Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

Projects : transit  
Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority
Traction Power Substation
Boston, MA
15,000 gsf
$20,500,000
2004

The Traction Power Substation building was designed and constructed to provide DC electrical power to Blue Line subway trains and house a ventilation shaft for emergency smoke evacuation from the Blue Line tunnel. A small retail space (400 square feet), is located on the ground floor at the corner of State Street and Chatham Row.

The design of the building honors its location on Boston's historic State Street near Quincy Market. The demand for sensitivity to the existing fabric was considerable, given this unlikely use for a prime, downtown location. The task was to house electrical machinery, heavy switchgear, and a ventilation shaft in a building that would make a dignified, contemporary, yet unobtrusive addition to the streetscape.

The exterior design employs the predominant materials and vocabulary of neighboring turn-of-the-20th-century buildings without resorting to imitative architectural language. Limestone, granite (building base), and aluminum (grid), along with prominent cornices and deeply indented windows, contribute to a design that allows this building - housing a completely utilitarian program - to reside harmoniously within its commercial context.