The Boston Arts Academy is ready for its star turn. As the city’s only public school dedicated to the visual and performing arts, it spent the first two decades of its existence sharing a repurposed warehouse with another high school. “It was not designed for human habitation,” says Perkins Eastman Principal Joe Drown, who oversaw the design of a new building meant to celebrate human inquiry, creativity, and performance of every kind.
The design focuses on daylight and transparency: A variety of glass “beacons” step out from the façade, each one revealing to the public different elements of the academy’s programming, including its art and dance studios, gallery exhibitions, and theater concourse. A terrace opens from the large recital hall on the top floor, where acoustic ceiling “reflectors” send the music outside. The building’s transparency works both ways, with voluminous windows exposing the views of Fenway Park and its surrounding neighborhood back into the school—along with voluminous sunlight, while a variety of shading mechanisms minimize its heat and glare.
The academy’s educational mission is also a prominent part of the design: Perkins Eastman worked with one of its students to produce a transparent graphic, visible both inside and outside, that stretches the height of the building to create an “exclamation point” over the entrance. A central, monumental stair offers students a place to congregate, along with a stage at the bottom for impromptu performance. High-tech classrooms are vertically integrated with state-of-the-art studios and performance venues so the academic and arts disciplines remain inextricably linked. The auditorium serves as one big teaching tool, with its technical components intentionally displayed so students can see and learn about its cables, controls, lighting, and catwalks—all of which are fully accessible.
Healthy indoor air quality is known to improve health, wellness, and cognitive function; like every project at Perkins Eastman, energy efficiency, sustainability, and indoor environmental quality were key drivers in the academy’s design. Ventilation, abundant daylighting, and reduced CO2 levels were a priority, in addition to its high-performance building envelope and mechanical systems.