by Pallavi MehraAug 12, 2023
Designed by San Francisco-based Atelier Cho Thompson, the Leather Factory reimagines the confines of the snugly nestled 179 Lincoln Street in Boston's bustling central business district. Originally constructed in 1899 as a shoe factory, this Beaux-Arts building boasts a remarkable light stone facade adorned with intricate depictions of the shoemaking process. Its distinctive brick and terracotta structure sets it apart as a timeless landmark. However, despite its noticeably grand exterior, the interior design of the building had slowly faded away and lost its distinctive character over the years. That's where Atelier Cho Thompson, in collaboration with EQ Office and lighting designer Lam Partners, stepped in to reimagine and transform this historic space.
The project is no ordinary exercise in renovation. It balances a delicate dance between preserving the building's rich history and catering to the evolving needs of the post-pandemic workplace. The designers effectively met the design challenge of balancing the old and new and creating a welcoming and dynamic environment in spaces that had become generic and anonymous over time.
Atelier Cho Thompson approached the challenge with a multi-layered composition of narratives and tactile layers. The process began by unearthing the history of the building's interior. Decades of renovations, done over existing interior details, had left layers of vinyl tile and commercial carpet. This obscured the building's textured history. These layers were meticulously removed to reveal the original terrazzo flooring, with a rich palette of grey, saffron, and cream. Expert craftsmen restored missing areas with near-perfect matches.
The transformation didn't stop at the flooring. The designers delved into the history and design of the building's unique facade, featuring distinctive arched geometry and detailed ornamentation. They developed a language of detail that seamlessly brought the exterior's functional and ornamental elements into the building's core.
This transformation introduced a playful spirit, creating juxtapositions of materials, patterns, and scales. The white oak counter front in the reception, for instance, echoed the arches of the facade, creating a harmonious connection between past and present. Brass details, like handrails and signage matching the building's original mail chute, added a touch of elegance to the interior.
The spatial experience within 179 Lincoln Street is intentionally immersive. As you step into the five-story atrium lobby, you are greeted by a flood of natural light and a rich material palette. Plaster, marble, stone, wood, and polished brass blend seamlessly to create a warm and inviting atmosphere. Lighting fixtures by Katy Skelton hang like works of art, casting their glow on the meticulously designed spaces.
Original red brick walls and terrazzo floors lay exposed beneath the skylights in communal areas, telling the story of the building's history. These spaces have been transformed into functional collaboration areas, offering a range of workstyles from high-standing counters to cosy banquettes to drop-in benches. Dusty pink leather upholstery on banquettes pays homage to the building's shoe-making past, adding a touch of nostalgia to the contemporary setting.
Throughout the transformation of 179 Lincoln Street, iconic furniture and products are seamlessly integrated into the design. From the slender backrests wrapped in leather to the streamlined globe pendant fixtures, every element has been carefully curated to enhance the overall experience.
This project is as much about envisioning the future of the workplace as it is about preserving the past. In a post-pandemic world, the office must offer more than what working from home can provide. 179 Lincoln Street responds to this challenge by creating fresh, welcoming, and inclusive spaces that hope to encourage collaboration and connection among colleagues.
The project's success lies in its ability to draw people back to the office, offering a dynamic environment that goes beyond the generic and anonymous spaces of the past. It's a testament to the power of design to transform not only physical spaces but also the way we work and interact with our surroundings. The transformation of 179 Lincoln Street stands is a graceful and luxurious example of how architecture can breathe new life into historic buildings while embracing the needs of the present and the future.
Name: Leather Factory | 179 Lincoln Street
Location: Boston, The United States of America
Year of completion: 2022
Design Firm: Atelier Cho Thompson