Boston’s City Hall Council Chamber Renovation Receives Honor

By CN Staff

BOSTON—Boston’s City Hall Council Chamber was recently recognized with a 2019 William D. Smith Memorial Citation Award for Accessible Design from the Boston Society of Architects.

The program—which is part of the 2019 Boston Society of Architects Annual Awards— recognizes excellence in design for creating equal access to these important spaces for all people to use and enjoy. In each project, the designs involved creative interventions to achieve universal access while also respecting, restoring and transforming them for contemporary uses.

Finegold Alexander Architects was the architect on this impressive $180,000 project for the City of Boston, City Hall Council, Public Facilities Department, and Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

The project was completed in February 2019. Reliable New England General Contractors served as general contractor Boston City Hall was originally completed in 1968 and is a prominent example of the monumental Brutalist architectural style of that time, featuring facades and interior surfaces of exposed cast-in-place concrete.

Located on the fifth floor of City Hall, the Council Chamber renovation addressed accessibility, upgraded technology, and provided significant system, furniture and finish upgrades.

“We use the Chamber every month for our Advisory Board meetings, and the space is not only accommodating to our Board members and the disability community, it provides ideal accessibility and inclusion,” said Kristen McCosh, Disability Commissioner & ADA Title II Coordinator of the Boston Mayor’s Commission for Persons with Disabilities.

“I never imagined that the Chamber could be so welcoming to people with disabilities! I am truly impressed and thankful for the design team’s work every time I am inside, they did an incredible job.”

The councilors’ floor was raised to be flush with the surrounding main floor level, allowing universal accessibility.

“Raising the floor eliminated an existing ramp between the visitor seating, the councilors and the podium. Circulation is still direct, but without impediments. In addition, the redesign promotes a more inclusive atmosphere in the chamber,” explained Christopher Lane, Senior Associate, Finegold Alexander Architects.

Universal access was applied throughout the entire space including aisle width adjustments, altered seating arrangements to accommodate wheelchairs and companion seating, the addition of integrated accessible public lecterns and an automated, accessible sit/stand podium for the Council President allowing for an adjustable height. The podium was designed to be aesthetically sensitive to the fabric and characteristics of Boston City Hall, and to convey a sense of formality while being fully accessible.

The new lighting was designed in the spirit of the original lighting, by removing the surface mounted fixtures from previous renovations and replacing them with recessed LED fixtures within the concrete grid that is a hallmark of Boston City Hall.

Additionally, new furnishings were designed to accommodate the desired aesthetic, while being accessible and technologically enabled. The work included the installation of new carpeting, replacement of the councilors’ desks, fabric drapery panels, and selective replacement of other movable furniture.