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Buildings We Love: 424 Massachusetts Avenue

The building at 424 Massachusetts Avenue (Mass. Ave.) sits with its older neighbors in Boston’s South End.

Experts would have to point to the building’s modern style to identify it as newer construction. For this reason, 424 Mass. Ave. is a great example of modern architecture blending with existing historic buildings in an old neighborhood.

424 Mass Ave
422-424 Mass Ave. today. Photo courtesy of Boston Landmark Commission.

Dolezal Architecture and Interior Design firm designed the building on a lot left empty since the 1980s. The site was taken over by the Boston Redevelopment Authority. This department is now known as the Boston Planning and Development Agency. In 2002, the developer met with the South End Landmark District Commission about constructing a new building on the site. The proposal included a building similar in size as two traditional South End row houses. This new building included ten condominium units, two affordable. The plan for the site also included eight subterranean parking spaces. Access to the garage is at the end of neighboring Wellington Street through a private alleys.

Original Structures
Common architecture styles seen on this block of Massachusetts Avenue taken in the 1970s. Photo taken from original application, Courtesy of Dolezal Architecture and Interior Design.

From the start, Dolezal’s team took inspiration from the surrounding neighborhood. The application mapped out the process and influences when thinking up the design. This included a prominent bowed front and a segmented front facade. Next, the project went through several rounds of review by the Commission. This included discussions on details like window pane configuration and penthouse facade treatments. The Commission approved the final plan through a subcommittee in October 2002.  The result was a modern design that did not copy historic architecture, but instead it gave a subtle nod. 424 Mass Ave. celebrates older design by interpreting neighborhood patterns, massing, and materials. Walk by today and you will recognize how 424's patterns are inspired by its senior neighbors.

Design Process 424 Mass Ave
Part of the design process included with the application for development at 424 Mass. Ave. Photos courtesy of Dolezal Architects.

Buildings like 424 Mass Ave. are important to Boston’s historic neighborhoods. Theses buildings show how new development can continue using time-tested building patterns. Historic Districts are not designed to freeze neighborhoods. They are designed to manage change to continue the original narrative linked to a sense of place. 

The Commission consists of South End resident volunteers and area design professionals. The Commission welcomes conversations related to design before submitting an official application. This makes the approval process efficient, transparent and seamless as possible.

Environment South End
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