Reconstructing the High-Performance Workspace

D Street Project
Boston, Massachusetts

A multinational investment and financial company that established a beautiful client-facing office by the Boston Harbor also needed to house the operations and fintech side of its business. While still attracting high-caliber talent, this particular office required more privacy from the public and the space to accommodate over 1,000 high-caliber commercial investment employees. Due to its busy atmosphere, easy access to public transportation, and centralized city location, the company selected 451 D Street in the Seaport District to round out its 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 merged with a new addition. 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 could not modify floor differences, they were able to create a consistent interior journey for its tenants and visitors through the building’s materials.

Back-End high performance workspace at 451 D Street.
Back-End high performance workspace at 451 D Street.

Despite some of the brick from the older section having been painted over and modified, SMMA’s interior designers chose to highlight its historic architecture to unify the space. Preservation efforts came through the exposure of its 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, showing off large concrete mushroom-shaped columns from the new addition and making the space feel substantial.

Differentiating Spaces

451 D Street demanded an informed spatial planning strategy to differentiate elements throughout the large floor plan, providing visual guidance and room for a 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 core spaces forced the office into different “neighborhoods” that required a uniquely balanced number of amenities and room types. SMMA designated conference rooms, huddle rooms, breakout spaces, open lounge seating, and high-top seating options for each designated neighborhood. They also adapted rows of unassigned bench workstations.

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 adapted the company’s color palette to more sophisticated gray tones through 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 interior.

Back-End high performance workspace at 451 D Street.


Back-End high performance workspace at 451 D Street.

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 a broader design goal to honor the employees in Boston, its local culture, and the historical ties of the brand by incorporating “Boston flair.”

When planning office locations and workstations, the team utilized inspiration from Boston’s Freedom Trail to enhance wayfinding techniques. Main circulation spaces were defined from 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 and used reclaimed wood from the region in the work cafes. Perhaps most visually apparent, a fellow design company provided the client’s standardized graphics package. The package includes everything from historical Boston images, company-related graphics, and maps of different areas of the city, enriching the office neighborhoods and bringing the “Boston flair” full-circle.