpretation of the old? It’s difficult and the same solution is difficult to transport site to site,” says Greg Galer, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance. “10 Farnsworth takes a pensive yet bold approach in an eclectic, Landmarked, warehouse neighborhood all while addressing resiliency challenges where dumpsters were literally floating down the street this past winter.”
Boston City Hall-Environmental Department
Existing Conditions Surveys
Feldman Land Surveyors
The Green Engineer
Howard Stein Hudson
Landworks Studio, Inc.
Price Sustainability Associates
Simpson Gumpertz & Heger
Sladen Fenstein Integrated
Historic Preservation Forum Addresses Impacts of Climate Change
The Alliance starts the process to landmark the Fort Point Channel District in 1987
In the News
As neighborhoods change over generations, it’s important that touchpoints to their past both remain in place and sensitively evolve to maintain their relevance.