Millennium Tower Boston is a new 60-story tower in the heart of the city. The project replaced the "Big Hole," a partially excavated site at the corner of Washington Street and Franklin Street in Downtown Crossing.
The national consolidation of department stores coupled with competition with Big Box operations and a steady increase in internet shopping led to the collapse of the Filene’s brand in 2006. As part of a large mixed-use project by another firm, Daniel Burnham's 1912 Filene’s Building on the adjacent site was gutted, and excavation was begun on what would be the Millennium Tower site. In 2008, the Great Recession intervened; not unlike the recession of 1991-92 which stalled Boston Crossing and Commonwealth Center, the Great Recession halted this work in its tracks. The resultant “Big Hole” became a stark reminder of all that had been lost in this important district of the city.
In 2012, Handel Architects was engaged to renovate and restore the Filene's Building, and to design a new mixed-use residential tower that would redefine the Boston skyline. The new massing strategy recognized the Burnham Building as an urban set piece, unique in form, and capable of defining the immediate surroundings through scale, materiality, and articulation. The new Millennium Tower is “joined at the hip”, connecting the first three floors of the Burnham Building with retail uses, but clearly perceived as independent along the street wall and on the civic scale.
Inspiration for the character and shaping of Millennium Tower came from the refined vertical tracery in the storefront of the Filene’s Building next door, and inevitably the elegant incised glass slab of the Hancock Tower poised in Back Bay.
The crystalline character of the tower is emphasized by faceting the broad faces of the tower, and subtly sifting the geometry of the vertical planes. This shaping, combined with a dramatic shear at the penthouse terrace and the chamfered peak, accentuates its verticality while refracting the colors of the sky. The effect is intended to be a softer and sensuous counterpoint to the stolid masonry downtown skyline.
The 650’ vertiginous west corner of the tower leads the eye directly to a new urban plaza, called Shoppers Plaza, inspired by the cobbled paved squares of Colonial-era Boston.
Overlooking the new active pedestrian environment is Millennium Tower's five-story podium, a graceful transitional element linking the tower to the street fronts nearby, and framing the residential porte-cochere entrance. Composed of folded glass panels and etched with a rhythmic series of vertical bands, the podium evokes a pleated translucent fabric, oscillating from crisp, cool and reflective in the daylight to a warm illuminated texture of fine edges and shadows in the evening. Soft, shimmering shears inside the windows hint of gracious rooms of dark wood and warm textiles - an undulating “urban balcony” of residential amenity spaces overlooking the plaza below.
Arrival to the front entrance is marked by a robust bronze and glass façade, surmounted by a continuous glass lattice-like canopy.
Between the pair of glass entry doorways is a planted entrance tableau, framed by heroic scale limestone panels. This landscape feature is like a planted diorama – a domestic all-season garden inspired by trained plantings like the “romantic” bonsai gardens and “classical” espalier fruit trees. Contrasting with the tower’s lightness, the bronze panels suggest a grounded, earth-bound quality of permanence and tradition.
Photo credits: Handel Architects