Since January 2007 we’ve been investigating alternative preservation strategies for maintaining our cultural heritage while embracing our future. By examining unexplored degrees of preservation between its ever-present all-or-nothing proposition, we’ve opened a new dialogue about how architecture should be preserved in the modern age.


ny worlds fair pavilion

NY World’s Fair Pavilion Movie. An aspirational relic worth keeping around. Check out their kickstarter page:


With the rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of H. H. Richardson’s Hayden Building now complete, we would like to share more of what we learned through our research and how we exhibited the building’s storied past.

We set out with the premise that not only were we rehabilitating this historically significant structure but we were also preserving the ideas and time periods that shaped it.  We began the project with extensive research on the evolution of the neighborhood over the last 140 years and even traced the building’s commercial occupants as seen here.

The character of a place is established by the people that inhabit it regardless of the building, which for the Hayden Building shifted radically.  Because the neighborhood centered on the production of textiles during the end of the 19th century, its occupants were mostly clothing and hat shops.  After a mixture of businesses during the 20th century, the Hayden Building became a focal point of adult entertainment in the 1960’s as the neighborhood turned into the Combat Zone, Boston’s red-light district. On the edge of Chinatown and the Theater district, this Nationally Registered Historic Landmark was gutted by fire in 1985 and remained vacant until its reuse today.

We endeavored to create a symbiotic relationship between new and old, telling the visual story of past and present at the same time.  Contrasting old worn elements with layers of new refined elements heightens the awareness of both.  It is in these relationships that emerges the richness of place and understanding of time.  HBI afforded us the opportunity to visually tell this social history of the Hayden Building within its common spaces combining traces of history with modern living.



Entry / Lobby

The Hayden Building defines the beginning of Richardson’s exploration of how Read More…

Hayden officially certified LEED PLATINUM!

Today our Hayden Building project has officially been certified LEED Homes Multifamily PLATINUM – the highest level awarded by the U.S. Green Building Council.


Inspiring labor day photos via our friends at Land…

Inspiring labor day photos via our friends at Landmarks and Follies.


CUBE’s Hayden Building honored with Preservation Award

CUBE’s Hayden Building honored with Preservation Award by the Boston Preservation Alliance. 



Did we kill The Phoenix? Yikes!


Our work has its critics, but helping to kill a beloved counterculture newspaper is a new one! The Boston Phoenix was a cultural institution. At least we still have those eye catching headlines in the Boston Herald left to entertain us – we loved the article title last month on our Hayden Building: “Hub Peep Show Palace Scrubs off Tawdry Past.” For the record we’ve actually embraced the full history of the building including 1965-1985. If you go by the LaGrange entry you’ll see an installation with some interesting film.

Our efforts helped stall the demolition process fo…

Our efforts helped stall the demolition process for Neutra’s Cyclorama in Gettysburg, but it seems that the battle…

Reading Richardson

In all of our projects, we seek out the inherent qualities of the project site and context and strive to enhance the awareness of those qualities through our architecture. When our projects involve an existing building, our approach is no different. Rather than beginning with land topography as we would with an empty site, we consider the existing building as another type of topography. For our conversion of H.H. Richardson’s Hayden Building in Boston’s Chinatown, we interpreted the building and studied its newly defined relationship with the urban context. We made use of multiple resources to better understand the historical context of the building. A thorough analysis of the Richardson archives at Harvard University provided an insightful view into the mind of the architect. Another invaluable resource was the Stonehurst Residence in Waltham, MA which is one of only a few remaining residential projects by Richardson. We also took advantage of many of the historical societies that offered information about the building, the City of Boston, and its neighborhoods.

The research not only uncovered a bit of the Hayden Building’s eclectic past, but it also revealed Richardson’s design tactics that would ultimately serve as a precedent for our work: The Activated Edge, Sequence of Thresholds, and the Horizontal Datum.

Left: Historical photo courtesy of Historic New England | Right: Historical Sanborn Map images

Left: Historical photo courtesy of Historic New England | Right: 1814 & 1883 Historical Sanborn Map images

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The Fate of Neutra’s Cyclorama at Gettysburg Has National Implications


The National Park Service has published their environmental assessment report outlining options for Richard Netura’s 1961 Cyclorama Building at Gettysburg. Their recommended fate for the building: demolition. This comes after two decades of argument and a three year lawsuit between preserving the building in place and removing the building to rehabilitate the battlefield beneath it.
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Historic Char

Buildings suffer many fates over the course of time. Physical markings, renovations, and the stresses of time all take their toll on materials. The Hayden Building suffered a huge fire in 1985 that burned out the upper floors and roof completely; leaving it in an abysmal state until Historic Boston stepped in years later. While cleaning the interior brick some areas proved more than stubborn. The images above show how fire has marked the building and why we have the codes and regulations we have today.

MATERIALS – Image One: The area of brick to the right is clean to the touch, but the brick itself has turned black from the overwhelming heat of the fire. The area to the left looked very similar before cleaning. The black area most likely had a flammable wall covering material that raised the temperature of the fire and chard the brick more deeply – like putting it in a kiln. Today interior materials are classified by the degree with which they propagate fire and how fast it spreads. There is a whole industry around this from your bed sheets to the insulation in your walls.

CONSTRUCTION – Image Two: On a lower floor the charred pattern is indicative of a previous stair along the wall. The fire most likely started here. To the right you can see a recessed shaft in the brick – a nineteenth century chase for plumbing pipes. This area has also been cleaned to the touch. Note the charred brick in the shaft – this is where the fire spread from one floor to the next. Today we have strict regulations for the construction of all shafts and equipment that span from floor to floor or connect dissimilar rooms to avoid fire from quickly spreading throughout a building.

It’s all yet one more layer of legible history in the Hayden Building.