UMass Boston Master Plan Continues with Groundbreaking of Academic Building

BOSTON — The University of Massachusetts (UMass) Boston broke ground in February on the $113 million General Academic Building No. 1 (GAB No. 1), the second academic building in the university’s 25-year master plan.

With 181,000 square feet, the four-story building will serve the growing student population at UMass Boston and will include a reconfigurable 130- to 200-seat theater, a 150-seat recital hall, studios, teaching labs, student lounges and a cafeteria.

“General Academic Building No. 1 is vital in providing the necessary space to meet our growing enrollment and academic offerings,” Chancellor J. Keith Motley said in a statement. “The building’s state-of-the-art classroom spaces, laboratories, and performance areas will truly transform the learning and teaching experience here at the University of Massachusetts Boston.”

Designed by Boston-based Wilson Architects and constructed by Gilbane Building Company of Providence, R.I., GAB No. 1 is expected to open in 2015. The UMass Building Authority financed the building and will be overseeing the project.

“GAB No. 1 provides a special destination, looking east over Boston Harbor, as well as west over the Boston skyline,” said Bill Wilson, FAIA, principal at Wilson Architects in statement. “The building’s classrooms, studios, and venues will define the academic experience, and they are organized around an interactive multi-level ‘living room’ that will foster a wonderful sense of the purpose of scholarship and the values of an academic community.”

The surrounding scenic area of UMass Boston greatly influenced the design of GAB No. 1, according to Samir Srouji, AIA, design principal at Wilson Architects.

“The design for the GAB No. 1 is inspired by its context on the peninsula and location on the harbor,” Srouji said. “It forms a visual dialogue with the Campus Center, the JFK Library and the existing campus buildings, while providing a unique expression to its program and site.”

Since its original construction in the early 1970s, UMass Boston has seen a significant increase in both student population and research activity, according to DeWayne Lehman, university spokesman.

“The Integrated Sciences Complex, now under construction, and General Academic Building No. 1 will begin to address the space constraints that have developed over the years as well as provide the first new academic facilities in nearly 40 years,” Lehman said.

GAB No. 1, along with the Integrated Sciences Complex, is part of Phase I of the university’s master plan, which began in 2008 and is set for completion in 2017.

GAB No. 1 will house the art department, performing arts department and the chemistry teaching laboratories and non-research spaces.

With over 2,000 seats, including a 500-seat lecture hall, the building will be located on the northeast corner of the campus formerly the North Lot. According to Lehman, though construction may be noisy at times, it should not interfere with any daily operations at the university.

“Perhaps the most attractive and exciting part of the building will be the arts and performing arts spaces — artist studios, theater, dance and acting spaces, recital hall, and music studios,” Lehman said. “It will be a significant step to bring all the arts together under one roof.”

In continuing with its master plan, administrators at UMass Boston look forward to providing students, staff and faculty with the tools and facilities for a more promising tomorrow.

“With this building, we add a significant point of pride to UMass Boston’s bright future,” said UMass President Robert L. Caret at the groundbreaking ceremony. “I congratulate Chancellor Motley and his team for their superb leadership of this project that advances UMass Boston’s urban mission and helps build on our promise to provide our exceptional students, faculty, and staff with the world-class facilities they deserve.”