The Mecanoo Project firm from Delft, The Netherlands, recently finished a project with Sasaki Associates which incorporated three existing buildings in Boston’s historic Dudley Square. The new building is home to the city’s school administration and it carefully preserves and celebrates the historic character of the neighborhood.
The square in which the building sits has been a transit hub for the city for about 110 years, the designers state. The design incorporates the 1895 Frerdinand building, preserving its limestone and terracotta facade. The same goes for the facades the 1888 Curtis building, which uses a Queen Anne style of red brick and the Waterman building of 1890, which uses a Boston granite style. It was the architects’ hope that the project would return life to a series of buildings intimately linked to the identity of the community. A historic rail track was preserved and serves as the main circulation route on the lower level.
The firm released a 9-minute documentary, linked to this post, about the exacting process of bricklaying that went into the design. Foreman Mike Sullivan of Grande Masonry discusses how his workers approached the project, which includes large granite blocks, bands of brick that run horizontally across the building, and the “soldiered” terracotta, which are angled away from the building. The workers had to complete a “sample panel” of the work to get an idea of how the finished project would look. It was then that Sullivan realized what they were getting themselves into. He said the workers each had an angled piece of plywood to get the soldiered bricks set just-so.
“It’s not in their comfort zone,” he states in the video. “It’s a little bit of a puzzle in the beginning.”
But ultimately rewarding, according to Sullivan. The video shows the masons working underneath tarps in the cold and snow. This caused some buzz from passers-by who would often approach the workers to talk about the unique project. As the workers finished each night they looked up at their work with fresh eyes, Sullivan said.
“Sometimes you walk by and say, ‘Wow, did I do that?’ I’m pretty sure it’s something we’ll all be proud of in the end,” he said.
Above image: The Dudley Municipal Center by Mecanoo Project.
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Workers from Grande Masonry talk about the exacting bricklaying process at the Dudley Municipal Center in Boston. Video by Mecanoo Project.