Boston Arts Academy
Architecture firm: Perkins Eastman Architects, Wilson Butler Architects
Owner: Boston Public Schools
Project site: Previously developed
Building program type(s): Education - K-12 school
This new purpose-built facility for Boston Arts Academy, the city’s first and only public high school for the visual and performing arts, replaces its original home and nurtures a community of artists and academic innovation. The building’s innovative design allows the school to accelerate its unique program, which provides critical pathways to students who lack access to both formal arts training and college preparatory education.
Since its founding in 1998, the school had been housed in a post office vehicle maintenance facility built in the 1920s. The heavy concrete structure hampered the school’s mission as the only portfolio- and audition-based high school in Boston’s public school system. From its prominent corner across the street from Fenway Park, the new five-story school is a beacon for the neighborhood that articulates its importance as a learning community to passersby. It also fosters the health and well-being of students, faculty, and staff with its wide range of features that boost its indoor environmental quality and focus on daylight, thermal comfort, and reduced CO2 levels to improve cognitive function.
The project was envisioned as a laboratory for artistic and academic innovation that serves a diverse community of artist scholars as they prepare for college or their professional careers. Accordingly, the school was designed as a community campus that expands it's capacity by more than 15%. Through its state-of-the-art rehearsal and dance spaces, fashion and fine arts studios, gymnasium, STEAM lab, and professional theaters, students are introduced to the latest technologies and processes that prominent artists and entertainers use.
“This is not just a laboratory but a vehicle for high performance that provides a wealth of opportunities for students. It’s an incredible asset for the Boston public school system.” - Jury Comment
Its open and immersive gathering spaces encourage a collegiate atmosphere throughout the building and at the street level, where formal and informal learning opportunities flow out of the building and into the surrounding community. Given its notable civic presence on Ipswich Street, directly across from the home of the Red Sox, the school’s street-level gathering spaces highlight the innovation and creativity spurred by its curriculum.
Additionally, while the school’s primary programming is aimed at students, the building also offers rental space for local artists and performers. Such access allows the school to develop a more expansive community learning environment in which students not only create their own work but can also draw inspiration from many of the region’s working artists.