The complex adaptive reuse rehabilitated and transformed the historic buildings into an intimately scaled commercial office development and public park.
Slated for demolition, GUND Partnership led the comprehensive restoration and reuse plan, which involved extensive restoration, modernization and landscape improvements.
GUND Partnership's offices are located in the original 1814 Bulfinch Building.
GUND's 2008 interior renovation received LEED Gold certification.
Now home to the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, a former courtroom was meticulously restored and repurposed as a theatre.
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Bulfinch Square
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Bulfinch Square is a Certified Historic Rehabilitation comprised of six, 19th and 20th century courthouses that served as the seat of government for Middlesex County from 1814 to 1974. The restoration and adaptive reuse completed in 1984 rehabilitated and transformed the historic buildings into an intimately scaled commercial office development and public park.

Of the 19th and 20th century courthouse buildings, the oldest dates back to 1814, and is credited to architect Charles Bulfinch, Boston’s renowned neo-classical architect. The original Bulfinch Building was expanded in 1848. In 1889, the adjacent Superior Court Building was constructed, and in 1901 and 1924 two other additions expanded the complex to occupy a full block.

Following the construction in 1974 of a modern high-rise judicial facility across the street, the historic courthouse complex was abandoned and the building, which then sat vacant for ten years, were slated for demolition. Through the efforts of the preservation community, the complex was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places and was saved for reuse. GUND Partnership led the comprehensive restoration and reuse plan, which involved extensive restoration, modernization and landscape improvements.

The process of reconstruction began with the demolition of three “link” structures (including the 1901 and 1924 additions which had obscured the original Bulfinch facade) and with the reclamation of their footprints as open space. Conceived as a courtyard, this “new” space was harnessed as the organizing element of Bulfinch Square, unifying the group into a comfortable and coherent whole while allowing each structure to retain its own distinct presence. Enclosed by two existing buildings and two new garden structures, this space with the restored Bulfinch building as its focal piece, acts as a gathering place for workers and visitors.

The architectural restoration and reuse plans balanced concern for historical detail with the need to create functional office facilities with up-to-date systems. The courthouse buildings required extensive repairs and reconstruction to restore their dignity. Through extensive research to the original building plans and restoration methods, much of the ornamental plaster detailing that had been lost was recreated. In addition, historically accurate paint colors and finishes, including decorative stenciling was reproduced to reclaim the grandeur of the original design.

Several small public and private offices now occupy Bulfinch Square, including the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center (CMAC). Located in the former Hall of Records, CMAC provides facilities for use by local art organizations. Their central space is the meticulously restored, two-story former courtroom. It is used as an experimental theater and lecture hall supported by theatrical lighting and sound equipment. Other areas serve as art galleries and related support spaces.

In restoring the architectural integrity of the individual buildings and reclaiming the open space, this project has revitalized the urban fabric of East Cambridge. The buildings comprising Bulfinch Square continue as landmarks and the new courtyard serves as a vital green space, anchoring the eastern edge of the neighborhood.

COMPLETION

1984

SIZE

70,000 SF

AWARDS

AIA New England, Excellence in Architecture Award
Victorian Society in America, New England Chapter, Award for Conservation
Builder, Grand Award

PHOTOGRAPHY

Steve Rosethal

OTHER PROJECTS