Robert Benson

The University of Massachusetts Boston, traditionally known as a commuter campus, has always wanted to offer its students a full “live-learn” experience by adding on-campus housing. Like other urban universities, finding affordable housing near the school is a challenge for UMass Boston students. To help deal with this issue, a new residence and dining hall was added via a public-private partnership.

The new residence and dining hall consists of two separate residential buildings on a single site near the primary campus entrance. The first building is a standalone rectangular form, while the second is an L-shaped structure with the ground-floor dining hall filling the inside of the L.

The exteriors feature contemporary architecture using a mix of masonry and metal-panel cladding. The interior finishes include polished concrete floors, solid surface counters, and natural woods. The first floor of each building consists of amenity spaces with dining areas, meeting rooms, and lounges.

Each residential floor is organized around a centralized common area lounge. The project accommodates several intentional live-learn spaces, seminar and group study rooms, and campus administrative offices.

Eight different unit types with varying price points were created, including single, double, triple, and quadruple occupancy rooms. Fully furnished units include a bed, a dresser, a desk, a chair, and closet space for each student. Residential rooms offer large windows with views of the campus and downtown Boston.

The project achieved LEED Gold certification for its green efforts and features, including brownfield site redevelopment, cool roofing, and vegetated open space. Plumbing fixtures are low-flow, the building envelope is tight, and lighting is LED.

The 28,000-square-foot dining space is efficiently designed to serve as additional study or function space during non-dining hours. The glass, south-facing wall can swing open during warm weather via terrace doors, enabling diners to sit out on the pedestrian concourse. Purposefully designed multipurpose conference, seminar, and tutoring rooms were important priorities for the chancellor and the school administration.

The Beacon’s Walk serves as a pedestrian spine for the buildings and includes patios, a promenade, and green space. Building common areas spill into these outdoor spaces, activating the landscape and the pedestrian experience.