Partners HealthCare is the largest employer, hospital network, and physician’s organization in Massachusetts. The organization sought to consolidate its administrative operations one corporate campus. They enlisted OJB to design a landscape that would scale with their new 850,000 SF building, while serving both their employees and the public.
Prior to redevelopment by Federal Realty Investment Trust, the site was a Ford Motor Company assembly plant and one of the region’s strongest industrial employment centers. After the failure of Ford’s Edsel Division and the construction of nearby highways, the area fell into disrepair for several decades, and saw little activity until the City of Somerville’s push for urban renewal.
The client found the site attractive because of its strategic location, as well as its potential to provide a setting for employees to live, work, and play. To the north, the site is adjacent to the high density, mixed-use residential complex of Assembly Square. To the east, the campus is adjacent to the Assembly Row T station and a shared use path to Boston, encouraging commuters to use public or bipedal transportation. The campus’s direct connection to the train station also allows the campus to act as an urban portal for visitors to flow through. Despite its highly programmed adjacencies, the site had many physical challenges. Its proximity to the Mystic River, the Boston Harbor, and the Amelia Earhart Dam subjected it to risks of sea level rise and strong onshore winds. The Northern Expressway and nearby train tracks generated significant amounts of noise pollution. Since the site was originally purposed for industrial use, OJB also had to address the existing brownfield conditions.
These site challenges pushed sustainability and resiliency to the forefront of the OJB’s design priorities. OJB spent months studying NOAA data of the area’s tidal changes and sea level rise projections. In partnership with an environmental consultant, the team conducted noise, sun, and wind studies to inform the design. Significant soil and ground improvements had to be made, including the removal of 3.5 feet of contaminated soil. To prevent fresh soil from settling, piles were drilled 60-80 feet into the bedrock and filled with compacted gravel. The entire site was then capped with fresh soil to appropriate elevations.
Overall, the design created over 1.8 acres of permeable surface and added 333 trees that sequester approximately 40,000 pounds of carbon annually. These sustainable elements are also an attractive and visible part of the campus, which in turn encourages everyday guest interaction. The rain garden, outfitted with native coastal plants, prominently intersects the formal courtyard and the connecting path between the building and parking structure. The bioswale and dry creek are created with local New England stones, and its design transitions from a structured trough into a natural, winding creek shaded by River Birch. The large detention basins blend into an expansive 2.5-acre event lawn and complement the space’s varying elevations. Custom benches are made from reclaimed wood, salvaged from the client’s Charlestown site and restored to expose their natural grain.
Private and semi-private courtyards are work-enabled spaces designed formally on an architectural grid to promote inside-outside connections with the building. In contrast, the streetscape, open event lawn, and fitness trail are outward-facing, porous, and informal, designed to encourage visitors to wander and stay outdoors. The sinuous fitness trail loops around the lawn and guides guests on a journey through groves of Maple, Gingko and Redwood trees. The event lawn hosts company and community events throughout the year and features a viewing hill with specimen trees to watch events from a distance.
A notable amenity space is the private 28,000 SF green roof, which boasts sweeping views of downtown Boston and supports nearly a hundred Whitespire Birch trees. The roof terrace is adjacent to the third level cafeteria, and its accordion doors slide open to the outdoor dining area, creating a seamless interior-exterior connection. OJB worked closely with the civil and structural engineers to design the roof’s planters, soil depths, and drainage system to balance structural limitations, weight, and visual aesthetics.
The Partners HealthCare site is innovative approach to corporate campus design: it is integrated into a high density, urban, mixed-use area and acts as a public open space by sharing its green space amenities. The campus is also a model for environmental and social sustainability, providing for all users, private and public. With a litany of sustainability features and an impressive LEED Gold certification under the v4 rating system, the new Partners HealthCare Administrative site sets a new standard for corporate campus design and will be a regional benchmark for many years to come.
Name of the project: Partners HealthCare Administrative Campus
Project category: Public Project
Role of the entrant in the project: Landscape Architecture
Project location: 399 Revolution Drive, Assembly Row, Somerville, MA 02145
Design year: 2015
Year Built: 2016