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Construction begins on the towering Center for Computing and Data Sciences at Boston University

Jenga Juicing

Construction begins on the towering Center for Computing and Data Sciences at Boston University

The cantilevering floor plates and integrated solar shades will help reduce passive heat gain. (Courtesy KPMB Architects)

Boston University will soon receive a tower that could make its campus an architectural destination up there with those of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Harvard University on the opposite side of the Charles River. Toronto-based firm KPMB Architects and national building contractor Suffolk broke ground earlier this week on a 19-story tower for the university’s new Center for Computing and Data Sciences. When completed, the tower will be the university’s first major teaching center in over 50 years, as well as the campus’s tallest building.

With nearly 350,000 square feet of interior space, the new center will combine Boston University’s departments of mathematics, statistics, and computer science under one roof to further interdisciplinary research in the field of data science. The building’s verticality and distinct profile were designed to maximize opportunities for interactivity among its students and faculty while signaling the university’s emphasis on STEM research to the world abroad. The terra-cotta-colored envelope was chosen to stand out against the campus’s primarily grey buildings. The project’s largely transparent ground floor will occupy nearly the entirety of its rectangular site to draw the public in, as well as to complete the streetscape along Commonwealth Avenue, the university’s main thoroughfare.

Profile view of a cantilevering, Jenga-like tower
The cantilevering floor plates make room for green roofs and balconies with views towards Boston and Cambridge across the Charles River. (Courtesy KPMB Architects)

The facility will be the largest carbon-neutral building in Boston since the Boston Climate Action Plan Update was enacted in 2019, which aims to significantly reduce carbon emissions and other greenhouse gases for all newly constructed buildings in the region. The facility will not only be fossil fuel-free but will also feature energy-efficient elements including advanced solar shading devices, geothermal energy production, and triple-glazed windows. The cantilevering design makes room for several green roofs and balconies that will bring occupants closer to fresh air and city views. While the materiality of the building was not resolved when KPMB’s proposal was first showcased in 2018, the cantilevering floor plates were carried through to the final design.

Construction is expected to move quickly as the project is slated to be completed by 2022.