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Center for Computing & Data Sciences at Boston University

KPMB Architects

Boston, Massachusetts, United States

August 2023


Bruce Kuwabara (Design Partner), Paulo Rocha (Design Partner)


Marianne McKenna (Partner-in-Charge), Kevin Bridgman (Design Partner), Luigi LaRocca (Project Manager)


Walt C. Meissner


Nic Lehoux | Tom Arban


A central atrium unites people, and a ribbon-like stair ascends from the ground floor weaving upwards five floors to connect offices, classrooms, and open workspaces. There are no corner offices – workspaces are prominently displayed and whiteboard walls are located throughout. The Center’s podium extends out to hover over Commonwealth Avenue, animating the streetscape and serving as an urban porch for arrival, study, and gathering. The Center culminates in an event space and a three storey-high open-air pavilion.
Designed as a series of stacked neighbourhoods, there are 12 classrooms, two computer labs, a café, a collaboration terrace, numerous informal workspaces, and a plaza with a bike shelter. Each floor is characterized by bright monochrome-coloured furnishings that also serve as wayfinding. Modular furniture systems allow for flexibility, anticipating the needs of future faculties and student bodies. With occupant well-being in mind, the entire building is walkable in a non-egress stair, elevators are visible and accessible, and every floor prioritizes access to natural light and views of the city.
Eight green roofs-cum-terraces enable occupants to connect with the outdoors, reduce the urban heat island effect, and retain rainwater. Elevated above flood guidelines, the building incorporates permeable pavers for stormwater management, and its water-efficient fixtures achieve a 37% reduction in water consumption annually. A triple-glazed envelope and sun-shading louvres help minimize energy consumption by 30%. Fresh air is supplied over the chilled beams throughout the building, and low to zero carbon-emitting materials are present throughout the building’s furnishing and finishes.


Following its commitment to develop and grow its programs in the emerging field of data sciences, Boston University sought to support this ambition through the built form. The challenge: showcase the University’s excellence in data science by developing a hub for the interdisciplinary study of data sciences; create instructional spaces that support contemporary approaches to teaching and learning; design a dynamic anchor for the campus’ 17 schools, colleges, various centers, and labs; and construct one of the most sustainable buildings in the area.

Towering over the Charles River at 19 storeys and spanning 345,000-square-feet, the Center for Computing & Data Sciences is built on a compact urban site (a former parking lot) as a vertical campus. It brings together 3000 students, faculty, and staff from departments that had previously been scattered across the university, providing a collaborative, flexible environment for research, study, and teaching. Its cantilevered volumes — a nod to the scale of adjacent two-and three-storey collegiate gothic and modern academic buildings and Bay State Road’s brick townhouses — rotate around a central core, offering each department its own identity while fostering cross-departmental collaboration.

The design sets an ambitious sustainability precedent for future buildings in Boston and beyond. Aligned with the University’s Climate Action Plan to reduce its carbon emissions to net zero by 2040, the LEED Platinum-certified Center is 100% operationally fossil-fuel free and features a geothermal closed-loop system to heat and cool the building. The Center transforms the skyline, meets laudable sustainability goals, and prioritizes human-centered design and interconnectivity.


The Center illustrates how a tower can be reimagined into a connected vertical campus and what is possible for sustainable and resilient building design. The Center is frequently presented by city leadership as an exemplar to other builders.

Once thought to be a difficult task in large cities, the geothermal closed-loop system provides 90% of the building’s thermal capacity, with electric boilers and chillers covering peak periods. To accommodate the building’s location, the 31 boreholes are 1500 feet deep – three times deeper than normal for similar systems. Visitors to the Center are greeted by the Sustainability Wall, a large interactive touch-screen feature that showcases sustainability features and real-time performance data.

The building also creates space to develop projects for the surrounding community. The faculty and students are committed to developing “data science for good,” and projects, including the Civic Tech Hackathon, tackle issues such as social justice and climate change. Since opening, there have been over 100 events and activities including TechTalks, hackathons, community-building events, and hands-on computing skill-building challenges.

The outcome Is the transformation of a site that now opens to the campus and creates intentional thoroughfares to the neighbourhood. In its first year the Center’s major milestones included the tripling of core faculty; doubling of course offerings; launch of the master’s program in data science, incorporating Bioinformatics into the graduate program, two endowed professorships in artificial intelligence; +$5 million secured in grants and contracts, and 194 majors (39% women) in data sciences and 63 minors (49% women).

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