Ora Seaport is a multi-family residential tower located on the waterfront in Boston’s Seaport District. Once an industrial area with 100-year-old warehouses and parking lots, the Seaport has evolved into one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Boston and is now home to artists, entrepreneurs, and musicians. The 12-story Ora Seaport is the focal point at the end of Congress Street and is positioned on the western edge of one of many parcels that comprise the 30-acre Massachusetts Port Authority Commonwealth Flats Development Area. 

Ora Seaport is a mixed-income community containing 304 rental apartments including 40 affordable apartments. The landscape architect was responsible for the planning and design of the urban plaza/drive court, streetscapes, a second-level public podium terrace courtyard, and a residential roof deck with a pool and lounge spaces. 

The streetscape is interactive and friendly and has direct physical and visual connections to the rest of the Seaport District. It incorporates the Seaport Square design aesthetic by celebrating the geometric energy of the building. It is a universally accessible public realm space that is durable, easily maintainable and able to withstand the harsh conditions of the waterfront. The landscape design offers plenty of seating opportunities and incorporates lighting, litter receptacles, furniture, permeable paving, industrial-inspired aged steel components, and ample plantings. 

The residential tower is designed around a large plaza, which acts as an entrance to the new development and allows pedestrian access through the site via a refined concrete and granite paver system highlighted with specialty lighting. The challenge in the design of the plaza was the size of the space and how to make it pedestrian friendly. The addition of a planter or planted island to break up the space was not an option because emergency vehicles would not be able to get through. The landscape architect’s solution was to design a custom-made sculptural mountable island with specialty lighting integrated into the granite. This mountable central island is a dramatic focal point in the plaza and allows emergency vehicles to drive over the mound to account for tight turning circles. To add visual appeal and create human scale, the landscape architect added texture to the concrete finish around the island by brooming and tining the concrete. 

Looking out over the plaza and the Harbor, the publicly accessible shared second level courtyard brings together residents, guests staying at the hotel, and visitors coming in off the street. The courtyard is comprised of a community greensward, lounge areas, raised tree grove, dining terrace, and entrances to the second level restaurant and retail spaces. It is bordered by private residential patios and planting beds containing 5,215 plants and trees. Paving patterns featuring porcelain, concrete, and wood are used to identify the “outdoor rooms” on the terrace and to add visual interest from above.

The raised planter is designed to allow full-depth soils to support shade trees and woodland undercover while also providing a visual and vegetative buffer between the retail space and the greensward. A sculptural precast bench is built into the planter and at night, is highlighted with ambient strip lighting. Wood tile pavers placed around the planter recall the nautical boardwalks along the harbor and provide a soft change in materials.

The residential roof deck on the 12th floor offers views of the city skyline, the Harbor, and the Seaport District. It is comprised of multiple outdoor spaces and contains a pool, a series of cabanas, furniture, a porcelain tiled outdoor fireplace, media walls, grills, a wet bar, an outdoor shower, and a green roof planting system. 

The amenity deck includes a TV lounge, a living room with a fireplace, a raised pool deck, an outdoor shower, an exercise area, and grilling and dining spaces. Residents use the space for working from home, gathering with friends and family, taking a plunge in the pool, and grilling and having dinner. These outdoor amenity spaces have increased social interaction and a sense of community among the residents. 

South Boston is one of the City’s most exposed neighborhoods to climate change impacts, including high-tide flooding and episodic storm-related flooding, greater intensity rainfall events, and more intense heat waves. Massport has developed a set of design guidelines that the landscape architect incorporated into the site. Resiliency measures were included in the public plaza, drive court, and streetscapes. They include permeable pavers and native plants as well as granite block benches and stainless-steel bike racks that can withstand saltwater inundation. With the building’s critical program raised above the project flood level, ground level entries are accessed by sloped walkways reinforced with granite seat walls that recall the strength of the granite block harbor walls.

The street level drive court is illuminated using a “moonlighting” technique to maintain safe egress along the pedestrian realm and provide safety and security to pedestrians while also supporting dark skies initiatives. In addition, soft ambient lighting was used to highlight the sculptural areas of the landscape design as well as the building. 

The design of the roof deck includes over 800 trees, perennials, vines, shrubs, and groundcover. The plantings benefit the urban environment by prolonging the life of the building’s heating, ventilation, and HVAC systems; managing stormwater; moderating the urban heat island effect; increasing energy efficiency; reducing noise; and improving air quality.

Project Location: Boston, Massachusetts USA

Design year: 2016-2018

Year Built: 2019-2021


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