125 Summer Street

The lobby has been transformed with a material palette of oak, matte back-painted glass, and marble, and it now includes a lounge, a concierge, and space for a coffee shop. Photography by Trent Bell

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Adjacent to a major transportation hub, an urban greenway, and the city’s Financial District, 125 Summer Street occupies a prime site in downtown Boston. Yet despite its location, the building recently had a 35 percent vacancy rate. Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates and completed in 1989, the building was underperforming within the city’s real estate market due in part to its ground-floor presence—understated entrances and a dated postmodern aesthetic.

Recognizing the inherent value in the 22-story building, Toronto-based Oxford Properties purchased it with the foresight to reposition 125 Summer Street as a sought-after home for successful, progressive firms. Oxford hired Stantec to transform the flagging property with an inviting, vibrant entrance and lobby—crucial elements for desirable commercial addresses.



“We felt comfortable that Stantec would work with us to collaboratively solve the ultimate problem—the building was not attractive to our preferred customers in its current state,” say Philip Dorman, the Oxford Properties Group head of leasing in Boston.

For Stantec, the project began with the initial job interview. “We did stress our strong belief that the space needed to address the changing workforce and be more casual, comfortable, and welcoming,” says Stantec Senior Principal Larry Grossman.

Indeed, the ground-level experience—original to 1989—was heavy-handed and somewhat foreboding. The building had three points of entry: a north-facing main entrance on Summer Street and two smaller entrances leading to an interior corridor lined with small businesses. The three access points were dark, offered limited lobby space, and had little outside connection. In addition, the multiple entries resulted in a two-sided approach to the elevator cores and made security difficult.

In its solution, Stantec created a new singular entrance on a landscaped south-facing public plaza where the interior corridor had been. Visible from South Station and the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, this new entryway capitalizes on the building’s location to reestablish its prominence in the area.

The exterior of the new entrance, featuring large panes of glass set within brushed stainless steel frames, establishes a dialogue between the surrounding urban realm and the contemporary lobby. Carefully detailed yet seemingly effortless, the interior includes a lounge, a concierge, and space for a forthcoming coffee shop. A material palette of oak, matte back-painted glass, and marble create a cohesive, hotel-like environment—a place where people can gather, work, or relax. A rich leather-fronted reception desk, plush gray and blue upholstered chairs, and a light green onyx bar-height worktable subtly introduce colors of the four seasons. With the exception of the vertical pendants over the reception desk, all of the lighting fixtures are understated, either flush or recessed, complementing the natural light coming through the large black-quartz-framed windows. The oak striations from the main lobby’s ceiling lead to solid panels with recessed lights behind the elevator banks. The back-painted glass with brushed stainless steel continues on the walls.

In combination, the design creates an inviting, active space for the building’s employees and visitors. The repositioned 125 Summer Street is revived on many accounts and is further connected to its urban context. “But most importantly,” says Dorman, “the market has spoken, and the office space in the building is now 99 percent leased, including new leases with Analog Devices for the company’s advanced research team and ASICS for its product development group—exactly the types of firms we were hoping to attract.”

who Architect and interior designer: Stantec. Project team: Larry Grossman; Brendan Powers; Amy Webb; Amanda Lennon. Contractor: Turner Special Projects. Lighting: HDLC Lighting Design. Engineering: RDK Engineers; LeMessurier. Landscape: Copley Wolff Design Group. Art consultant: Boston Art.
what Wallcoverings: Fromental; Wolf-Gordon; Carnegie. Paint: Benjamin Moore; California Paints. Wood slats: NewHouse Veneers. Quartz surrounds: Consentino Silestone; Marble & Granite. Glass walls: McGory Glass. Accent wood wall: Resawn Timber. Hard flooring: Stone Source. Carpet/carpet tile: Stark Carpet; Bloomsburg Carpet. Recessed lighting: USAI Lighting; Litelab; Elemants by Tech Light; I2 Stytems; DesignPlan Lighting; Lumas Scape; Amerlux; Zaneen; Acolytem; Gotham; Winona. Track lighting: Litelab. Pendants/chandeliers: i2Systems. Decorative glass panels/partitions: McGory Glass Lounge/reception seating: Bright Chair; HBF; Geiger. Upholstery: Sina Pearson; TDC; Cortina Leather. Conference tables: Bright Chair; custom. Reception desk: Mark Richey Woodworking; Cumar; Edleman. Side tables: Bright Chair; Skram. Planters: Atelier Vierkant. Art: Lori Schouela. Signage: Cadwell Sign.