Northeastern University, Henderson House Proposal – Weston, Massachusetts
When GDA became involved with this project in 2001, the Henderson House was still one of the assets of Northeastern University, and it was used for functions to accommodate either University events or external events (i.e. weddings, conventions, etc.) The University chose to put this property on the market as a private residence in the Spring of 2014 for $7.8 million, and the building, after 40 years, closed its doors as an event facility on December 31, 2014.
The House is a Tudor style mansion with about 17,000 sq. ft. of space; the original structure built in the 1800s, was destroyed by a fire in 1890. The new structure was rebuilt as a summer residence for Edward Pierce, a magnate in the wool business, and was later listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.
To increase the ability to host larger events, the University wanted to add a new function room on top of the existing one-story function room, projecting with a multifaceted stone façade between the two gabled wings at the rear of the house. The University’s main concern, before even addressing any specific technical issues, was the appearance of this new addition on the second level, given the historic nature of the structure and the complex lengthy review process of any proposed addition to a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
After several studies, we provided the University with two design options: one that would blend more seamlessly with the style of the house, and another that would establish, instead, a more engaging and open dialogue with the language of the existing structure.
In the first option, elements like the wood pediments on top of projecting windows, and the extension of three sides of the room beyond the original perimeter, supported by round columns, would provide a clear clue to the extent of the addition as such, even if more respectful of the surrounding language. By contrast, the second option would utilize a pseudo- Crystal Palace language to create an entirely new design concept with a lighter, airy feel achieved through the use of different materials and an even lighter clerestory section, with abundant use of glass. The seemingly contradictory dialogue of this design approach vis-a- vis the preexisting structure may be perceived as less respectful than the first one, yet by clearly defining the addition, it adds more dignity and autonomy to the original structure.