Boston University unveils plans to build data sciences centre


Boston University (BU) has unveiled plans to build a 17-floor tower on Commonwealth Avenue to house the new BU Data Sciences Center, the first major Charles River Campus teaching centre in a half-century and tallest building on campus.

The university aims at becoming one of the leading urban interdisciplinary research institutions in the US by bringing the mathematics and statistics and computer science departments under one roof.

Designed by Toronto-based KPMB Architects, the plans for the centre start with a four-storey base, or ‘podium’, topped by 13 floors, each floor slightly off centre from the one below it, resembling a stack of books.

The 17 floors do not include the top floor and the basement, which will consist of mechanical, electrical, and plumbing.

KPMB Architects founding partner Marianne McKenna said that the building base is about engaging the student body, so that along Comm Ave, passersby can look in and look up and see people working on the collaborative terraces.

She said that it would take 24 to 28 months to construct and after construction, it will be hard to miss from across the river, where Harvard and MIT are located.

The plans also include sheltered pedestrian pathways, enhanced green space around the building, and seamless connections to the historic brownstones on Bay State Road along the Charles River and to the bustle of Comm Ave.

The departments have been designed similar to academic neighbourhoods, connected by a central atrium and spiralling stairway that would foster collaboration and communication.

The centre will be an open, glass-enclosed space of learning labs, classrooms and meeting spaces. Floors three through five will house the mathematics and statistics department, recognised in part for decades-long contribution to the Framingham Heart Study.

The fifth floor will also include a lunch space and meeting rooms. Computer science will mostly fill floors six through 10.

While the interdisciplinary Hariri Institute will be in the top six floors, administrative offices will be housed in the first two floors.

Inside the building, the design focuses on collaboration, providing terraced platforms intended for small-group interactions running almost the entire length of the building.


Image: A rendering of the proposed Data Sciences Center. Photo: Courtesy of Boston University.

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