Shaw Contract Group conducted interviews with all firms representing Market-Award winning projects from the 2015 Design Is…Award program. As part of this process, we share a portion of the response on our blog for readers to learn more about the winning projects. These are their stories.
Here, Dagmar von Schwerin addresses the design process for ECO in Boston, MA.
Describe this project in one word.
How does this project demonstrate how design can impact users in a space?
Designed for young urban professionals, ECO offers relatively compact units balanced by a variety of common spaces available for use by tenants and their visitors. These gathering spaces support the connectivity and community sought by today’s younger residents.
Flooded with natural light and accented with the warmth of wood, bold red accents and surprises of texture in furnishings and carpeting, ECO’s crisp design creates a welcoming environment for social gatherings. The 24/7 activity in the common spaces – located at the entry, the rooftop and top corner of the building – activates the building, letting neighbors know that the lights are on and “someone is home”.
All aspects of the project were specifically designed to advance the Green District’s theme of eco-friendly living, established as a core design principal for this new, sustainable city neighborhood. It is one thing to build a sustainable building, but if the people who live in it do not live sustainably, the effort is only partially successful. In the Green District, residents sign a “Green Lease”, agreeing to adhere to a sustainable lifestyle including the use of on-site recycling and composting, free hydration stations throughout the building to cut down the use of plastic water bottles, car charging, public transportation, and on-site bike and car sharing. The integration of these sustainable options into the building’s design helps ensure that ECO achieves its full eco-friendly potential.
The elegant, modern look and feel of the project, and its clear focus on sustainable living, generated tremendous interest in the community, with all units leased before opening day.
Design is a process. Explain your journey.
ECO is the culmination of an ambitious and highly successful development conceived by The Mount Vernon Company of Boston. As the final new building in Allston’s “Green District”, ECO offers a stylish, urban alternative for those seeking eco-friendly, middle income rental opportunities.
PCA’s work with the developer, The Mount Vernon Company, began here with The Edge, a new 79-unit apartment building. Concurrently PCA was asked to upgrade and retrofit façades and building exteriors within the Green District to support the look and feel of the new neighborhood.
The design evolved with every new project, with each building developing a unique style to provide variety and choice to prospective renters. The Edge was designed with an “industrial chic” feel, in contrast to the more traditional themes of the Element apartment building (not designed by PCA) and existing multi- and single family housing in the District.
ECO’s design in turn was inspired by Scandinavian architecture, with clean simple lines and a fresh palette, playful lighting, pops of color, comfortable iconic furniture and the warmth of wood. The continuity of some of the exterior materials used at ECO, such as brick and metal panel, ties ECO back to its neighbors in its urban context. New accents, like the strong blue of the fiber cement clapboards and the pops of red in the fitness room skylights, make a stronger statement about modern style and attitude. The furnishings of the common spaces, visible from the street, further emphasize this approach.
What are the most important lessons you’ve learned through this project that you’d want to share with the designers of tomorrow?
When designing residential spaces, it is critical to think about how they will be received long term by a variety of audiences. Designing to current trends can quickly date a building. Aim to use high quality materials to create flexible, clean, neutral environments that residents can customize to their liking.
Well programmed and designed public space fosters a sense of community. Comfortable furniture is key. For people to spend time in these spaces they need to feel like they are at home.
Sustainability resonates with today’s young urban professionals – they truly want to “walk the talk”. ECO proves the viability of high quality, contemporary, housing designed specifically to promote eco-friendly living. In addition to being fully leased on opening day, the three new Green District buildings sold for $147.5 million in March of 2015, the second largest apartment transaction in the Boston’s history.