Reconstructing the High-Performance Workspace

Designing for the Fortune 500
Boston, Massachusetts

The same multinational investment and financial company that aggrandized a beautiful client-facing office by the Boston Harbor also needed to house the operations and fintech side of its business within a high-performance workspace. This particular environment required more privacy from the public and an appealing space to accommodate over 1,000 high-caliber commercial investment employees. Due to its busy atmosphere, easy access to public transportation, and centralized location, office space at 451 D Street in the Seaport District was chosen to round out the bank’s Boston presence.

A Cohesive Journey

The existing 451 D Street had many features that could be modified, but one inescapable obstacle involved its lack of cohesion: the building consisted of an older unit and a new addition joined together. The physical level change between the two created a six-step height difference in parts of the floor plan, thus challenging SMMA to unify two different kinds of architecture spaced about four feet apart. Though the team couldn’t change the floor levels, they were able to create a consistent interior journey for its tenants and visitors through the building’s materials.

Despite some of the brick from the older section having been painted over and modified, SMMA’s interior designers chose to highlight this historic architecture and use it to unify the space; they preserved it by exposing the majority of the textured brick walls. To further join the floor plate and merge textures, brick veneer was added from the open office area to the rest of the office. They also exposed brilliant terracotta arches and carried visible acoustical ceiling clouds throughout the building to show off the large concrete mushroom-shaped columns of the new addition and make the space feel substantial.

Differentiating Spaces

The 451 D Street floor plans also demanded an informed spatial planning strategy to differentiate elements throughout the large area, providing visual guidance and room for a small client center on the 8th floor. The building had a natural divide of space due to its 475-foot by 100-foot floor plate; the elevation change, elevator lobbies, and building core spaces forced the office into different “neighborhoods” that required a uniquely balanced number of amenities and space types. SMMA established conference rooms, huddle rooms, breakout spaces with alternative seating options, open lounge seating, and high-top seating options for each designated neighborhood. They also adapted rows of unassigned bench workstations in the open office areas.

 

The client center, which includes a large boardroom that can seat 22 people and three other conference rooms, incorporates its own pantry and a warm oak reception desk. SMMA changed the company’s color palette to more sophisticated gray tones by including porcelain tile, fabric-wrapped acoustical panels, and linear carpet patterns. These touches elevate the client-facing lobby and emphasize a certain refinement for its visitors. Other key design elements in the building, such as the brick veneer and carpet wayfinding, link the center back to the rest of the office space.

  

Celebrating Local Ties

After conducting intensive research on the client, SMMA’s interior design team discovered a little-known history; its founder had geographical roots in Boston, where he attended high school and worked before moving to New York to start the now-famous financial company. This knowledge evolved into the project’s broader design goal: to honor the employees in Boston, the local culture, and historical ties of the brand by bringing “Boston flair” to the interior of the space.

 

When laying out the office locations and work stations, they took a unique spin on wayfinding techniques; based off Boston’s Freedom Trail, interior designers distinguished the main circulation spaces from the more general open office areas through varying grey-toned carpet options and patterns. SMMA was further inspired by notable Boston figure Paul Revere’s house, using reclaimed wood from the region in the space’s work cafes. Perhaps most visually apparent, the team worked with a fellow design company on the client’s standardized graphics package to customize it specifically to the Boston landscape. The images include everything from historical Boston images, company-related graphics, and maps of different areas of the city that enhance the office’s neighborhoods and bring the “Boston flair” full-circle.