This new boathouse for Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI) provides a home for the largest public rowing organization in the country and supports more than half of the rowers on the Charles River. Its offers rowing opportunities at all skill levels, as well as accessible rowing programs for the physically disabled and pioneering programs for students in the Boston Public School System.
The river, an urban park system, bike paths, and local roads converge at this location to create an ideal urban locus for this much needed community asset. However, the constrained site presented challenges for the boathouse’s substantial program, as well as a potential conflict between needing to move hundreds of boats and people every day, and providing public access to the river. As a site strategy, the project’s long, narrow footprint is divided to create both a public court that establishes a visual connection to the riverfront, and a functional connection to the boathouse: a public invitation to the Charles River and to CRI.
This design expands the traditional vocabulary of rowing facilities on the river, engaging regional precedents, such as tobacco barns and covered bridges. Glass shingles held in custom-fabricated aluminum clips sheath the small sculling pavilion to protect, ventilate and display smaller boats to the adjacent parkway. The larger building’s kinetic cladding system of large-scale composite panels accommodates varying natural ventilation requirements. The same material is also used as patterned louvers to mask locker room windows and mechanical vents, and to provide shading on the south face of the building.
Finally, the experiential effects of these different types of cladding transcend their functional purposes. The kinetic building envelope literally alters the shape of the building and its relationship to the surrounding landscape. Building surfaces transform with the sun’s movement during the day and with users’ movement around the building, not unlike a rowing shell’s rhythmic punctuations in the fluid medium of the river.