Location: 1515 Commonwealth Avenue, Brighton, MA 02135
Completion Date: Ant. 2023
Client: The Davis Companies
Size: 245,000 GSF
1515 Commonwealth adds 253 units of housing and public green space to this busy area of Brighton, while celebrating the site’s historic role in the construction of Boston. Overlooking Commonwealth Avenue from the former site of a granite quarry, the project divides its units between a 7-story rental block and an 8-story condominium block, with a mix of studios and one- to three-bedroom units. The blocks sit on a two-story podium base that contains expansive lobbies, two levels of parking garage, and bicycle storage, all under a green roof with roof terraces. Residents also enjoy upper level decks overlooking the city from the project’s prominent hill.
The site’s history as the Brighton Quarry inspired much of the project design. The building’s two-unit blocks form an L on the podium, broken at its joint and faceted to soften the building’s shadow. The southern, rental block angles in a shallow C like the amphitheater walls of a quarry, while the northern, condominium block is notched like raw, split granite.
Formerly the highest point in Boston, during the 1800s and early 1900s granite from the quarry was cut and carted downhill to growing Boston’s clad townhouses, civic buildings, and sidewalks, flattening the site for development. In contrast to the blocks of dense 19th century townhomes across Commonwealth Avenue, city planners in the 1950s drew on then-popular schemes of residential towers in spacious parks when developing the former quarry. In this tradition, the new building infuses nature into urban density with two public-use landscapes along its sidewalk edge, and a path that joins them to the adjacent Fidelis Way city park. The landscaping preserves exposed granite ledges while layering new plantings, pavings, and decks on quarried geometry.
1515 Commonwealth’s low base is clad in rich, textured stone that gives way to the taller residential blocks’ lighter stone panels. The layers and colors on these facades evoke striated quarry walls. They brighten and narrow as they rise between widening windows, building a gradient from stone to sky. In contrast to the geologic scales evoked by these granite references, the project introduces warmer wood elements in places a resident might touch the building. Wood lines the entryways, as well as the unit balconies which extend through the towers’ skin.
Just as the quarry catalyzed Boston’s expansion and development by mining its geological history, so these new residences will support the city’s growth with a building that draws on its remarkable past.