Anchoring a prominent corner of Boston’s Copley Square, where historic and modern influences converge, this series of new entrance structures made a vital hub in the City’s public transportation system fully accessible while contributing to the vibrancy of the streetscape.
The primary goal of this project was to make the Copley Station entrances ADA accessible, while also improving the overall appearance of the station and addressing maintenance issues. This project required the replacement of two existing contemporary outbound entrance structures, addition of two new elevator structures, and addition of two new remote exit stair structures. Also included was the exacting restoration of the existing historic Beaux-Arts head house. Improvements to the historic head house initially was not in the project scope, however the structure was recognized as significant resource worthy of preservation and its rehabilitation was included in the project.
A challenging site in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay Historic District, several of the subway entrances are positioned immediately adjacent to significant architectural landmarks and important cultural institutions. The project was carefully orchestrated to preserve the adjacent historic structures and create a new design image that met the needs of all project stakeholders and civic groups. Working in collaboration with the project engineer, STV, GUND designed all new above ground elements and coordinated extensively with various public agencies and neighboring constituents, including the Boston Landmarks Commission, MBTA Accessibility Coordinator, Boston Public Works Department/ Boston Public Library, New Old South Church, Trinity Church, and Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay.
The series of new steel and glass pavilions create fully accessible entrances and were designed to be read as transparent forms in a solid landscape. The new structures reinterpret materials and proportions of the historic Beaux-Arts head house and the surrounding architectural landmarks. A painted steel structure relates to details of both the Boston Public Library and the New Old South Church, while transparency allows the pavilions to recede from the streetscape and offer unobstructed views, promoting public safety. Variation in the design of the entrances creates a family of objects and reinforces the renovated historic head house as the primary vocabulary of the transportation system.
Completed in 1915, the iconic Beaux-Arts head house is one-of-a-kind in the Boston subway system. It is listed on the State and National Register of Historic Places as a contributing structure to the Back Bay Historic District, and is prominently sited immediately adjacent to the Boston Public Library, a National Historic Landmark built in 1895. Since its completion, periodic modernization and rehabilitation efforts have occurred, but through time and neglect, the fine craftsmanship of the structure became obscured by graffiti, thick layers of paint, rust, and less than sympathetic renovations and repairs. Led by the architect and consulting conservator, the wrought iron components were dismantled, restored, and fully reconstructed on the existing granite base. The stair structure was also rebuilt with new treads and a new handrail.
As described by the 2013 AIA New England design awards jury, "The light modern structures fit in well to the iconic Copley Square area. They are sophisticated, delightful entrances to the Boston transit system."