Honorable Mention - Excellence in Architecture for Rehabilitation, Restoration or Preservation

Emerson College

Emerson College Little Building Re-imagining
Emerson College - Emerson College Little Building Re-imagining
Jury Comments
“. . . makes good use of what was there with some creative reimagining . . . commitment to preservation while improving on residential housing . . . impressive reconstruction of the façade . . .”


    • Site – .5 acres; Building – 275,900 gsf / 259,000 asf
    • LEED Gold
    • Contributing Project, Piano Row Historic District, 1917
    • Much-desired social spaces were added in new glass lightwells, forming double-height common spaces.
    • The Uncommon Project is a large-scale projection mapping display showcasing student and public art.
    • By salvaging 91% of the building’s structure and 9% of the original façade, the team reduced the creation of new carbon by 37%
    • Rainwater, previously responsible for corroding the original superstructure, is now collected and recycled for use in the building’s gray water system.


A cornerstone of Emerson College’s downtown Boston campus, the Little Building was constructed in 1917 as a mixed-use office building and has been used as student housing since the college purchased it in the 1990s. After a century of wear and exposure to the elements, repairs were needed to address structural damage, the crumbling façade, cracked and displaced cast iron bay windows, and years of water infiltration. The college also wanted to increase residential capacity and enhance student wellness and support spaces. In the early 2000s, seeing an opportunity to reimagine the building for today’s students in a way that would honor the building, the neighborhood’s history, and the environment, the college made a visionary decision to preserve and renovate rather than tear down and build new.

Traditional preservation methods would have added a significant cost burden and overextended the project’s timeline. The design team created a unique hybrid preservation/rehabilitation approach to restore the building to its original grandeur while meeting modern safety codes, enhancing student life, increasing capacity, providing significant embodied carbon savings, and contributing to the city’s architectural fabric. At 259,000 gsf spread over 13 stories, the building is home to 1,035 students and offers additional instructional and collaboration space and ground-floor retail.

Due to the alarming deterioration of the building and the financial implications of traditional preservation methods, the design team searched for an innovative solution. By commissioning a digital laser scan to capture façade details and defects down to 0.025mm, the resulting representations directed the creation of physical models and molds using 3D printers and a 5-axis CNC mill. This allowed the team to refine defects and directly share models with the fabrication company. The team chose ultra-high-performance concrete (UHPC) to recreate the façade, benefiting from a lighter weight, higher compressive strength, and the plasticity to replicate complex façade details.


Project Team

Master Planning, Architecture and Interiors: Elkus Manfredi Architects; Development Consultant Rob Silverman (Silverman Associates); 3D Fabrication Support: Autodesk Build Space; Concrete Fabrication: Bétons Prefabrique; Construction: Suffolk; Structural: McNamara/Salvia; MEP, FA/FP, TelData, Security, LEED: Vanderweil Engineers; Civil: Nitsch Engineering; GeoTech: Haley & Aldrich; Historic Preservation: Building Conservation Associates; Code: Norton Remmer, P.E.; Vertical Transportation: Van Deusen Associates; Specifications: Kalin Associates; Lighting: Cline Bettridge Bernstein; Acoustics: Acentech; 3D Laser Scanning: Existing Conditions; Post Construction Embodied Carbon Analysis: Elkus Manfredi Architects
& Lambert Sustainability