Tree of Life artwork by Gustav Klimt inspires Massachusetts College of Art and Design
A $52m residence hall that personifies the Massachusetts College of Art and Design has completed in Boston. Designed by architecture firm ADD Inc, the tower doubles the college’s housing capacity and provides an innovative environment where 493 students can live, study and play at affordable, state college rental rates.
The curved base - the proverbial trunk of the tree - was designed to accommodate an underground tunnel that swerves through the site and required architects to cantilever the rectangular building above.
Designers drew on the best ideas from junior and senior staff members to harmonise the goals and aspirations of college professors, administrators, students, trustees, alumni and the building’s owner, the Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA). ADD Inc conducted in-depth benchmarking, hosted focus groups and design charrettes, and developed full-scale mock-up units for students to explore and critique.
“MassArt wanted the building to stand out in the Boston skyline and meaningfully identify them as an art college,” said B.K. Boley, lead architect and principal, ADD Inc. “It was the students’ idea that the building look like a painting and that it be just as colorful and vibrant as they are. ADD Inc suggested Gustav Klimt’s 'Tree of Life' which helps convey the school’s rebirth and continuation.” In September, the incoming student residents voted to nickname the building, “The Tree House”.
The 21-storey, 145,600 sq ft building features a ground floor café and living room, a second floor health centre, and a third-floor communal ‘Pajama Floor’ with kitchen, game room, laundry facilities, and fitness centre. The rest of the 17 floors are made up of 136 suites configured in single, double and three-bedroom layouts.
ADD Inc drew inspiration from Klimt’s famous 1909 painting as a metaphor for the building. The façade features 5,500 boldly coloured metal panels in five custom colours arranged at five different widths and depths. The colours range from dark brown at the base to mirror tree bark, and grow progressively lighter, making the building appear taller. Green window panels punctuate the façade to represent the tree’s leaves. The building is such a unique highlight in the skyline that it has transformed MassArt’s image and presence along the Avenue of the Arts.
MassArt’s architecture and interior design students helped shape the design and function of the ground floor café. Students wanted it to serve primarily as a nightspot for those too young to go to clubs or lounges. In addition, the café is open to the public. They also suggested a central communal table that glows like a fire in the cold winter evenings to help draw students in and create opportunities for conversations between Wentworth, Massachusetts College of Pharmacy, and MassArt students, the three institutions share dining and health center facilities.