BSA Headquarters / Höweler + Yoon Architecture


The Boston Society of Architects plans to move from its current location on 52 Broad Street to a new space at Atlantic Wharf, as part of a major transformation of the 1867 institution. As part of an open design competition, the BSA selected Höweler + Yoon Architecture’s proposal entitled: Slipstream Public Exchange. Images of the proposal, a fly through video and an architects description after the break.

SLIPSTREAM maximizes the BSA’s engagement with a larger public by creating a series of interfaces, both physical and informational. The physical design of the new headquarters introduces a “cloud” ceiling that capitalizes on the viewing angles between the sidewalk and the second floor, to create a highly visible signature feature that doubles as gallery ceiling and supergraphic signage. The information interface utilizes wireless technologies to deliver site specific content to visitors, while also creating a BSA application for smart phones and location-aware hand held devices.

Courtesy Höweler + Yoon Architecture

Drawing the public up to the second floor, a grand stair drops down from the ceiling above, and provides a fluid transition between floors with a single gesture. The stair and ceiling form the primary figure of the physical interface. Information technologies are also embedded in the “cloud” ceiling, allowing its edge to broadcast messages through an LED sign band, while projectors display a digital wayfinding entrance mat, and wireless transmitters stream video feeds. “Public Exchange” consoles are located throughout the space, allowing the public to access curated information about the built environment, construction billings index figures, and databases of designers, products, and services.

Courtesy Höweler + Yoon Architecture

The contoured media surface wraps around the perimeter of the space, creating a continuous gallery and event circuit. Program areas are held back from the edge, allowing the public circulation to flow along the perimeter.  The gallery program is conceived as a series of fluid paths and not as a discrete room. The content of the exhibitions produce the programmatic “current” to the flow of the gallery. Placing the gallery along the edge reinforces the cognitive parallax between the contents of the exhibitions in the foreground and the city in the background. This is consistent with the BSA’s core mission to support the active engagement between the process of design and the resulting product of the built environment.

Courtesy Höweler + Yoon Architecture

Conference rooms are distributed within the free-flowing gallery zone. The conference rooms form an archipelago of program distributed within the flows of public gallery, maximizing the contact between the BSA members, visitors, stakeholders, and members of the general public.

Exploded Axonometric

The new BSA produces “Public Exchange” through its organizational and material logics, as well as through its network and media strategies. The fluid spaces of the linear gallery parallel the constant streams of broadcast information. The archipelago of programs and exhibitions will create a smooth mixture of audiences and content within the flows and eddies of the BSA’s slipstream configuration, resulting in the productive discourse that is BSA’s mission.

Cite: Jarz, Hank. "BSA Headquarters / Höweler + Yoon Architecture" 16 Jan 2011. ArchDaily. Accessed 22 May 2015. <>
  • Scott

    Isn’t that the same design for the Fidelity commercial, follow your path? It’s even green. I bet its sustainable since its painted green.

    From the little I know about the BSA, isn’t historic preservation a big part? Not sure how this fits in…

    • munter roe

      “I bet its sustainable since its painted green”

      Is this whats known as ‘greenwash’

      Love it!

      Green good, red bad.

      • Scott

        I suppose sarcasm doesn’t translate well in text…

  • e55

    I’m a pretty smart guy, but “reinforces the cognitive parallax between…” and conference rooms that “form an archipelago of program distributed within the flows of public gallery, maximizing the contact between the BSA members, visitors, stakeholders, and members of the general public.” Really?? An archipelago? That just sounds so pretentious. Also, who are the “stakeholders” who aren’t in the other categories?

    I do like the stairs, though…

    And I am amused by munter roe’s comment about “Greenwash”.

  • Lil Jimmy

    this looks like a Columbia grad school project

  • Hans

    Slipstream? Does having a green squiggle really promote “a smooth mixture of audiences and content?” Do people mix better when “eddies” are defined on the ceiling? Can all of this really result in a “productive discourse,” or are we just trapped in a misplaced metaphor?

  • Jeff Dunn

    I’ll bet these guys wear all black