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the architect’s role in designing the

MACRO and the MICRO the sierra building

northpoint master plan














the architect’s role in designing the

MACRO and the MICRO northpoint master plan

Copyright Š 2009 by Northeastern University School of Architecture All rights reserved First printing April 2009 Published by Northeastern University School of Architecture 360 Huntington Ave Boston, Massachusetts 02115 No part of this publication may be used, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, except as permitted under Section 107 or 108 or the 1976 United States Copyright Act, without the prior written permission from the authors. Unless specifically stated otherwise all content is property of the authors. Every reasonable attempt has been made to identify owners of copyright, photographs, diagrams and images. Errors or omissions with be corrected in subsequent editions.

the sierra building

5 CBT Case Study

a case study in the architect’s role in designing the macro and the micro through team integration, coordination, and organization

by cavin costello and elizabeth utz

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7 CBT Case Study

abstract Attention to detail is imperative for the success of a project, since it is the accumulation of details that make up a whole. On the other hand, attention to the overall vision of a project can help attain projected goals on time and accurately by understanding how to arrange the details. Many times people lose site of either the big picture or small picture when working on one or the other. An architect has the ability to coordinate between the macro scale and the micro scale while integrating the organization of them throughout the process of a project. The ability to simultaneously design at both the micro and macro level enables a foundation for better technique in the planning process, which can lead to more successful and sustainable results. Planning is not limited to the built environment; it also affects policies and funding, regional transportation, relationships, and societal and cultural issues. However, it is ultimately about the physical environment and including architects may reduce the possibility of the master plan consisting of only numbers and terms like “mixed use development.� What does mixed use development mean in plan? What do these numbers really mean? Planners are often concerned with the pretty picture, and may lack rigorous thought on the constructability of the parcels being defined. These ideas can benefit from an architect’s attention to detail by being tested physically. Parcel testing is analyzing each parcel with different combinations of program in order to discover the best solutions. In doing this, the planner learns how each building can play off of each other, which creates flexibility. This flexibility in macro design allows for adaptation to the physical, social, and economic changes that occur during the typically long execution phase. Opportunities that are unavailable in loose plans may be revealed during this testing process, one of which may be a diversity of architectural expression. Diversity of architectural expression may be best pioneered by the architect involved in the master plan, since they are responsible for the vision of the project. It could also benefit future firms as a physical experiment of the written rules, providing a measuring stick for any future design, and setting the aesthetic tone of the development. Architects often contribute a practical reality to the physical implementation of a master plan. Although architects are also trained in abstract thought, it is their tectonic expertise that is imperative to the success of both designing the macro and the micro. Is the solution for a successful master plan to include architects in both the macro and the micro?

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1 CBT Case Study

Table of Contents

Regarding the Present 3 Setting the Stage 7 Highlighting the Team 15 Creating Team Identity 27 Designing the Master Plan 37 Designing the Building 51 Regarding the Future 65 Sources 69

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Regarding the Present

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a transition, probably a result of its incompatibility with

becoming more rapid.

an evolving city.

Portions of cities become

Architects are recently becoming

outdated as technology improves rendering these areas

involved in the master planning process. They are not

as potential sites for redevelopment. Master plans are

replacing master planners; they are simply joining the

needed because a place is seen as dilapidated. They

team. They may have something indispensable to offer

require a strong promising vision so that the public

to the process.

gains trust in the project. In the past, the process has typically been a top-down approach that is carried out by

Architects are capable of thinking in three dimensions.

developers and politicians who focus on the big picture

This could be beneficial for solving the problem of a bland

and are only interested in that vision or a “pretty picture�

sense of place. They could work with the architecture

for the final product. This product is determined and set

of the buildings and imagine what the experience of a

before any building takes place, creating an inflexible

pedestrian would be. By working with each building, they

and potentially failing process.

could create variety through architectural expression.

Creating spaces that include social networks and

An architect’s ability to multi task could be helpful as

existing communities is the key to a high quality

well. Master plans should be addressing the quality

urban environment. Traditionally master planning has

of the spaces in an integrated way by coordinating the

jeopardized its relation to existing urban settings by

economic, social, environmental, and physical aspects

unintentionally excluding the adjacencies of the site.

of a site. Architects can use their attention to detail on

Spaces tend to be unwelcoming for pedestrians with

each specific issue while simultaneously thinking about

towering buildings and city centers with no variety. This

the big picture. These attributes can prevent the master

bland sense of place exists because most master plans

plan from becoming inflexible and deterministic.

were only considered two dimensionally, lacking what implications the three dimensional buildings will have

Master plans should be guidelines for the process, not

on the spaces. The outcome of this approach ignores

the product. The evolution of a city is a process and

the architecture of the buildings in attempt to create a

cities are constantly changing, so master plans should

unified space. This unfortunately lacks critical elements

as well.

for a successful master plan.


as time progresses, and this evolution is seemingly

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The process of master planning is currently experiencing

Regarding the Present

introduction Cities are constantly evolving and

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Project History

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Site History

Setting the Stage

NorthPoint Complexity

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Neighborhood context

MBTA Green Line Lechmere Station

Chapter 91

Existing Retail and Amenities

The NorthPoint proposal included relocating and rebuilding the Lechmere Station stop on the Green Line.

The DEP determined that NorthPoint was not required to obtain a Chapter 91 License because the parcels fit within the definition of landlocked tidelands, but this ruling was brought to court.

The site borders an existing, well developed neighborhood with many amenities and retail such as the Cambridgeside Galleria.

Monsignor O’Brien Highway Monsignor O’Brien Highway, or Route 28, separates NorthPoint from the existing East Cambridge fabric. Rail Yards Rail yards NorthPoint.






Community Involvement

Tri-City Area


The NorthPoint team dealt with numerous community groups including the Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods, Eastern Cambridge Planning Study Committee, and the Conservation Law Foundation.

The site straddles three cities, Somerville, Boston, and Cambridge, and had to get approval from all three.

NorthPoint is situated on landfill covering the former Millers River.



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Setting the Stage


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Aerial view of Millers River on the NorthPoint site in 1950

in East Cambridge, bound by Monsignor O’Brien

that flowed through the NorthPoint site until the early

Highway, the Gilmore Bridge, and by the MBTA Green

1960s. Boston & Maine initially filled in the tidelands


Charlestown, Boston and Somerville are also

in 1870. They later completely filled in the river under

included in the triangular site but at small percentages.

a license issued by the Department of Public Works

The project proposes to expand and improve roadways,

in 1962 to initiate urban expansion with additional

bicycle paths, and sidewalks under the Gilmore Bridge.

railroad use. This license also required that Boston & Maine constructed underground culverts to serve as

In 1640 a statute written in Chapter 91 of the

the drainage process previously carried out naturally by

Massachusetts General Laws may have affected

the river. Maintenance was to be performed on these

the development or redevelopment of property.


culverts as well, which did not occur and resulted in a

gave ownership between high tide and low tide to the

clogged and nonfunctional drainage system. After these

upland land owner and was also reserved for the public

results, the Conservation Law Foundation wanted to

to fish, fowl, and to navigate.

restore the river to its natural state, delaying progress

The Commonwealth

took the remainder which encouraged the building of

on the Sierra Building at the time of construction.

wharves, other structures, and the filling of tidelands. This resulted in overcrowded harbors from building

After the initial proposal of the NorthPoint redevelopment

and filling which instigated the creation of the Board

plan by Guilford Transportation Industries, Spaulding and

of Harbor Commissioners in 1866 to oversee harbors,

Slye Colliers was selected to act as their development

tidal flats and tidewaters in the Commonwealth. This

manager for the transformation of the fifty acres of rail

included the approval of plans for the placement of fill or

yard into a residential-commercial neighborhood. During

structures on tidal areas. Licenses were then granted

this time an MBTA Board of Directors vote authorized

for the building of structures and wharves, or the filling

a five acre land swap of the existing Lechmere station

of flats in 1872 by the Board of Harbor Commissioners.

in exchange for a new station and bus terminal and

In 1874 the Legislature began requiring payments to be

an elevated pedestrian walkway over the six lanes of

made to compensate the Commonwealth for the filling of

Monsignor O’Brien Highway to be built by North Point’s

Commonwealth Tidelands. Presently the Department of

developer. The property was given to Spaulding & Slye

Environmental Protection (DEP) is authorized to license

by Boston & Maine in 2001 as a ninety nine year lease

and prescribe the terms. The definition of “tidelands,”

for 39 acres. This included the five acre land swap by

according to Chapter 91, Section 1, include current and

the MBTA in order to build a new Lechmere station.

former submerged lands and tidal flats lying below the mean high watermark. Chapter 91 also states that nonwater dependant projects on Commonwealth Tidelands are required to devote the ground floor of the buildings to public amenities.

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The Millers River used to be part of thirteen tidelands

Setting the Stage

SITE HISTORY The NorthPoint site is primarily located

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2001 NorthPoint Proposal






station across the O’Brien Highway, thus giving them

the NorthPoint site began in 1999 when Guilford

the rights to redevelop the existing T site in return. To

Transportation Industries proposed a large residential

improve access to the new neighborhood, the proposal

and commercial project near the Lechmere MBTA

also suggested building a pedestrian bridge over the

station. Timothy Mellon envisioned the development as

highway. The new proposal received a fairly positive

a center for business and residential life that would renew

response that hinged on how closely the developers

a decaying area of Cambridge. David Fink praised the

worked with the neighborhood and the city. The proposal

proposal as a way of “attracting people back into urban

began to move forward with interest from Mayor Anthony

areas.” However, the surprise proposal was perceived

D. Galluccio, Timothy J. Toomey Jr., and Seth Kaplan.

negatively by city official and local residents. An 18 month moratorium was placed on the development by

In June of 2001, the Association of Cambridge

the Cambridge City Council until a review of the effects

Neighborhoods, concerned about the development,

of the new proposal could be completed.

proposed a rebuttal plan with less density and new height restrictions. Stash Horowitz and the late John

In 2001, a new plan was offered.

This new plan

Moot believed that the city proposed density would lead

included the replacing of Farmer & Flier Associates as

to too much traffic in an area already troubled by traffic

developers with Spaulding & Slye Colliers. Farmer &

problems and was too commercial and car friendly.

Flier Associates had been questioned about their partial ownership of a separate firm used by the MBTA to

The rezoning proposal was approved by the East

redevelop and manage other properties, which caused

Cambridge Committee in October of 2001. The new

a conflict of issues. Although they were cleared by the

zoning allowed Guilford Transportation Industries most

Ethics Commission, Guilford Transportation Industries

of the density they wanted but stipulated the new T

decided to part ways with them because of the public

station had to be relocated before the issue of an


The new plan included a residential

occupancy permit. It also required the tall buildings to

neighborhood of 5,000 or more people, a hotel, research

border the highway and lower buildings the residential

buildings and offices. A key addition to the new plan was

neighborhoods and a new park as a transition zone

the proposal of moving the Lechmere Green Line MBTA

between NorthPoint and the existing neighborhoods.

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Setting the Stage


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Greenberg Consultants Inc. Childs Bertman Tseckares

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Spaulding & Slye Colliers / Jones Lang LaSalle

Highlighting the Team

Project Players

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Pan Am Railways Owners Formerly Guilford Transportation Industries, Pan Am Railways is a holding company that manages a Class II regional railroad, a mid-sized freight hauling railroad, covering northern New England. They are also referred to as “Boston and Maine,” “Pan American Railways,” “Pan American Systems,” Pan American Airways,” and “Pan American Industries.” CEO: Timothy Mellon Graduate from Yale University with an Urban Planning degree, Timothy Mellon formed Guilford Transportation Industries in 1977. President: David Fink

Childs Bertman Tseckares Architects (cbt) Master Planners; Sierra Building Architects CBT, located in Boston, MA, practice interior design, architecture, and master planning. They believe that the best design solutions are those with thoughtful collaboration. Project Manager: John Strothers Project Architect: Aris Bakalos Urban Planner: Kishore Varanasi

The Collaborative Companies Sales and Marketing The Collaborative Companies is a fullservice, residential real estate marketing firm specializing in the development and implementation of comprehensive sales and marketing programs. They can actively participate in the design development phase, formulate creative marketing strategies, manage on-site sales programs, and deliver a powerful creative marketing campaign throughout the duration of the project.

Jones Lang LaSalle Development Manager Jones Lang LaSalle is a global financial and professional services firm specializing in real estate services and investment management. They assemble teams of experts who deliver integrated services, are based in Boston, and are managing development, construction, and leasing of the NorthPoint project. Regional Manager: Kyle B. Warwick Spaulding & Slye Colliers Developers Spaulding & Slye Colliers, a real estate services firm was purchased by Jones Lang LaSalle in 2005. Project Manager: Mark Garber Project Executive: Peter Stankiewicz Principal: David Vickery Principal: Daniel O’Connell Senior Vice President: Howard J. Davis Vice President: Ralph F. Cox Vice President/Project Director: Lisa Serafin Community Liason: Nat Wysor Cambridge North Point LLC Managing Partner and Minority Owner A group of prominent local development executives.

Greenberg Consultants Inc. Master Planners They lead a multidisciplinary team of CBT and Michael van Vaulkenburgh Associates on the NorthPoint project. President/Principal: Kenneth Greenberg Michael van Valkenburgh Associates Landscape Designers Michael van Valkenburgh Associates has over twenty years of experience designing, building, and restoring landscapes with an approach of working closely with the site itself. Owner: Michael van Vaulkenburgh Haley & Aldrich: Geotechnical and Environmental Consultant Environmental Engineer: Keith Johnson Haley & Aldrich is integrating geotechnical and environmental solutions for NorthPoint. Beals and Thomas: Civil Environmental Permitting



Regenesis Group, Inc.: Integrated Design and LEED Consultant

Spaulding & Slye Colliers Marketing of Commercial Space Principal: Debra Gould Vice President: Dan Cordeau North Point Land Company


Association of Cambridge Neighborhoods President: John Moot Vise President: Stash Horowitz Civil Engineer: Stephen H. Kaiser

Boston Redevelopment Authority Deputy Director of Development Review: Heather Campisano

Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) General Manager: Michael Mulhern General Manager: Dan Grabauskas

Eastern Cambridge Planning Study Committee The committee works closely with teams of professional planning consultants and address issues that include urban design, open space, land use, zoning, transportation, economic development and employment. Co-chairman: Douglas Ling Conservation Law Foundation Since 1966, the non-profit, member supported organization‘s staff has worked to solve environmental problems that threaten New England by creating innovative strategies to conserve natural resources, protect public health and promote vital communities in our region. Co-Founder: John Moot

City of Somerville Mayor: Joseph A. Curtatone City of Cambridge Mayor 2000-2001: Anthony D. Galluccio Mayor 2002-2005: Michael A. Sullivan State Representative: Timothy Toomey City Manager: Robert Healy Urban Planning Consultant: David Dixon City Council’s Ordinance Committee City Councilor: Michael Sullivan

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Highlighting the Team


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33 Arch Street, Boston Spaulding & Slye Development

125 High Street, Boston Spaulding & Slye Development


Spaulding & Slye Colliers, purchased by

They have worked on notable projects such as 33 Arch

Jones Lang LaSalle in 2005, is a real estate services

Street, 125 High Street, and The Fan Pier. Their 42

firm based in Boston with a large office in Washington

years of experience in Boston was not the only reason

D.C. As of 2005, Spaulding & Slye Colliers had 500

they decided to develop NorthPoint. First, they saw

employees and was heavily involved in the Boston

NorthPoint as essentially a “hole in a donut� type of site

and Washington D.C. markets.

However, Spaulding

in reference to built area. This led Spaulding & Slye

& Slye Colliers had little presence elsewhere. Jones

Colliers to believe that they could greatly enhance the

Lang LaSalle is a huge player in the real estate market

value of the site. Secondly, they believed they could do

worldwide with over 19,000 employees, but only had

this because of the great success they felt they had on

40 employees in Boston. Both firms provide numerous

The Fan Pier in Boston. The Fan Pier is a 20 acre mini-

real estate services including property management,

city that Spaulding & Slye Collier developed with Ken

leasing, investment sales, and development. The major

Greenberg at Urban Strategies and CBT years prior to

difference between the operations of the companies

NorthPoint. This mixed-use dense urban plan on the

is that Spaulding & Slye has a construction operation.

Boston waterfront, with structures from 15 to 23 stories,

Spaulding & Slye Colliers specializes in areas like higher

showed the team that they could make great projects

education, life sciences and law firm practices.

even at a large urban scale.

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Spaulding & Slye Colliers has a long history in Boston.

Highlighting the Team


CBT Case Study 20

The Fan Pier, Boston Greenberg Consultants master plan design with CBT and Spaulding & Slye Colliers

Convention Center District, San Juan Greenberg Consultants master plan design with CBT and Colliers International

San Juan Waterfront, San Juan Greenberg Consultants master plan design with CBT and Colliers International

has been a sole practitioner and principal of Greenberg

as master planners of NorthPoint. Before NorthPoint,

Consultants Inc. since he founded the company in 2001.

Ken Greenberg had prior relationships with CBT

In his career of over three decades, Ken Greenberg has

and Spaulding & Slye Colliers, most notably through

been a partner at two different firms, Carter-Greenberg

their work on The Fan Pier in Boston, when he was a

and Urban Strategies, and was the founding director

partner at Urban Strategies. The relationships between

of the division of Architecture and Urban Design, City

Greenberg Consultants Inc., Spaulding and Slye

of Toronto Planning and Development department.

Colliers, and CBT continue to be fruitful as they have

Greenberg Consultants Inc. pursues a creative problem

teamed up on numerous projects together. Greenberg

solving approach to managing change in all aspects of

also has connections to the Boston/Cambridge area

city building and rebuilding. In order to engage many

through work on the Big Dig, Boston University Strategic

diverse clients, Greenberg Consultants emphasize clear

Campus Plan, and Kendall Square.

communication verbally and graphically which allows for

Greenberg was Interim Chief Planner on the Boston

creativity with new technologies. The projects involve

Redevelopment Authority. The NorthPoint master plan

highly diverse urban settings in North America in Europe

was intriguing to Greenberg because he believed it was a

with a focus on revitalizing downtowns, waterfronts,

great project with city building opportunities, it had good

neighborhoods and campus master planning. Greenberg

clients, and because of the interesting relationships with

Consultants Inc. prides itself on crossing traditional

the municipalities.

boundaries and working on projects with several talented professionals from various disciplines, something that proved to be very helpful on a project with the scale and complexity of NorthPoint.

In 2005/2006,

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Greenberg Consultants Inc. was not a random selection

Highlighting the Team


CBT Case Study 22

The Fan Pier, Boston CBT master plan design with Ken Greenberg and Spaulding & Slye Colliers

Mandarin Oriental, Boston CBT design

San Juan Waterfront CBT master plan design with Ken Greenberg and Colliers International

Tseckares (CBT) is a design firm in Boston that provides

thoughtful collaboration with multiple voices.

services in architecture, interior design, urban design

design outcomes are meant to resonate with the spirit

and graphic design. They have received over 120

of those who will use them. They carried this attitude

design awards for their excellence and creativity in the

throughout the entire process of NorthPoint and were

design of new buildings and the preservation of existing

concerned with how the outer edges of the master plan


would affect existing conditions; they did not want the

CBT is currently the largest architecture

firm in the area as ranked by Boston Business Journal


neighborhood to be inward facing.

on architecture billings in Massachusetts. They also ranked second in the area on the list of largest interior

Rather than viewing master plans as an opportunity for

design firms. CBT has a staff of over 250 people which

a pretty picture, CBT views urban design as a vehicle

includes 10 partners and 53 registered architects.

to discover great clients which allows architecture to be

The firm’s current partners are James McBain, Alfred

pushed to the next level. They believe that many clients

Wojciechowski, Charles Tseckares, Christopher Hill,

are stuck in the old mold of a non-flexible plan. CBT

David Hancock, David Nagahiro, Lois Goodell, Margaret

worked with the parcels of NorthPoint by testing them

Deutsch, Richard Bertman and Robert Brown.

with different programs, heights, street offsets, street widths, and servicing in order to create a flexible master

CBT’s project types are extremely varied and encompass

plan. This flexibility eliminates time loss later in the

academic, mixed-use, residential, civic and preservation,

design process if a parcel needs to change to a different

and hospitality. They were known for small scale projects


before their first major building in 1989. The size of their projects currently range from private residences to the 36

CBT was previously on a project, known as Fan Pier

story 111 Huntington Tower. Most of these projects are

in South Boston, with Spaulding & Syle Colliers and

located in Boston in the surrounding areas but there are

Kenneth Greenberg. This project began a few years

a few national and international projects including work

before NorthPoint which initially set up the organization

in places such as the Caribbean, Middle East, China

of their relationship.

and San Juan. Their clients comprise of individuals, academic institutions, counties and businesses. CBT is interested in pursuing sustainable architecture. They have over 30 LEED certified buildings and have developed an approach to design that balances economic





social benefit. They are engaged with their clients by introducing them to the financial and operational benefits of sustainability.

CBT Case Study 23

CBT believes that the solution to good design is through

Highlighting the Team


CBT Case Study 24

Behnisch Architekten

Behnisch Architekten

Phase 1 Construction Built Parcel Unbuilt Parcel Built Park Unbuilt Park

CBT Case Study 25

Highlighting the Team Ehrlich Architects

Michael van Valkenburgh Associates

Childs Bertman Tseckares Architects Alliance

CBT Case Study 26


CBT Case Study 27

Integrated Design

Creating Team Identity

Trust and Vision

CBT Case Study 28

East Cambridge’s early vision for NorthPoint

The NorthPoint design team’s vision

and Greenberg Consultants pursued the NorthPoint

developers, understand constructability and permitting,

project as a team after working together on Fan Pier in

and cut through many issues with problem solving

Boston. Through the eight years of working together

techniques. Spaulding & Slye Colliers was a visionary

the three companies had gained a mutual trust in each

developing company with a large portion of their staff

other and recognized a similar vision in urban planning,

with design backgrounds that know how to build cities

architecture, and construction.

Each member of the

and are not purely driven by profit. The trust between

team brought unique skills to the project. Greenberg

the three parties was only enhanced by the dedication

Consultants had a broad world view on planning and

to a similar vision. CBT, Greenberg Consultants, and

permitting, brought credibility through his worldwide

Spaulding & Slye Colliers all believed highly that a team

recognition, had done similar work, and provided

approach, innovative thinking, and an equal dedication

general strategies and integration of transportation and

to designing the macro and micro will lead to the best

economics. CBT provided design skills in the physical,

results. They all believed that it is the details that make

macro and micro environments, as well as a background

a project, not the pretty picture.

CBT Case Study 29

in architecture which allowed them to work with many

Creating Team Identity

trust and vision Spaulding & Slye Colliers, CBT,

CBT Case Study 30

The landscape for the master plan was designed together with the buildings.

in preparation allowed for flexibility and innovation in the

approach grew from the mutual trust and vision the team

design process. By allowing ideas to come equally from

possessed. They knew from experience they gained on

all parties involved, the NorthPoint master plan became

the Fan Pier project that they could successfully interact

much stronger. A great example of integration is found

in a way that pushed and pulled at each other to produce

between the landscape designers and engineers who

the best results. Spaulding & Slye Colliers then hired

collaborated to manipulate the grades in order to place

the rest of the team to include people that were like

parking below what is actually above. Jim Kostaras of

minded to CBT and Greenberg Consultants and would

Somerville remarked on the quality of the integration of

be able to work in the integrated design environment.

architecture and landscape design and the willingness

The team would meet for half day sessions twice a week

of the developers to allow cutting edge design and reach

with everyone on the design team at the table. The

out to a whole new market of dense urban dwellers. This

coordination of this involved making sure that everyone

result was made possible through the full integration

did their tasks before coming to the meeting to insure that

from the beginning of the project.

everyone was interacting at the same level. This rigor

CBT Case Study 31

The integrated design

Creating Team Identity

integrated design

CBT Case Study 32


A sample of local work locations by CBT and Greenberg Consultants

an extensive local resume with over 20 built projects in

NorthPoint, local firms provide numerous benefits over

Boston and Cambridge alone, with numerous others in

foreign firms. Local firms have the ability to move at

the surrounding cities. Greenberg Consultants, although

a rapid pace purely based on their location.


not a local firm, has lots of experience on complex issues

Spaulding & Slye Colliers was in the neighborhood

in the area. Ken Greenberg worked on Kendall Square

of CBT, there could be informal meetings, which Lisa

in Cambridge, as well as the Big Dig, Boston University,

Serafin said are “invaluable even in the age of FTP

and Fan Pier in Boston. Spaulding & Slye Colliers was

sites and conference calls.� Local firms also have an

also a primarily local developer who had done numerous

advantage in the complex permitting process, such as

projects in Boston. This accumulated expertise and prior

NorthPoint, and it takes someone who understands

relationships were crucial to the very quick, eighteen

the community and permitting environment. Meetings

month planning process that needed extensive public

for NorthPoint were sometimes several nights a week

ground work because of the three municipalities that

and it was a highly visible permitting process. CBT has

were involved and the related community groups.

CBT Case Study 33

In a project as complex and public as

Creating Team Identity


CBT Case Study 34

CBT Case Study 35

The architect is critical in the formation of a team identity because it is their ability to simultaneously design in the macro and micro that allows a realistic vision to be pursued and executed. The physical manifestations of their ideas are proof of their creativity and their ability to understand permitting, constructability, developers and all the obstacles faced in order to complete an original vision. It is through these concrete examples that architects can gain trust through their colleagues. Working on the Fan Pier with Greenberg Consultants and Spaulding & Slye Colliers allowed CBT to showcase their abilities and dedication to a vision. Architects play a significant role in the integrated design process because of their abilities to problem solve and adapt quickly. Design education focuses on the ability to respond to criticism and feed off ideas from others. This perfectly suits the integrated design ideals. The assembled team for NorthPoint consisted of numerous people with design backgrounds that have entered different professional fields. This common foundation enabled discussions that were able to push and pull each member to bring them to the next level. The integrated design process is most effective with a local team because of the ease of meeting and the similar base knowledge set. A local architect contributes to the team identity immediately with their resume of completed work which has already shaped the area and been accepted by the cities and the communities. The team with the highest profiled members does not always produce the best results. Team identity is paramount in producing a great project.

Creating Team Identity




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Cambridge Rezoning of NorthPoint Site


MEPA Approval

FEIR Filing (MEPA)

PUD Filing (Cambridge) MEPA Trans. Working Group Convened

PNF Filing (Boston)

DEIR Filing (MEPA)

ENF Filing (MEPA)

Master Plan Design 0 2 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 8 0 9 1 0 11 1 2

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Smart Growth Infrastructure Redevelopment Parcel Flexibility Urbanscape

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Article 80 Approval

BCDC Approval (Article 80) Response to Comments (Article 80)

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PUD Decision / Approval (Cambridge)

Designing The Master Plan


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urban development can occur in the center of a city by

was a decision by Guilford Transportation Industries

advocating ideas of compact neighborhoods, transit-

that led to many sustainable results. Not only did it

oriented development, pedestrian and bicycle use, and

provide a site for urban expansion without rural sprawl,

environmental qualities. It is a new way of planning that

it also allowed for the project to be walking distance to

challenges past planning strategies which encouraged

commercial areas of Boston and Cambridge. The site,

detached houses and automobile use that resulted

located in three cities, increases its possibility of being

in urban sprawl, traffic congestion, disconnected

very connected to the outside communities. Bridges over

neighborhoods, and urban decay. Creating a master

the major highways will act as physical connectors.

plan that combined a place to work, play, live, and visit was integral to NorthPoint’s vision. The site, surrounded







on all sides by multiple transportation choices, such

development, affordable housing and market rate

as MBTA transit stops and major highways, enhanced

units with a variety of housing types, inclusion of parks

the goal. Rather than deciding on a specific building

and recreation areas, and limited surface parking into

or use, the team’s solution was to organize open space

the plan. It is projected to have 2,700 residences, an

and an internal public realm to create convenience and

estimated 2.2 million square feet of office, lab, and retail

connectivity at a local and regional level to surrounding

space, and a 10 acre park centering the 45 acre site.

communities and cities. The focus was to avoid being

Like a city within a city, the tight city block structure and

an internal community by bringing presence onto the

street layout form a compact neighborhood that creates

street. There were many factors during the process that

a pedestrian friendly community that also reduces

produced opportunities for smart growth.

vehicular traffic. The ten acres dedicated to park land tie together the city blocks while also linking bicycle paths

Following sustainable






redevelopment strategies.






Haley & Aldrich assisted

the client with these sustainable solutions to help in the planning, permitting, regulatory compliance, design and construction of the buildings, infrastructure and other facilities.

to the adjacent cities.

CBT Case Study 39

Reclaiming the Brownfields rail yard site for NorthPoint

Designing The Master Plan

Smart Growth The theory of smart growth is that

CBT Case Study 40

Proposed vision of the new Lechmere at NorthPoint T station

Green Line Extension




New Retail Edge


eet Ex




1st Str

Le St chm ati er on e





ge Stree






re Mo

1st Stre



Lechmere T station relocation and Lechmere Square











that area for commercial use. Workers at these buildings

permitting Prior to the proposal of NorthPoint, the

would then have easy access to transportation without

cities of Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville had been

disrupting the residential parcels.

discussing the extension of the Green Line to Ball Square in Medford. Since the proposal, the developers planned

The parcels that are adjacent to the new Green Line

to relocate the Lechmere T station across the Monsignor

route have the tracks integrated into their envelopes,

O’Brien Highway in exchange for the redevelopment

enhancing the public realm at the entrance to NorthPoint.

of the existing Lechmere T station. This will not only

The design guidelines require an extension of the existing

benefit the MBTA by paving the path for the Green Line

retail corridor on First Street into NorthPoint to create a

extension, but will also benefit the vision of NorthPoint.

retail edge along Lechmere Square, which augments this

The relocation of the Lechmere T station gave CBT

connectivity. The new retail edge is shown on the bottom

the opportunity to create a gateway to NorthPoint with

left as the thicker lines around Lechmere Square.

special attention to the organization of building program and street layouts.

The land given to the developers by the MBTA in exchange for the redevelopment of the station was

Improving pedestrian access to the site allows for the

agreed upon through a special permit with the Cambridge

desire to connect to existing communities. With the new

Planning Board. The special permit allowed Cambridge

transportation hub, people will be constantly moving

to agree to minor variances through the writing of the

through the site and therefore making the park even

developers own zoning requirements. This created

more of an accessible public amenity. The location of the

flexible parameters that anticipated board member

station informed the decision to designate the parcels in

changes and city changes.



Lechmere Square

CBT Case Study 41


Designing The Master Plan



288’ - 0”

31’ - 0”

Set Back North Str

Primary Pedestrian Access

eet 221’ - 0” 144’ - 0”

20’ - 0”

Primary Pedestrian Access

Set Bac


C - Cou rt 200’ - 0”

200’ - 0” D - Stre et

120’ - 0”

Vehicular Access

20’ - 0”

63’ - 0”

37’ - 0”

200’ - 0” North S treet

North P

ark Stre et 200’ - 0”

Primary Pedestrian Access


262’ 0” treet E xtens ion









Primary Pedestrian Access




First S



T Underground Configurations of the NorthPoint building types






at e


Ea st



Commercial Access


85’ - 0”

65’ - 0” 20’ - 0”

220’ - 0”

169’ - 0”

Vehicular Access

125’ - 0”

18 2’ -


CBT Case Study 42


Vehicular Access

2020, the project will most likely experience economic


fluctuations and other changes. CBT’s thorough parcel testing allowed for the flexibility typically absent from

Residential blocks include lofts, townhouses, row houses, and apartments. The first floor should be open towards the street to allow for a community feel with the use of setbacks for stoops, porches, and front gardens. Each facade is to be designed as a front with many entrances off the streets of no more than 75’ apart. Courtyards are encouraged to allow for sun exposure. Corner retail is allowed where appropriate.

traditional master plans. Each parcel was tested with residential, commercial, and retail in order to discover the best solution. With the interest put into the street life and the eye of the pedestrian rather than specific cornice lines or brick facades, there is always room for alteration. This allows each building to play off of their immediate buildings while still being legible in a larger context. Architectural expression and diversity was able to be achieved through this innovative procedure which enhances the urban realm. For example, a portion of Parcel T was able to pop up due to the non-prescriptive

Commercial and Mixed Use

nature of the master plan. Mixed Use blocks include housing and / or commercial uses with highly encouraged active uses on the ground floors for the community and the surrounding area, including art exhibition space / display windows, services for the public, shops, restaurants, cafes, exhibition or meeting spaces, and commercial lobbies. Offices are discouraged from the ground level and should occupy no more that 200 to 250 feet. Entrances should relate to crosswalks and pathways to transportation.

Retail A

Retail blocks include commercial or residential on upper floors. They should be located where there is a high volume of pedestrian traffic. 75 percent of the street facade should be retail with visibility directly into the interior space. The use of awnings, canopies, and other element should be used to animate the street facade.















CBT Case Study 43

success of NorthPoint. Projected to be completed by

Designing The Master Plan

Parcel Flexibility Parcel flexibility is essential to the

Hierarchy guidelines of the NorthPoint streets

15’ Planted Sidewalk

8’ Parking Lane

a. Green Fingers Cross Section

125’ - 150’ 35’ - 55’ Public Open Space with Sidewalk

8’ Parking Lane

5’ Bike Lane

11’ Roadway

20’ Planted Median

11’ Roadway

5’ Bike Lane

8’ Parking Lane

35’ - 55’ Public Open Space with Sidewalk

b. First Street Extension Cross Section

16’ Roadway

47’ - 72’ Public Open Space (Green Finger)

16’ Roadway

8’ Parking Lane

15’ Planted Sidewalk

8’ Parking Lane 10’ Sidewalk

22’ Roadway

70’ Public Open Space

8’ Parking Lane

16’ Roadway

15’ Planted Sidewalk

c. West Boulevard Cross Section 147’

14’ Multi Use Trail


15’ Planted Sidewalk

54’ - 68’

8’ Parking Lane

22’ Roadway

Public Open Space The Central Park

8’ - 15’ Sidewalk

8’ Parking Lane

22’ Roadway

8’ Parking Lane

8’ - 15’ Sidewalk

CBT Case Study 44

d. Block Interior/Service Street Section e. Park Perimeter Street Cross Section 45’

based off a typical block size of East Cambridge in

of the retail edge, which will complement existing retail,

order to respond to the existing fabric of the surrounding

also creates an urban realm.

communities. This aspect was of most concern to the City of Cambridge. CBT analyzed the block structure

Setbacks were extensively studied.

Every parcel’s

in order to find the correct scale and urban form for the

building must have a setback above no more than sixty

vision of NorthPoint. The goal was a tight block structure

five feet. The design guidelines also require that all

that facilitated a pedestrian-friendly layout.

blocks at the ground floor level are to be active during the day and night and should consist of public amenities

The master plan is meant to function as a single network,

to NorthPoint and surrounding communities. Creating

a city within a city. The open green space organizes

a community that is sensitive to the human scale was

the blocks and holds the single network together. Each

encouraged. The single network conveys the hierarchy

street was carefully coordinated with one another in

of roads, clarity of circulation, human scale, and public

order to specify dimensions for each street type which


will then create a hierarchy of uses throughout the site. Monsignor O’Brien Highway, previously non-pedestrian

green space integrated with the sidewalk. A new major

friendly, is receiving five new pedestrian crossings

street running east-west was inserted into the center of

including overhead crosswalks that connect directly to

NorthPoint in hopes to connect East Cambridge to the

the new MBTA Lechmere station. The new crossings will

new MDC Park along the Charles River. The extension

help connect NorthPoint to the existing communities.


They consist of service roads and multiple streets with






New Pedestrian Crossings

CBT Case Study 45

of First Street into the site as well as the continuation

Designing The Master Plan

UrbanScape The parcel sizes for NorthPoint were

CBT Case Study 46

Rendering by Michael van Valkenburgh Associates of Central Park














ge Stree

Ch ar les to


Av e

1st Stre

nu e




nd B

ou le

va rd

Lechmere Canal

Storm water runoff to Lechmere Canal

the surrounding communities. The park is seen as a

park, green fingers, and a west boulevard green. These

connector piece that mends the breaks between the

spaces are important for the transformation of the site

existing green spaces by linking them to the central park

into a community.

through the green fingers.

The PUD zoning for Cambridge

CBT Case Study 47

Landscape The NorthPoint Park consists of a central

space. The developers were dedicated to creating a

Aside from the connector aspect, the park also gathers,

vision with the insertion of a park so that it would act as a

cleanses, and transports the storm water for the site

place maker and get people familiar with the area. They

through a retention pond. CBT worked very closely with

convinced the investors that a larger park would help sell

the engineers to integrate storm water drainage and

the vision. The final proposal exceeds the requirement

parking spaces into the design of the park. With 5,000

at 5.5 acres.

meters of parking area, CBT pushed for the manipulation of the grades in order to place the parking underground

As part of the single network, the central park and

without it actually being below grade.

green fingers arrange the urban blocks on the site while

improve water quality and control runoff through the

providing gathering space for informal residential and

integration of sedimentation fore bays, vegetated water-

cultural activities, a half acre wetland, a pond, and a

quality swales, and low impact development techniques

pavilion. The East Cambridge Planning Study states that

such as rain gardens. NorthPoint’s team is replacing the

there is very little opportunity in the existing dense area

actions that were traditionally naturally carried out by the

for public open space and that new park development

former Millers River with the park. The drainage is to

would have to occur on the outskirts.

empty out into the Lechmere Canal located south of the


creates green space that has a sense of inclusion with

The park will

Designing The Master Plan

required that the development include 2.5 acres of green

site and just north of Cambridgeside Galleria Mall.

Somerville Community Path

West Boulevard Green Central Park Green Fingers

S Charles River Basin Park & Dr. Paul Dudley White Bicycle Path

CBT Case Study 48

CBT Case Study 49

The NorthPoint master plan is meant to read as a single network that emits a public realm. It is the twenty proposed parcels which make up this single network. The intricacy of the parcel relationships is what CBT brought to the table as both master planners and architects. Rather than a pretty picture, they were interested in how all these pieces could interact together without being dictated by program. An architect is well suited to coordinate the whole while focusing on one element of a whole. Surrounded by infrastructure on all sides, the site posed a challenge for the integration of existing communities. CBT used the relocated Lechmere station into NorthPoint as an incentive to create a larger “gateway� into the new community. The focus was on organizing a transportation hub for people living, working, visiting, and playing. Flexibility is crucial to the success of a master plan. Typical master plans are trapped by the preliminary pretty picture. CBT’s attention to detail was manifest during the parcel testing stage. Each parcel was rigorously challenged by all possible building programs. At the same time, the relationship between each parcel was studied so that the best solution could be discovered. The success of each small scale relationship enhanced the large scale relationship of the master plan to the existing communities. Special attention to human scale was the driving force to achieve the public realm. CBT organized the streets into hierarchies which are woven between tight block structures, similar to a city. Appropriate setbacks were used in order to avoid towering blocks. The streets are to have activity day and night allowing for twenty four hour life. The public green spaces are the glue that holds all the other master plan elements together. It also manages the storm water drainage and underground parking. CBT worked very closely with the engineers in order to integrate the three programs of the park together.

Designing The Master Plan


0 2 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 8 0 9 1 0 11 1 2




CBT Case Study 50

0 2 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 8 0 9 1 0 11 1 2

0 2 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 8 0 9 1 0 11 1 2

CBT Case Study 51

Siting Form Plan and Section

Sierra Building Design 0 2 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 8 0 9 1 0 11 1 2


0 2 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 8 0 9 1 0 11 1 2



Designing The Sierra Building


0 2 0 3 0 4 0 5 0 6 0 7 0 8 0 9 1 0 11 1 2

CBT Case Study 52

Residential, Commercial or Mixed use Commercial Residential














Conceptual Land Use

150’ - 220’ 120’ 65’ - 85’

Zoning Envelope

predetermined for a specific program, it was available

access to the street are located on the three sides of the

for Residential, Commercial/Mixed use, or Retail. Its

building that face away from the commercial zone, and

location on the site places it on the Cambridge portion

instead towards the park and residential buildings.

of NorthPoint, sandwiched between existing residential development and the central park on the south and north

As master planners and designers of this building, CBT

respectively, and a commercial and a residential building

was well versed in the hierarchy of streets. This can

on the west and east respectively. Its surroundings give

be seen by the location of the lobbies of Parcel S and

it four facades that all face different types of neighbors.

Parcel T. The lobbies face each other and open out on to one of the designed green fingers which creates

Because Parcel S is on the south part of the site closest

a common interstitial social space and links the two

to Cambridge, it was designed to be topped off at 81

buildings to each other as well as to the central park.

feet. This followed the design guidelines which specified

The parking entrance faces away from the residential

65-85 feet. The building is sited on the parcel away

areas and is placed on the street that is trafficked mostly

from the commercial, and towards Parcel T to the west.

by vehicles and thus avoids conflict with pedestrians.

This allows for a dialogue between the two residential

The plan of the building is also affected by the hierarchy

buildings which were built at the same time. It also

of the streets. That same side also internally features a

creates a larger buffer between the residential units and

large transformer room in the plan.



residential lobby



CBT Case Study 53

the commercial parcel. The ground floor units with direct

Designing The Sierra Building

SITING Parcel S, the Sierra Building, was not

CBT Case Study 54


h Pa

rk St



ary P






128’ - 0






s - 0 t Str ” ee t

130’ -


Vehicular Access


h Dr


20’ - 0” Building Envelope

Sample Envelope

85’ - 0”

65’ - 0”



for NorthPoint organizes criteria for the overall scope

The envelope of the building is 6-7 story perimeter

of building design, as well as the information for each

building with a line of expression at the second floor

specific parcel. To the right is the specified criterion for

level. The line of expression defines the base and is

Parcel S on which the Sierra Building was constructed.

intended to humanize the scale of the building and create an intimate pedestrian experience. This should

The diagrams on the opposing page begin to layout basic

be achieved by means of material articulation or

information such as the entry points, length, width, and

architectural detailing. Each base, in its entirety, will be

height, to give an example of the possible massing for

designed to give the appearance of greater height than

the building designer. The final massing of the designed

any single floor in the middle. The first floor may be

Sierra Building is similar in shape to the example, but

elevated on one-half level above grade parking.

differs slightly in that instead of a U-shaped plan it has an interior courtyard, and the building meets the street

Building design shall also give special consideration to

edge at all four sides. The building was able to change

the streetscape and scale of the South Park Street and

do to the flexibility of the master plan guidelines. The

conform to the overall legibility of the street. Projections

double line at the bottom of most of the parcels’ sample

like bow windows, balconies and terraces are encouraged

envelopes highlights the overall agenda of having a very

on all sides to take advantage of both sun and

pedestrian friendly master plan by putting an emphasis

spectacular views of the park. It should also contribute

on designing the ground floor at a human scale.

to the character and scale of the finger. Building design shall make a special effort to respond to and integrate

The final building statistics are very close to the

the adjoining Charles E. Smith development.

approximate dimensions originally provided.

Approximate Dimensions:

Final Dimensions:

Parcel Size: 19,500 SF Gross Square Footage: (+/-) 112,000 SF Uses: Mixed Use, Residential or Commercial Number of Dwelling Units: (+/-) 95 Parking Levels: Below grade, one half level above grade Maximum Height of the Building: 85’ Lot Coverage: 100% Primary Pedestrian Access: South Park Street, C – Court Vehicular Access: Relocated East Street

Parcel Size: 19,500 SF Gross Square Footage: 136,665 SF Use: Residential Number of Dwelling Units: 99 Parking Levels: Below grade Height of the Building: 81’ Primary Pedestrian Access: South Park Street, C – Court Vehicular Access: Relocated East Street

CBT Case Study 55

Sierra Building Design Guidelines:

Designing The Sierra Building

FORM The Eastern Cambridge Design Guidelines

CBT Case Study 56

Residential Massing Example

Balconies Residential Facade Details

Entries/Stoops Residential Entries and Stoops

NorthPoint focused on form in terms of size, program,

the ground floor open to the street, and are mediated

and elements.

Studies of existing neighborhoods

by stoops and plantings. The ground floor windows

enlightened a few elements that could be used in a

look onto the street and provide the “eyes on the street�

variety of ways to create the desired environment while

concept in the master plan to make it more walkable and

weave the existing communities to NorthPoint.

pedestrian friendly. Privacy is maintained by operable wooden slat screens. The design guidelines recommend

The emphasis on the pedestrian scale is shown once

balconies, possibly to break down a façade to the human

again in the residential massing example on the opposite

scale, but CBT reinterpreted the concept of the balcony

page. In the Sierra building shown below, the overall

to fit the contemporary vision of the master plan. The

massing takes on a much more pure rectangular form

balconies are simple railings on the upper floors with

and uses material change to achieve the desired effect

operable doors that extend the units into the site through

of a differentiated ground floor, rather than the setbacks

sight, smell, and sound, rather than a physical protrusion

noted in the design guidelines.

from the building.

The color and size

changes are only the beginning of bringing the scale

CBT Case Study 57

of the building to the pedestrian. Most of the units on

Designing The Sierra Building

FORM The Eastern Cambridge Design Guidelines for

CBT Case Study 58

bamboo garden

Typical Floor Plan

light well

Typical Loft Floor Plan

Building is a central, full height light well surrounded

complexity because it is much harder to get older people

by double height loft units. The lack of a back to the

to invest in a project that is slated to take 15 years to

site informed this layout by providing four equally


exposed sides. The plan was heavily influenced by the

they both iterated that to have value you must build

integrated design process which allowed the architects

something different. The double height loft units achieve

to show many renditions and options for opportunities in

that goal. The double height units have a significant

the building, and not just design what they thought the

effect on the plan and section of the Sierra Building.

other side wanted. For example, the light well began

The loft plan allows for a double height living room that

as a discussion with the construction manager, client,

links the two floors to the 14 foot glazing that separates

and developer of common space on the roof, which was

the units from the exterior. In section the units are only

then changed to an atrium, and finally a light well. The

entered at every other floor, which allows for a skip stop

final configuration evolved over time as each phase of

elevator system and frees additional room on the upper

design was followed by a budgeting estimate and value

floors because of the lack of need for corridors. In some

engineering exercise by the construction manager.

cases, the eliminated corridor on the loft floor opens

In interviews with CBT and Lisa Serafin,

up cross ventilation for 8 units on every floor that have The vision of NorthPoint was to create a new, modern

access to the light well. The light well provides light

community for work and life, and the plan of the Sierra

and ventilation to the corridors on the typical floors as

Building exemplifies that vision with open floor plans,

well. The bamboo garden in the light well can be seen

double height loft units, and contemporary finishes.

as a visual amenity as well as a social link between the

The goal of the residential buildings in the master plan

garden and the bamboo floors of the units.

is to attract a younger audience. Targeting a younger

Building Section

CBT Case Study 59

clientele is important in a master plan of this scale and

Designing The Sierra Building

Plan and section The basic layout of the Sierra

CBT Case Study 60

Stoops/Entries South Elevation

Building Entry

East Elevation

Parcel T Building behind

Parking Entry

West Elevation

the contemporary vision of NorthPoint while mostly

suggest rhythm and variation appropriate to the urban

adhering to the East Cambridge Design Guidelines.

context such as smaller bays along residential streets

The double height windows, smooth panels, and

and larger bays on commercial and retail streets. This

large gestures such as the white paneled wrapper are

idea of bays can be seen on the east and west facades

stylistically very contemporary.

The stoops and the

through the use of the different colored panels and the

double height glazing on the first floor provide the “eyes

slight depth change, but the north and south facades are

on the street� to penetrate through the ground floor,

one large bay.

the white paneled wrapper differentiates the rest of the building from the darker gray panels, and the building

It is clear from the detailing of the building that much of

entries for pedestrians on the east and cars on the west

the resources were put into the ground floor elevations,

are clearly defined.

reaffirming the importance of the pedestrian in order to avoid unwelcoming spaces. The ground floor becomes

The major departure from the guidelines is seen in the

much more tactile, varied and appropriate to the human

smoothness of the façade. The guidelines ask residential

scale then the upper floor massing with wood slats and

buildings to have varied architecture and avoid flat

decking, steel framing, textured panels and plantings.

facades by using bays, balconies, porches, stoops, and

The wood slats and steel canopies on the first floor only

other projecting elements. Although there are balconies,

go up to half of the height of the loft to also help bring

they are flush with the building. The variation in form

down the scale.

is subdued and only reveals itself at building entrances

North Elevation

CBT Case Study 61

and in the white wrapper panels. The guidelines also

Designing The Sierra Building

elevation The elevations of the Sierra Building convey

CBT Case Study 62

CBT Case Study 63

The Sierra Building at NorthPoint is an important milestone as it is the first physical realization of the large and complex master plan. The difficulty in the design of this building was to balance between its freedom of being a pioneer and the guidelines of the master plan. The final result had to be successful before and after the other elements of the master plan fill in. The decision makers for NorthPoint thought it was prudent to choose CBT, the master planners, to design the building because of their knowledge of the project, their understanding of the community, their relationship with the developers, and their success in similar buildings in the area. The first building sets the tone for the rest of the buildings and it is crucial for it to succeed in the vision of the master plan in siting, form, plan, section, and elevation. The choice in the siting of the building on parcel S was very limited due to the well thought out master plan in which they tested every parcel for building sizes. The success in the Sierra building siting was the relationship between the surrounding streets and their interaction. It is clear from the layout of the plan that the architect was well versed in the overall scope of the master plan and was able to use that to inform internal decisions that have a much larger reach than that of just the individual building. The form of the building compromises between the contemporary vision of NorthPoint and the somewhat contradictory guidelines. NorthPoint wants to provide a new type of contemporary neighborhood for young professionals, and the Sierra Building provides a very contemporary form. However, this form has a larger scale and does not break down the overall massing as much as the guidelines suggest with balconies and bays. Being part of the authorship of these macro design guidelines gave CBT the confidence and leverage to break from them when they felt it more important to the overall vision. The plans and sections reveal the attention to detail that CBT provides as architects. The materiality on the ground floor stoops is contemporary but welcoming to pedestrians. The double height windows allow for deeper units with details such as an open riser stair allows natural light to filter even deeper into the units. The elevation, the face of NorthPoint for the time being, immediately advertises to the young demographic they are pursuing. However, it seems that in this fulfillment of the master plans’ contemporary vision, the idea of creating a “21st century city” was slightly ignored on the face of the building in terms of sustainability. The 14 foot glazing on the south side of the building have virtually no protection against the sun and will most likely raise cooling costs in the summer. The slats screens on the ground floor could have perhaps informed a sun-shading system on the upper floors that may have better conveyed the promise of a “21st century city.”

Designing The Sierra Building


CBT Case Study 64

Regarding the Future

CBT Case Study 65


CBT Case Study 66

The plan integrates itself with the city

attention to either the macro or the micro in master

through the macro, such as public transportation, and

planning has failed, and in some sense, brought a

the micro, like pedestrian friendly streets and sidewalks.

negative connotation to the phrase “master planning.�

The integrated plan is a result of the integrated design

Even the adjectival use of master with planning

process. A master plan striving for detailed flexibility

assumes a dominant and controlling vision. Success in

should have full integration from the beginning of the

master planning lies in the integration, coordination, and

process. The coordination and organized exchange of

organization of detailed flexibility. This detailed flexibility

ideas allows for the necessary holistic yet comprehensive

planning relies on a varied team of experts in which the

approach to achieve a successful plan. The combination

architect has a critical role.

of many disciplines in a single discussion propels macro design decisions while each individual specialty is still

CBT showed in this case study the skills that architects

able to think about the micro.

have to provide for a more successful master planning process. Architects have been accused of being too

Architects ultimately end up designing individual parcels

image and detail oriented in master planning, but it is the

in most master plans. Many of the problems constricting

testing of numerous details and images that allows for

these architects such as unbuildable parcel dimensions

a proven flexibility while showing the three dimensional

and inflexible design guidelines can be avoided by

implications that these options could create.

having architects participate in the master planning


result then provides a plan that is not a deterministic


CBT was a large part of the reason why

blueprint that is an end in itself, but rather a detailed

NorthPoint was awarded the AIA urban planning award.

study of the possibilities that future developers and

Just as the public realm organized urban relationships

architects have in creating a unique yet cohesive reality.

and buildings in the master plan, CBT bridged that gap

Cities are constantly evolving physically, socially, and

between macro and micro planning.

economically, and the master planning process must

detailed training in the built environment and capability

take that into account.

of pursuing a vision that allows them to design space

It is architects

regardless of the scale. Master planning is a result of an NorthPoint in essence is a neighborhood plan, an

integration of numerous factors; to be successful it must

area of character meant to harmonize with the existing

be an integrated process.

CBT Case Study 67


Regarding the Future

conclusion History has taught us that exclusive

CBT Case Study 68

91 Projects. “91 Projects: Protecting Boston’s Future.” 91 Projects. (accessed February 17, 2009) Bakalos, Aristotle and Kishore Varanasi. Cavin Costello and Elizabeth Utz. In person interview. Boston, MA. 27, February 2009. Bokov, Anna & Alice Martin. “Edge As Center: Envisioning The Post-Industrial Landscape.” (2006) (PDF version of document downloaded March 8, 2009) Childs Bertman Tseckares. “Northpoint Master Plan Cambridge MA.” Presentation Booklet. Childs Bertman Tseckares. “cbt.” Childs Bertman Tseckares. (accessed February 17, 2009) Clements, Joe. “NorthPoint Project Set To Roll After Groundbreaking Event.” Banker & Tradesman (March 28th, 2005), http://www. Coe, Jon. “Plan Ahead: A Short Overview of the Planning Process.” (May 2005) (PDF version of document downloaded March 29, 2009) “Community Forum NorthPoint Project Update.” (PDF version of document downloaded February 17, 2009) “East Cambridge Design Guidelines: North Point.” (PDF version of document downloaded February 17, 2009) Fitzgerald, Jay. “NorthPoint Speeds New T Station Plan.” Boston Herald General Economics Reporter (January 12, 2006), http://www. (accessed February 17, 2009) Flint, Anthony. “Cambridge Neighbors Cool To $1.2B Building Plan.” The Boston Globe (November 18, 2001), users/rauch/northpoint/globe1118.html (accessed February 17, 2009) Giddings, Dr. Bob and Bill Hopwood. “A Critique of Masterplanning As A Technique For Introducing Urban Design Quality Into British Cities.” (PDF version of document downloaded March 24, 2009) Gillete, Christine. “Cambridge Train Yard Made New.” Portsmouth Herald (July 07, 1999), htm (accessed February 17, 2009) Greenberg, Kenneth. Cavin Costello. Phone interview. Boston, MA. 26, February 2009. Hurley, Mary. “Council Discusses North Point Plan.” The Boston Globe (July 22, 2001), Globe_7-22.html (accessed February 17, 2009) Hurley, Mary. “Rezoning Ok Urges Housing, Limits Development In City’s East.” The Boston Globe (October 21, 2001), edu/mac/users/rauch/northpoint/globe1021.html (accessed February 17, 2009) Icon Architecture. 2003. “North Point Somerville: Planning Study.” (PDF version of document downloaded February 17, 2009) “John Moot & another vs. Department Of Environmental Protection & others.” (PDF version of document downloaded February 17, 2009) Jones Lang LaSalle. “Jones Lang LaSalle.” Jones Lang LaSalle. (accessed February 17, 2009) Jones Lang LaSalle. “NorthPoint.” Jones Lang LaSalle. (accessed February 17, 2009)

CBT Case Study 69 Kostaras, Jim. Cavin Costello. Phone interview. Boston, MA. 02, March 2009. Mccown, James. “NorthPoint Exposure.” Boston Business Journal (March 15, 2002), focus1.html (accessed February 17, 2009) Mousalli, Mohammed Said. “Inadequacies of Master Planning in the Physical Development of Universities in Saudi Arabia.” (PDF version of document downloaded March 29, 2009) Nagahiro, David. “Contemporary Urban In Metropolitan Boston.” Multi-Family Trends (October 19, 2005), download/NP_multifamilytrends_10.19.05.pdf (accessed February 17, 2009) NorthPoint Condominiums. “Condolicious.” NorthPoint Condominiums. (accessed February 17, 2009) NorthPoint Planning Document. (PDF version of document downloaded February 17, 2009) O’Connell, Daniel. “Fan Pier & North Point.” Massachusetts Building Congress (March 2002), (accessed February 17, 2009) Ortiz, David. “Another East Cambridge Master Plan: Group Raises Concerns About Density, Traffic In City Proposal.” Chronicle (June 19, 2001), (accessed February 17, 2009) Palmer Jr., Thomas C. “The Train Comes To NorthPoint.” The Boston Globe (October 23, 2006), globe_23.10.06.html (accessed February 17, 2009) Pratt, Elsbeth. Cavin Costello and Elizabeth Utz. In person interview. Boston, MA. 05, February 2009. Reidy, Chris. “15-Year, 3-City NorthPoint Project Kicks Off Today.” The Boston Globe (March 21, 2005), download/NP_globe_3.21.05.pdf (accessed February 17, 2009) Serafin, Lisa. Cavin Costello. Phone interview. Boston, MA. 12, February 2009. Silman, Ruth H. “Massachusetts Passes Corrective Legislation Regarding Landlocked Tidelands.” Environmental Alert: Recent Developments In Environmental Law. Nixon Peabody LLP. (Novermber 2007) (PDF version of document downloaded March 6, 2009) Shuman, Matthew. “NorthPoint: A Model For Smart Growth.” Town Of Bedford (January 10, 2006), bedford_10.01.06.html (accessed February 17, 2009) SRA International, Inc. Successful Rail Property Cleanup and Redevelopment: Lessons Learned and Guidance to Get Your Railfields Projects On Track. (PDF version of document downloaded March 12, 2009) Van Voorhis, Scott. “North Cambridge Condos Part Of A Bigger Plan.” The Boston Herald (August 16, 2005), http://www.northpointcambridge. com/download/NP_herald_8.16.05.pdf (accessed February 17, 2009) Spaulding & Slye Construction. 2005. Construction Management Plan: NorthPoint Project. (PDF version of document downloaded February 17, 2009)


Kindleberger, Richard. “New Plan Offered For Cambridge Site.” The Boston Globe (May 17, 2001), northpoint/Globe_5-17.html (accessed February 17, 2009)

Case Studies: Macro and Micro  

Through a close examination of an in-depth project case study, students at Northeastern University's School of Architecture speculate on pos...

Case Studies: Macro and Micro  

Through a close examination of an in-depth project case study, students at Northeastern University's School of Architecture speculate on pos...