Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects’ design for the revitalisation of the Seaport World Trade Centre in Boston will enhance urban life in the city’s Seaport District

Danish architectural firm Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects is designing the Seaport World Trade Centre, an expansive mixed-use development on Commonwealth Pier in Boston’s vibrant Seaport District. The existing site, once the largest pier building in the world upon its completion in 1901, will transform to include modern, flexible office space; new retail, dining, and public amenities; and dynamic event space. International real estate advisor Pembroke drew upon the design expertise of Schmidt Hammer Lassen along with Boston-based architectural firm CBT for the adaptive reuse project that maintains the site’s historic origins while introducing new materials, increased daylight, and new points of connectivity.

Kristian Ahlmark, Partner and Design Director at Schmidt Hammer Lassen said,

“The Seaport World Trade Centre has a rich history and the ambition to become a central component of the rapidly developing Seaport District. This project is about more than redesigning a building. It becomes a masterplanning task as thousands of people will utilise the building and its surrounding plazas, courtyards and walkways each day.”

Commonwealth Pier, once a busy port of call where freight and passenger ships of all sizes made it an integral part of Boston’s maritime history, currently houses corporate offices, shops and restaurants. The revitalisation will improve public access throughout the site, greatly expand retail offerings, and enhance site resiliency and sustainability. 

Andrew Dankwerth, Senior Vice President, Design & Development for Pembroke said,

“As a pioneer development in the now thriving Seaport District, the Seaport World Trade Centre revitalisation project demanded an architectural design that would activate the waterfront location and celebrate the uniqueness of the building. Schmidt Hammer Lassen enriched the workplace, event, and retail uses by integrating public realm spaces throughout the site – fundamental elements of a vibrant new Commonwealth Pier.”

A flexible workplace connected to vibrant outdoor life
The Seaport World Trade Centre will include new commercial office space designed for flexibility and creativity with increased natural light and views. Financial services firm Fidelity Investments will fully occupy the office space upon completion.

Ahlmark explained, 

“Part of our ambition for Seaport World Trade Centre was to create a building that intertwines office life and everyday city life by creating visual connectivity throughout the building, and more open, accessible public spaces.”

Throughout the development, 15,200 square metres of new and enhanced outdoor public space including courtyards, walkways, green rest spaces, and a grand plaza, will invite office workers and the public onto the pier. The new 2,300-square-metre public waterfront plaza located near the southwest corner of the site will become the pier’s central gathering point. Conceptually designed, the plaza provides an open, flexible outdoor space able to accommodate year-round events, and is dotted with tree planting, custom seating elements, and areas for moveable tables and chairs.

Running along the entire perimeter of the project is the Harborwalk, a paved pedestrian path that provides views to downtown Boston, East Boston, and the Boston Harbor. Custom seating elements with integrated planters and lighting will line the walkway that expands occasionally at niches cut into the building’s facade. Each unique niche will provide public seating, sheltered areas, signage, and connectivity to retail and dining.

The pedestrian experience along Seaport Boulevard will improve with the addition of 4,180 square metres of new retail space across the upper and ground floors of the iconic Headhouse structure, as well as increased connectivity to the upper level of the Seaport World Trade Centre.

Preserving Boston’s maritime past
Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s design intent for Seaport World Trade Centre is to preserve many of the rich historic components of the building. The stone arches and cornice of the Headhouse will remain intact. To draw out the industrial-style warehouse character of the building’s northern extension, the façades will celebrate the building’s unique structure by exposing columns and column connections from the original structure. With the introduction of curtain wall and other lightweight materials, the building will integrate seamlessly into its neighbourhood context. Maritime activity will also continue along the pier during and after construction, which is expected to begin in early 2020. 

The Seaport World Trade Centre will incorporate site resiliency measures to meet the challenges anticipated from rising tides and storm intensity. The project has a sustainability target of LEED Gold certification and is Schmidt Hammer Lassen’s second U.S. project. In December 2018, the firm’s Monroe Blocks mixed-use project in Detroit, Michigan broke ground.