Advancing Inclusion

With a mission to promote diversity at Boston University and beyond, the Howard Thurman Center for Common Ground (HTC) encourages shared experiences by embracing cultural expression in all of its forms.

As a student life hub on campus, the design of the new HTC is an adaptive reuse of a landmarked building designed by Albert Kahn in 1927 as a Cadillac-Oldsmobile Dealership. The repositioned space brings greater visibility to the HTC's activities, inviting BU students to gather in the large student lounge, event spaces, classrooms and art gallery for the center’s culturally-based programs.

To establish a clear identity for the building and the HTC, NBBJ cut out the most prominent corner of the pre-existing building to create a new entrance. This and the new storefront windows promote the visibility of the HTC from the street, while also providing a portal from which to showcase student activity. Another significant intervention is the addition of a new grand stair that connects to the second-floor event space, classrooms, offices and meditation room. This stair doubles as an informal gathering and work space with stadium seating at its base. The transparency created from these interventions engages passersby by providing maximum visibility to the common spaces.

In addition to the HTC program, the project includes facade renovations and accessibility upgrades throughout the building. The secondary entries, main circulation corridors and elevators are also reconfigured for ease of use.

Tracking LEED Gold, the space has lower embodied energy compared to new construction due to the reuse of its historic building components and materials. New ground-level entrance vestibules, windows and an HVAC system enhance indoor air quality for thermal comfort.

“ At the HTC, students are united in their desire to learn about themselves and one another. Now, we have the capacity to host thousands of students a day. ”

Katherine Kennedy Director, Howard Thurman Center, Boston University