Pier 4 in Boston

Elkus Manfredi Architects, an architectural design company, designed the Pier 4 office building which is a part of a complex that includes two buildings, one an office building and the other a condominium building. The office building is a striking addition to the architectural landscape of the Seaport District as visible from the water and the new Seaport District neighborhood.

Pier 4-Tishman Speyer

With its prime, highly visible position on Boston Harbor, the Pier 4 office building makes an iconic signature statement. Its glazed curtain wall exterior envelope provides movement facades that respond uniquely to its influential surrounding views, such as the city and the harbor. © Magda Biernat

Design Challenges

  • The building’s waterfront prime location determined the design of an iconic building that would have high visibility from the Harbor, from the city and within the Seaport neighborhood
  • City of Boston approval stipulated that 80% of the building’s first floor be allocated for public use.
  • With the building boom taking place along the waterfront, the Pier 4 office building needed to project a sense of openness and public access along the harbor.
  • Due to the dimensions of a robust building footprint special consideration was implemented in introducing permeability through the ground floor as well as creating active edges to enhance the public realm.
  • The building needed to offer the high-quality Class A finishes and amenities expected by today’s premier office tenants.
  • The building design had to respond to various external factors such as the views from and to the city; the immediate relationship with the Boston Harbor and the integration with the influential Museum of Contemporary Art (ICA). 
Pier 4-Tishman Speyer

The East side, in the Boston Harbor, shows its two story undulating triangular bays that shift and slide between each other creating a sense of depth and constant movement that changes throughout the length of the day. © Magda Biernat

Pier 4-Tishman Speyer

The distinctive “stacked” sections on the façade are illuminated from below, adding to the architectural drama after dark. © Magda Biernat

Pier 4-Tishman Speyer

The Pier 4 office building’s broad promenade is part of Boston’s public-access Harborwalk trail that traverses the coastline for almost 40 miles. © Magda Biernat

Design Solutions

  • The building’s modern glass and steel exterior provides two distinct and different signature façades one facing the harbor and the other facing the city.
  • The West façade, facing Boston, has a more subdued gesture. It opens up to the city with a convex façade and having its three main features, the main entrance, a trapezoidal cut-out terrace at the fourth floor facing the ICA, and an open to the sky Penthouse terrace. All of these moves are located in a staggered rhythm creating movement towards the water.
  • The East Side, facing the harbor in a more intimate way, have these two story undulating triangular moves that shift and slide between each other, creating a constant movement that changes though out the length of the day. At night, the underside of the waves is lit up continuing to show this same effect causing a reflection on the harbor and the pedestrian walk below.
  • They achieve such shear mullion less oversize uninterrupted glazing units (IGU) an intermediate horizontal transom or ‘kiss mullion’ was introduced dividing the transparent glass and the shadow box above.
  • The NE corner acts not only as an element where the west city facing facade and the east undulating façade converge but also as a beacon to the city and the Boston Harbor. To further enhance this moment, a double height open to the sky gathering space surrounded by a glass and exposed steel structure, has been allocated.
  • Restaurants with outdoor dining, retail shops, and a public lobby activate the ground-level space with pedestrian activity and satisfy public space requirements. Retail venues can be accessed from both the interior lobby and exterior of the building to maximize public access.
  • The office lobby is located in the center of the building creating a public corridor from east to west serves as an important element in the public access requirements of the building, creating permeability through the building.
  • The east exterior façade of the lobby is two story glass to maximize views into the lobby where a glass bridge crosses this two story space under which a one story corridor frames the view to the harbor.
  • The two story lobby walls are composed of highly figured “Golden Zelle” Brazilian quartzite. The “Golden Zelle” has delicate figururing of greens and blues which reminiscences of old harbor maps and a high iron content reminiscing of the rusty steel from old ships.
  • The one story corridor on one side has an angel hair pattern, stainless steel which continues up and across the ceiling, providing reflections from the water on a sunny day onto the ceiling. Bringing the harbor into the lobby.
  • A row of granite blocks salvaged from the original seawall acts as bench seating; rough, in contrast to the smooth quartzite wall, they reference the granite seawall just outside.
  • Class A amenities include an outdoor terrace and top-floor penthouse, a second-floor fitness center, and rentable public meeting space, also on the second floor. The open-air glass penthouse features two walls (a North facing and a West facing) planted with Boston ivy and coniferous plants to avoid the emptiness of foliage in winter and offers city and harbor views.
  • This building has received LEED Gold Certification. 
Pier 4-Tishman Speyer

The west façade facing the Seaport District includes a trapezoidal shape folding into the building on the fourth floor above the entry that creates space for a terrace. © Magda Biernat

Pier 4-Tishman Speyer

The lobby features a view corridor from the west entry to the harbor at the east entry that invites the public to pass through unimpeded. On the west side, the lobby rises two stories with a bridge crossing its center. The interior lobby wall is composed of highly figured “Golden Zelle” quartzite. © Magda Biernat

Pier 4-Tishman Speyer

Class A amenities include an outdoor terrace and top-floor penthouse, a second-floor fitness center, and rentable public meeting space, also on the second floor. The open-air glass penthouse features two walls (a North facing and a West facing) planted with Boston ivy and coniferous plants to avoid the emptiness of foliage in winter and offers city and harbor views. © Magda Biernat

By the Numbers The Office Building

  • 385,000 square feet total
  • 13 stories
  • 16,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor
  • 90,000 square feet of garage space on three levels below the office and the condominium buildings.

Project Team for Pier 4 office building

  • Architecture: Elkus Manfredi Architects
  • General Contractor: Turner Construction Co.
  • Façade Consultant: Heintges
  • Structural engineer: McNamara/Salvia
  • MEP: Consentini Associates, Inc.
  • Civil Engineers: Tetra Tech
  • Geotechnical: Haley & Aldrich
  • Landscape: Reed Hilderbrand LLC
  • Lighting: George Sexton
  • Building Code: Jenson Hughes
  • Traffic Consulting: Vanasse & Associates, Inc.
  • Parking Consulting: Walker Parking Consultants
  • LEED Consultant – The Green Engineer

Overview of Development of the Seaport District

Elkus Manfredi Architects has been central to the redevelopment of Boston’s Seaport District since 2010. That year, with its initial project One Marina Park Drive, the firm set a high architectural standard for mixed-use buildings in the area. Elkus Manfredi’s next District project, Liberty Wharf, was completed in 2012. Liberty Wharf is a lively waterfront restaurant/office complex that strategically reinstated a missing section of Boston’s famed HarborWalk and has been recognized with a number of design awards, including the Preservation Achievement Award of the Boston Preservation Alliance. Elkus Manfredi has since played a substantial role in ongoing urban planning, and architecture in the Seaport: in a three-square-mile area, the firm is responsible for over six million square feet of new and re-purposed space, including retail, office, life science, hospitality, and mixed-use.