Boston University’s new building is a shimmery, translucent landmark

Boston University’s new Center for Computing & Data Sciences is a 32,050-m2 (345,000-sf), 19-story vertical building, designed in a stacked format, enveloped with patterned glazing, rising over the banks of the Charles River, dramatically re-shaping Boston’s skyline.

With architecture and interiors by KPMB Architects, it is one of largest sustainable, fossil-fuel free building in Boston. The design maximizes opportunities for collaboration, interconnectivity, and innovation while bringing sustainability to the forefront. A center designed around the digital world requires a strong emphasis on human-centered design.

The exterior is characterized by a 19-storey cantilevered, volumed silhouette rising 92.9 m (305 ft) into the sky, with eight green terraces to connect the center to the natural environment. The facade—composed of a series of angled and diagonal louvers—takes direction from the site’s unique sun patterns.

The podium is extended to occupy most of the Commonwealth Avenue frontage to complete the streetscape and generate maximum ground floor animation on the avenue. Highly transparent and porous, it functions as an urban porch for arrival, study, and gathering. The center is conceptualized to function as ascending academic neighborhoods; with bottom floors devoted to math and statistics, middle floors for computer science and the top floors for interdisciplinary work and public space. A central atrium ties the spaces together and an interconnected staircase emerges from the area, weaving upwards eight floors to connect various disciplines.

Open interior spaces take advantage of the center’s unique position in the heart of Boston, with expansive river views afforded from three sides of the building. Classrooms and collaboration spaces are illuminated with an abundance of light with floor-to-ceiling windows. The stacked campus culminates in a spectacular event space and pavilion at the top level, offering expansive views of the city.

While contributing to the building’s distinctive linear aesthetic, these design elements also contribute to comfort and sustainability efforts, keeping the building warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer. In line with Boston University’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce the institution’s carbon emissions to zero by 2040, the center is targeted to attain LEED Platinum, and is 100 percent fossil-fuel free, with a geothermal closed-loop system heating and cooling the building through a ground-source heat pump system. The building draws on renewable and alternative energy sources, including solar panels, ground water recharge system, and cutting-edge exterior shading systems.

KPMB Architects is an internationally recognized practice based in Toronto. The Center for Computing & Data Sciences is the practice’s largest academic building to date. Previous major U.S. academic projects include the Adams Center for Musical Arts at Yale University, the Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics at the University of Pennsylvania, and Robertson Hall at Princeton University.

“We’re proud to have realized a new home for the Center of Computing & Data Sciences that provides a place for ultimate connectivity, delivers on sustainability goals, prioritizes the well-being of students, faculty, and visitors, and sets a high standard for design excellence. Working closely with Boston University and our many outstanding collaborators, we aspired to design a space that fosters innovation, animates the neighborhood, and serves as a beacon for the campus on the city skyline,” says Paulo Rocha, design lead and KPMB partner.

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