Architectural Design Project for Emerson College

Elkus Manfredi Architects, an architectural design company, designed an 18-story residence hall that answers Emerson College’s critical demand for on-campus housing, addresses the location challenges presented by the site, and most importantly, serves the needs and desires of Emerson students, who – as both creatives and millennials – crave spaces that provide opportunity for community, social connection, and inspiration.


Emerson College’s new 18-story, 375-bed residence hall at 2 Boylston Place
All images © Peter Vanderwarker

The new facility showcases Elkus Manfredi Architects’ innovative thinking in the effective use of indoor space. Because Emerson’s tight urban campus lacks outdoor communal areas for its gregarious and socially-engaged students, indoor opportunities for spontaneous student interaction, personal expression, and social gathering are an essential feature of any addition to the college’s building inventory. Traditional college residential designs generally include a small, multi-purpose common space on every floor. Still, the new residence hall’s relatively small footprint – just 5,400 gross square feet – rendered those types of areas impractical and an unacceptable drain on the building’s overall capacity for occupancy.


The new residence hall incorporates the façade of the historic 3 Boylston Place building, also known as the Ancient Landmark Building, which features red brick masonry, stone, and copper in the eclectic combination of Queen Anne and Romanesque revival architecture unique to the area.

Elkus Manfredi Architects solved this challenge by creating larger shared community spaces on five floors in the building that are themed around the social needs and desires of the Emerson students who will occupy it. The new common rooms include:

  • A ground-floor space that opens onto an al fresco restaurant during pleasant weather to integrate the building with Boylston Place
  • An airy lobby space with artistic design elements that create on homage to a backstage theater space
  • A two-story space with a performance stage element and a quiet mezzanine for study
  • a cooking-and-dining-themed space with a coffee-shop feel designed to allow an entire floor of students to have a communal meal
  • a spectacular space on the top floors that includes a panoramic view of the city and an outdoor terrace for special occasions, allowing all of the student residents of the building to enjoy the benefits of Emerson’s unique location.

The kitchen common area


The kitchen's capacity of up to 30 Emerson students allows for any floor in the building to have a group meal, a meeting, or a celebration with all its residents.


Located on two floors, the SkyLoft has design elements that bring to mind a residential loft conversion and offer students a stylish place to relax and enjoy an enviable view. The double-story glass walls to the north and east connect students with the city.




  • Created five destination common rooms that promote mixing of students from all parts of the building, rather than aggregating social interaction by floor.
  • Preserved and incorporated the façade of the Ancient Landmarks Building to maintain the historic connection to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.
  • Created themes for each common room specifically designed to address what Emerson students want: connection to the rest of the college, space for artistic self-expression, opportunities to build community, and design features that promote inspiration and emotional well-being.
  • Mixed residential options including suites, singles, doubles, and triples.
  • Added much-needed capacity of 375 beds to facilitate the renovation of the Little Building in the short term and to help meet the College and City’s stated goal of housing the maximum possible number of students on campus.

The front desk of 2 Boylston Place


Design elements in 2 Boylston Place were created to be both utilitarian and inspiring for the motivated Emerson College student body, while also speaking to their creative, playful side. This reading nook is a case in point.


Tall velvet stage curtains in the Odd Fellows space reference the performing arts focus of the College.

Emerson College Project Info

Size Building: 90,000 square feet
Height190 feet
Capacity375 Beds
Master planning and designElkus Manfredi Architects