Boston architectural college


General overview

This project profoundly re-interrogates accessibility, which is no longer considered as a constraint, but as a lever for the valorisation of heritage and uses of space. Indeed, access works are seen as an opportunity here to increase uses (valorisation afforded by a ramp), to draw attention to the architectural qualities oft he of the building (valorisation of preserved materials) as well as its heritage value (historical research).

Principal access interventions  :

  1. the entry
  2. the interior circulations
  3. signage


Boston city centre

Description :

The building is an old police station converted into a contemporary art centre in the 1970ies. It was bought by Boston Architectural College and entirely renovated for use by students.

Illustrated case-study :

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Heritage significance and attractiveness

  • the front elevation of the building is listed
  • the Boston Architectural College’s MA courses are delivered there

Access challenges

  • main entrance has a flight of stairs
  • interior circulations require  re-organisation
  • the presence of half levels impedes access to the upper floors
  • façade is listed


  • historical research validates the hypothesis for a single main entry for all
  • valorisation of environmental changes inside the building (ramp, selection and conservation of materials)
  • a phased project plan with three phases (the building being in use)


Historical research in the service of access

Before the works started, a flight of stairs barred access to the College entrance to students with mobility difficulties. An accessible entrance, which had been created at the back the building, was now considered discriminatory. The programme of works provided an opportunity to rethink access to the building, at entrance level and the interior circulations.

Entrée principale avec un emmarchementEntrée secondaire par une rampe

La proposition retenue est la suppression de l’emmarchement au niveau de l’entrée appuyée par la découverte de documents historiques attestant de l’absence d’escalier sur le bâtiment d’origine.

The works carried out required sizable interventions to the structure of the building, noticeably the removal of the flight of stairs and the lowering of part of the floor at ground floor level (in a building with a basement floor).

At floor level, the treatment given to paving at the level of the entry porch strengthens the continuity between the inside of the building and the public space outside.At the level of the entry, two sliding glass doors fitted after the two externally hinged wooden doors created a door lobby. College reception is located in the immediate vicinity of the door lobby.

Facade du bâtiment d'origine sans emmarchementEntrée du bâtiment après les travaux de suppression des marches

Internal re-organisation : towards enhanced uses

The difference in height on the ground floor resulting from it being partly lowered has been addressed by the installation of a ramp and a staircase. These alterations provided the opportunity of re-thinking the reception area.

  • Valorised usage of the ramp

This ramp has been given an added function, namely to serve as an exhibition space for students’ work. Situated close to the college reception, it enjoys high visibility.

  • Heightened visibility of the reception

The re-design of the ground floor spaces resulted in much higher visibility for the reception, which is now in the immediate vicinity of the entry. Access is via a door lobby in glass and leads directly to the waiting space in the reception area.

La rampe servant également d'espace d'expositionLe sas vitré

Signage in the service of heritage valorisation

  • The Architectural College sign on the main façade

The design of the College sign is a luminous banner with contrasted lettering. The banner is positioned in harmony with the composition of the elevation, so as not to hinder the building’s architectural legibility.

  • Horizontal circulations : selecting materials

The design for the horizontal circulations aims to combine quality use for all (notably ease of orientation) with the quality of atmosphere, through:

  1. the valorisation of the existing building : the brick walls have been preserved and partially clad, so as to keep the original material visible and a strong contrast between the existing brick wall surfaces and sections of the wall painted in white.
  2. the visual contrasts between the floor finishings and the walls, as well as the colour treatment of the walls (as in the yellow colour on the photo) give visual structure to the spaces and provide “landmarks”.

Espace de circulation et travail de contraste

Players and processes


  • Client : Boston Architectrual Architectural College
  • Project manager : Institute for Human Centered Design (Emmanuel Andrade)


Phased project plan, as the site is in use by college staff and students.

Important renovation works have been undertaken by Boston Architectural College from 2007 to 2012. The plan includes the accessibility of the building at entrance level as well as of the interior circulations. The front elevation being a listed heritage feature, access solutions need to respect the building’s heritage value.

The works were carried out in three phases :

  • phase 1 (September 2007 – May 2008) : works carried out on second floor
  • phase 2 (May 2008 – October 2008) : works on the first floor and the attic
  • phase 3 (October 2008 -November 2012) : ground floor and entrance