Our 2008 master plan for the restoration, renovation, and expansion of the 50-year-old Josep Lluis Sert School of Law campus at the heart of Boston University unfolded in two phases. We began with the construction of the new five-story Sumner M. Redstone Building, followed by a comprehensive restoration and renovation of the 265-foot Law Tower and Pappas Library. The buildings are seamlessly attached at the base by a new two-story all-glass atrium that serves as a social hub for the complex. Together the buildings provide state-of-the-art classrooms, practice court rooms, and conference rooms; a dining hall; multiple study and lounge areas; two libraries; and 164 offices for faculty and staff. The renovated tower restores the glory of Sert’s original design while updating the interiors to provide light-filled spaces and sweeping views, boost energy efficiency, and improve access to classrooms and training facilities.
Constructing the new Redstone Building was part of our strategy to keep the law school on the existing site rather than build a new complex elsewhere. While the building absorbed much of a former outdoor plaza, the new space includes floor-to-ceiling windows in a café overlooking the Charles River and the expansive glass atrium entrance to bring the outside in. Students benefit from an expanded library, inviting study and lounge areas, and spacious classrooms and training rooms that are easily accessible.
The materials, colors, and details of the Redstone Building complement Sert’s tower, whose exterior was meticulously repaired and restored. Like many buildings of the era, the cast-in-place and exposed aggregate precast panels of the Tower weathered poorly. Concrete spalled and steel frame windows and panels failed. We fully restored the building’s façade, repairing the concrete and replacing window and metal panels with modern, energy-efficient assemblies of similar design. Painted ventilator panels in Sert’s original bold colors have brought back the brilliance of his 1960 design for all to appreciate.
In addition to the external issues, the tower never worked well for its occupants. Its 18 stories were served by six small elevators which conveyed students to 100-seat classrooms on the upper floors. At peak times, it took as long as 20 minutes to go from one class to another. The gut renovation of the building’s interior included moving a majority of the larger classrooms to the adjacent Redstone Building, creating faculty and administration office space on the upper floors, and rehabilitating the Pappas Library with much-needed cosmetic and structural upgrades.
The project achieved LEED Gold in 2016. Renovation of the historic Tower earned the project points for building re-use, and replacement of the inefficient 1960’s-era mechanical systems earned the project critical energy points.
Redstone Building Program:
2017 DOCOMOMO US | Modernism in America Award, Citation of Merit
2016 Boston Preservation Alliance | Preservation Achievement Award
2016 SCUP AIA-CAE | Merit Award for Excellence, Archiecture for Building Additions or Adaptive Reuse
2015 Massachusetts Historical Commission | Preservations Award
2015 American School & University | Outstanding Design Award, Educational Interiors
2015 College Planning & Management | Educational Design, Top Design Award
Metropolis, For a Time, Josep Lluis Sert’s Brawny Buildings Defined Modern Boston
Architectural Record, Boston University School of Law Renovation & Expansion
AIA Topic A, How colleges and universities are investing in energy efficiency
The Architect’s Newspaper, Retrofitting Brutalism: Boston University Law Tower
DoCoMoMo US, Saving and Reimagining Modern Academic Buildings
Concrete Construction, Boston University School of Law, Boston
Curbed Boston, Josep Lluis Sert’s BU Law Tower Restored, Expanded: a Gallery
High-Profile, BU’s Building & Law Tower Reno Complete