The Boston Preservation Alliance Honors The Alan & Sherry Leventhal Center
Boston University’s Sherry & Alan Leventhal Center was among only a handful of recipients of this year’s Preservation Achievement Awards. The Boston Preservation Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the City’s architectural heritage, provided an in depth explanation as to how the project demonstrated historical preservation.
Standing at the western end of the Bay State Road and within Back Bay West Architectural Conservation District, the Alan and Sherry Leventhal Center blends its historic International Style form with its new role as the home of Boston University Admissions. It is recognized as one of the few examples of International Style architecture in the Back Bay area, with original design motifs including a sleek rounded facade, open interior spaces, subtle applied ornamentation, and a textured limestone band. Erected in 1953, the building served as the University’s Hillel House until 2007; it housed lounges, dining space, classrooms, offices, and a small chapel. After Hillel relocated, the building sat challenged for a viable new use until the University decided to transform this hidden, modern gem into a focal point for prospective students and visitors. Long of interest to scholars of modern design, the structure now has a new life, central to Boston University’s urban campus, a stately blending of old and new.
The project exemplifies the challenges of balancing preservation and the renewal of International Style buildings while meeting the demands of today’s college campus. A south-facing horizontal band of windows, strategically placed below the original textured limestone façade, displays internal activity, while making the building more outward-facing and inviting. A new 150-seat auditorium, in space formally occupied by the Hillel social hall, was designed to maintain the large windows overlooking the Charles River. Along with updating existing spaces, an addition to the original building further reinforces its new role as the Admissions building. The crisp north-facing glass volume increases the functional space to accommodate larger numbers of visitors, and provides a new stair connecting all levels, detailed with the emblematic Boston University Red, to accent the circulation path. The original forms of the building have been reinforced by the new additions which appear prominently, and signal to the community that Boston University recognizes the value of its past and utilizes it as a springboard to the future.
“This renewal project allows tens of thousands of visitors each year to experience Boston’s history and character as they move through the building and site as guests of Boston University,” said Greg Galer, Executive Director of the Boston Preservation Alliance. “As a result, this transformative building serves as an anchor to a new urban plaza, becoming a marker announcing Boston University to travelers along Storrow Drive and the Charles River.
Address: 233 Bay State Road
Owner: Boston University
Architect: Goody Clancy
Project Team: Acentech, Atelier Ten, Bay State Road/Back Bay West, Architectural Conservation Commission, City of Boston, Boston Redevelopment Authority, Columbia Construction Co., Ganesh Ramachandran, Goody Clancy ,McNamara/Salvia, Inc., Mitsch Engineering, R.W. Sullivan Engineering, Reed Hilderbrand Associates, Inc., Robert Benson, Wil-Spec, LLC, WSP Flack and Kurtz