Architecture firm: Abacus Architects + Planners
Owner: 2Life Communities
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
The idea for Weinberg House originated when the City of Boston offered its owners and operators an underused half-acre piece of land that adjoined an existing affordable senior housing development. The new building complements the original Jose Luis Sert 790 apartment campus designed in the early 1970’s, but with materials that are warmer and more engaging than the signature precast and cast-in-place concrete of the period.
Weinberg House was developed by a nonprofit with a stellar reputation for affordable senior housing that boasts a wide range of services for residents. Its art programs and discussion groups keep residents engaged intellectually, while its healthy living programs encourage physical activity. The focus on “aging in community” has often resulted in healthier resident populations compared to the typical aging population.
"Taking a sliver of a site and connecting the residents to such a busy, vibrant, and walkable community is very commendable."- Jury Comment
Although the existing campus’ buildings were intended to create the feeling of a village, the concrete structure is often viewed as unfriendly and its interiors cramped. A key request for the design team was to respect the existing architecture with a new building that brings a new vitality to the campus.
“Taking a sliver of a site and connecting the residents to such a busy, vibrant, and walkable community is very commendable,” noted the jury. “The inclusion of the landscaped ‘hidden drive’ creates and adds much to the delight of this facility that connects to an existing larger senior campus. A very fresh and colorful appeal and look to senior housing.”
In the new building, the entire first floor and nearly half of the second provide more than 10,000 square feet of community space. The floors above include 61 one-bedroom apartments. A landscaped drive that welcomes all to the site runs parallel to the bar-shaped building. A drop-off and turnaround were inserted to integrate the building’s massing. Its projecting bays, stepped-back roofline, and the articulation of its skin all help to scale the six-story building to the pedestrian context. A bridge on the second floor connects the new building to a sequence of community spaces in the original complex.
"The inclusion of the landscaped ‘hidden drive’ creates and adds much to the delight of this facility that connects to an existing larger senior campus. A very fresh and colorful appeal and look to senior housing."- Jury Comment
This was a much-needed project; many residents have lived their whole lives in the surrounding neighborhood but have found themselves priced out as they age. All of them require affordable housing to remain in the area, and Weinberg House allows them to maintain their existing connections to the neighborhood while forming new bonds with fellow residents. The new building’s spatial structure supports that, fostering an environment where everyone is part of the same “household.”