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Arsenal on the Charles

Watertown Arsenal | Watertown, MA

Built in 1816, the Arsenal on the Charles is a massive complex with 13 buildings on 37 acres. The buildings remained intact until the 1970s when, in an effort to conserve energy, thousands of historic windows and their masonry openings were replaced with opaque insulated infill panels. Today the rebuilt Arsenal is an active commercial complex — historically reconstructed, with brickwork and stone lintels at openings, and new energy-efficient windows that match the appearance of the extinct originals.

The Arsenal houses offices, research and development space, an arts center, and a community theater; the complex is currently owned by Harvard University. Inside, the buildings feature artifacts of their industrial heritage. Outside, the design integrates a formerly underused park with the open space of the campus site and reestablishes community access to the Charles River.

The design substantially improves building envelope performance. In one building alone, three acres of new historically appropriate glazing doubled the building envelope’s thermal resistance. Under the watchful eye of the National Park Service, the project was approved for the Historic Investment Tax Credit; the design for the windows was published in a Park Service manual.


2001     American Institute of Architects New England – Special Award for Excellence in Architecture

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750,000 sf

COST (2000)

$40 million