Ken Chen                                                                                                                         


The civic center sits on the boundary between Chinatown and Leather District in downtown Boston, divided by a highway tunnel and a heavy traffic. The design features a central ‘spine’ that cuts through the entire site, creating a unifying structure and linking the key entry points on either side. Secondary pathways branch off from this main axis, mirroring the lateral connection between the two distinct zones and celebrating the two unique spatial experiences as one meanders across the two sides. On the east side of the spine, the building hosts various programs including classrooms, meeting rooms on the first two floors, with recreational space and a banquet hall on the top floor. The interior walls on the first two floors gradually thicken from one side to the other along the main hallway, creating a sense of growth that can potentially expand beyond the site boundary. These thick walls are carved to be occupiable, making the smaller programs more intimate and private. In contrast, an expansive gallery occupies the other half. This open space can serve as a temporary shelter for extreme climate conditions. The curve roof form, shaped by the surrounding thresholds on the site, accentuates yet integrates the juxtaposition of the two halves. The underbelly of the curve roof softens the light and shadow within the interior spaces, enhancing the sense of openness and transition between the more intimate areas to the public realms.

Institution: Harvard Graduate School of Design
Course: Core II - SITUATE
Project: P02 - Civic Mat
Instructor: Elle Gerdeman
Year: 2024