Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s Student Residence Hall / ADD Inc.

  • 24 Jan 2014
  • Educational Featured Housing Selected Works
© Chuck Choi

Architects: ADD Inc.
Location: , MA, USA
Area: 145,600 sqft
Year: 2013
Photographs: Chuck Choi, Lucy Chen, Peter Vanderwarker

© Chuck Choi

From the architect. There is a new architectural landmark in Boston’s skyline, a $52 million residence hall that personifies the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Designed by architecture firm , the tower doubles the college’s housing capacity and provides an innovative environment where 493 students can live, study and play at affordable, state college rental rates.

Section Color Diagram

The design of the new residence hall exemplifies ADD Inc’s innovative process. Designers drew on the best ideas from junior and senior staff members to harmonize the goals and aspirations of college professors, administrators, students, trustees, alumni and the building’s owner, the Massachusetts State College Building Authority (MSCBA).ADD Inc conducted in-depth benchmarking, hosted focus groups and design charrettes, and developed full-scale mockup units for students to explore and critique.

© Peter Vanderwarker

“MassArt wanted the building to stand out in the Boston skyline and meaningfully identify them as an art college,” said B.K. Boley, lead architect and principal, ADD Inc. “It was the students’ idea that the building look like a painting and that it be just as colorful and vibrant as they are. ADD Inc suggested Gustav Klimt’s “Tree of Life” which helps convey the school’s rebirth and continuation.” In September, the incoming student residents voted to nickname the building, “The Tree House”.

© Lucy Chen

The 21-story, 145,600 square foot building features a ground floor café and living room, a second floor health center, and a third-floor communal “Pajama Floor” with kitchen, game room, laundry facilities, and fitness center. The rest of the 17 floors are made up of 136 suites configured in single, double and three-bedroom layouts.

© Chuck Choi


ADD Inc drew inspiration from Klimt’s famous 1909 painting as a metaphor for the building. The façade features 5,500 boldly colored metal panels in five custom colors arranged at five different widths and depths.

Facade Diagram

The colors range from dark brown at the base to mirror tree bark, and grow progressively lighter, making the building appear taller. Green window panels punctuate the façade to represent the tree’s leaves.The building is such a unique highlight in the skyline that it has transformed MassArt’s image and presence along the Avenue of the Arts.

The curved base – the proverbial trunk of the tree – was designed to accommodate an underground tunnel that swerves through the site and required architects to cantilever the rectangular building above.

© Lucy Chen


The residence hall’s design and engineering decisions were made with solar orientation in mind.Windows on the tower’s north sides provide light favorable to artists’ work and fewer windows on the south side help reduce heat. The windows are operable and the school employs an electronic system that lets students know when it’s advisable to open or close them.

© Lucy Chen

The building received a Silver LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council and its energy usage is 22% more efficient than code mandates. Other green features include Low-E windows with solar tint that reduce heat gain, double insulated metal panels, and low- flow plumbing fixtures that reduce the amount of potable usage by 33%. More than 50% of the material used in the residential hall has recycled content, 20% from local sources, and 70% of the wood is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.

* Location to be used only as a reference. It could indicate city/country but not exact address.
Cite: "Massachusetts College of Art and Design’s Student Residence Hall / ADD Inc." 24 Jan 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 May 2015. <>
  • Keith

    really desaturated those exterior shots.. In real life the green stands out like a sore thumb.

  • John

    The map is way off. The building is on Huntington Avenue, just west of the Museum of Fine Arts.