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New Boathouse for Community Rowing (CRI) in Boston

This is the first permanent facility for Community Rowing, the largest public rowing organization in the country. The project is composed of two buildings that form a courtyard which overlays two typically incompatible conditions: a public forecourt to the river and a staging terrace for the boats. The small building, a glass-shingled pavilion for single shells, displays the boats to the adjacent parkway. The large building houses longer boats, offices, and training rooms. The unique kinetic cladding system, which regulates natural ventilation and light, literally transforms the shape of the building and its relationship to the surrounding landscape.

Architect: Anmahian Winton Architects
Location: 20 Nonantum Road, Brighton, MA 02135, USA

Harry Parker Boathouse, Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI) in Boston, detail of the façade

Photo: Mike Champion

After 20 years in an open-air ice hockey rink, Community Rowing Inc., a nonprofit rowing club, relocated to a 30,000 sq.ft. boathouse on the banks of the Charles River. Sitting at the intersection of the river, an urban park system, bike paths, pedestrian routes, and local roads, the boathouse it provides storage space for more than 170 boats, a boat-repair shop, training rooms, locker rooms, a classroom, administrative spaces, and a community meeting room.

Harry Parker Boathouse, Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI) in Boston, façade and entrance

Photo: Jane Messinger

The facility’s long, narrow footprint was divided into a main building and a small-boat storage bay to maintain a visual connection to the riverfront. The design explores abstract commonalities between rowing and architecture, and it borrows some of the vocabulary of relevant regional precedents, such as tobacco barns and covered bridges.

The main-building envelope consists of large-scale aluminum frames and high-density composite panels with natural wood veneer that accommodate varying natural-ventilation requirements. The same cladding material was used as louvers to mask locker-room windows and mechanical vents, and to provide shading on the south side of the building. The small-boat storage bay is clad in glass shingles, which both protect and display the boats within. Through different types of cladding, building surfaces also offer different experiences with the sun’s movement during the day.

Harry Parker Boathouse, Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI) in Boston, shelf storage for small boats in a glass pavilion

Photo: Peter Vanderwarker

Harry Parker Boathouse, Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI) in Boston, shelf storage for small boats in a glass pavilion

Photo: Peter Vanderwarker

In addition to natural ventilation, a green roof was used to reduce air-conditioning costs (and winter heating loads). The boathouse also features a geothermal well and a robust water-management system including a subterranean 15,000-gallon tank that stores excess rainwater for boat rinsing, site irrigation, and gray-water uses.

Harry Parker Boathouse, Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI) in Boston, façade

Photo: Jane Messinger

Harry Parker Boathouse, Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI) in Boston, façade

Photo: Jane Messinger

The CRI boathouse has received the 2014 AIA Institute Honor Award in Architecture.

Jury Comments

  • This building is beautiful not just in aesthetics, but also in operability.
  • The design purpose is clearly conveyed by borrowing from the nomenclature of oars and regattas.
  • Simply done, clean, clear design concept, beautiful siting, and well done from a sustainability standpoint. The moves are limited but impactful, and the result is calm but interesting.
  • The natural ventilation strategy animates the building skin; it is dramatic and well conceived.
Harry Parker Boathouse, Community Rowing, Inc. (CRI) in Boston, façade with cladding system

Photo: Jane Messinger

Project data

Engineer - structural: RSE Associates
Engineer - waterfront structural: Childs Engineering
Engineer - MEP: RW Sullivan
Envelope consultant: Richard Keleher Architect; Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates
Landscape architect/engineer - civil: Stantec

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