Hacin + Associates


Boston is full of co-working centers, incubators, and labs, but most are housed within one of the city's 50 institutions of higher education, cloaked with exclusivity or even anonymity simply by association. Others are part of a particular company, perhaps relegated to the corner of a lobby or makeshift space.

District Hall, the result of a public-private partnership, belongs to everyone, and it's a smash hit, not just an idealistic showpiece for the city. The bright, airy 12,000-square-foot building on the South Boston waterfront, across from Diller, Scofidio + Renfro's Institute of Contemporary Art, is an innovation center unaffiliated with any corporation or academy. In 2014, it hosted 550 events'from hack-a-thons to investor office hours'attended by more than 30,000 people.

Envisioned as the beating heart of former mayor Thomas Menino's 1,000-acre Innovation District, District Hall was largely financed by Boston Global Investors (BGI) in partnership with Morgan Stanley, and is the first building in BGI's development of the surrounding Seaport Square. The one-story structure contains a restaurant and caf', a flexible auditorium that holds 250 seats, a lounge, and a series of classrooms and 'pods.' Designed by Boston-based Hacin + Associates, the project is said to be the first freestanding city-sponsored innovation center of its kind in the country.

When the city decided that its Innovation District needed a hub, it asked the Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) to run the program. This was a logical choice: CIC, founded in 1999, runs the world's largest start-up space, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, housing over 600 companies at a time and providing them with everything from office space to a copy machine. CIC agreed to take on District Hall, running it as a nonprofit because 'it feels like a movement, not an asset,' says CIC founder and CEO Timothy Rowe. 'There probably isn't anyone involved in thinking about the future of the city who hasn't been to District Hall,' he says. 'It showed up and everyone said, 'Where were you all my life?''

To accommodate a range of spaces and quickly changing needs, Hacin + Associates drew on its work designing restaurants, retail, and the Boston offices for the design consultancy IDEO. 'We didn't come to it with preconceived notions of what it should be,' says principal David Hacin. Drawing on the historic harbor site, where cargo ships were met by trains to disperse goods throughout the country, 'I was sort of taken by that idea that this was a threshold,' says Hacin. 'Ideas would be born here that would be shared across the world.' Hacin designed District Hall as two roughly rectangular volumes. The eastern volume contains the auditorium, restaurant, and caf' in its figural, silver-toned, corrugated-metal and glass shed. In a series of boxcar-like structures, the western volume houses the pods, workspaces, and lounge. An angular corridor connects the two and can be programmed for exhibitions or events. Many of the walls of the center are covered in a whiteboard surface for capturing inspiration on the fly.

As a nonprofit, District Hall makes its spaces available free or at a reduced cost for many organizations and events. In 2014, it gave away $1 million's worth of space rentals, or 71 percent of all its rentals, as in-kind support to the local innovation community. 'We want to make people understand that their futures may lie in building new businesses, and that, through that, you can start to shift the DNA of the city,' says Rowe.

Hacin + Associates
112 Shawmut Avenue
Boston, MA 02118

Gross square footage: 12,000 square feet

Project cost: $7 million

Completion Date: October 2013


Client: Boston Global Investors

Owner: City of Boston

Hacin + Associates
112 Shawmut Avenue
Boston, MA 02118

Personnel in architect's firm who should receive special credit:

Architect of record: Hacin + Associates

Associate architect(s), if applicable: n/a

Interior designer: Hacin + Associates

MEP, Tel/Data/AV/Security Engineering:
R.G. Vanderweil Engineers, LLP
274 Summer Street
Boston, MA  02210

Structural Engineering:
McNamara/Salvia, Inc.
101 Federal Street
11th Floor
Boston, MA 02110

Civil Engineering:
Nitsch Engineering
186 Lincoln Street Suite 200
Boston, MA 02111

Geotechnical Engineering:
Haley & Aldrich
465 Medford Street
Suite 2200
Charlestown, MA  02129

Specification Consultant: 
Kalin Associates                               
274 Summer Street
Boston, MA 02210

Commissioning Agent:
Jacobs Engineering
343 Congress Street
Boston, MA  02210

Reed Hilderbrand
741 Mount Auburn Street
Watertown, MA 02472
Contact: Gary Hilderbrand

Sponsor: Philips Color Kinetics
3 Burlington Woods Drive, 4th Floor
Burlington, MA 01803

33 Moulton Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

Sponsor: Artaic
21 Drydock Avenue, 7th Floor East
Boston, MA 02210
Contact: Ted Acworth

Sponsor: Idea Paint
Contact: Jeff Avalon

General contractor:
District Hall Contractor
John Moriarty & Associates, Inc.
3 Church Street
Winchester, MA 01890

Gather Restaurant Contractor (within District Hall)
Cafco Construction Management, Inc.
77 Charles Street South
Boston, MA 02116

Bruce T. Martin
154 East Central Street
Natick, MA 01760



Structural system
Steel frame construction

Manufacturer of any structural components unique to this project: Diamond, Iron Works Inc. (109 Blanchard St, Lawrence, MA)

Exterior cladding
Metal Panels: Morin Corp. Metal Wall Systems

Metal/glass curtain wall: Kawneer 1600 UT

Rainscreen: Reynobond – Metal Panel “Rainscreen”

EIFS, ACM, or other: Reynobond – Metal Panel “Rainscreen”

Moisture barrier: Carlisle, CCW-705

Curtain wall: Kawneer 1600 UT

Built-up roofing: Firestone Roofing Insulation

Metal: Firestone Standing Seam

Metal frame: Kawneer 1600 UT

Glass: 1” Double Glazed Insulated Glass

Skylights: Ipswich Bay Glass

Entrances: Kawneer 1600 UT

Metal doors: Hollow metal insulated doors

Special doors: Cornell Iron works (garage doors in assembly space)

Locksets: Schlage

Closers: LCN Closers

Exit devices: Von Duprin

Pulls: Ives

Security devices: Salto Networked Locking System

Interior finishes
Acoustical ceilings: International Cellulose Corporation

Suspension grid: Armstrong Ceiling System

Cabinetwork and custom woodwork: Custom P-lam millwork by Design Fabricators (Cranston, RI)

Paints and stains: Benjamin Moore low VOC paint

Paneling: Custom OSB panels by Design Fabricators (Cranston, RI)

Plastic laminate: on cabinetry millwork

Solid surfacing: Dupont

Special surfacing: Fire slate concrete countertops at Gather bar and Brew café countertops

Floor and wall tile: Daltile (used in restrooms)

Special interior finishes unique to this project: IdeaPaint

Office furniture: Haworth Furniture throughout

Reception furniture: Haworth Furniture throughout

Chairs: Emeco (restaurant)

Tables: Custom by American Chair & Seating

Interior ambient lighting: Philips Color Kinetics

Downlights: Zumtobel Lighting

Task lighting: Cooper Industries

Exterior: Philips, Beta

Dimming System or other lighting controls: Crestron Dimmer

Sloan Fixtures and Faucets, Halsey Taylor Drinking Fountain


Energy management or building automation system: By owner/client