East Cambridge Savings Bank

East Cambridge Savings Bank

T. M. James, 1931

Charles G. Hilgenhurst Associates, 1978

Harleston Parker Medal, 1979

National Register of Historic Places

This bank expansion is a napkin sketch come to life – an ingenious one liner – that preserves the historical integrity of a lovely old art deco building.

A slab of the little bank’s side wall was moved to create an extension of the street façade, with a curving metal and glass curtain wall connecting this new wing to the original. The original and relocated facades bookend the bank’s presence along the sidewalk, with landscaping filling the void between them, and the additional space pushed back behind the new glazing. It is a winning architectural narrative told with strong, simple gestures.

The young architects credited with the design were Warren Schwartz and Robert Silver, then working for Charles Hilgenhurst, former head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. They would go on to form Schwartz/Silver Architects and win Harleston Parker Medals for their even more ingenious work at MIT, and a collaboration with Frank Gehry on Newbury St.

If only the bank had taken this architectural triumph and declared victory. Unfortunately, over the objections of the Cambridge Historical Commission, they leveled four buildings to the east, including two historic Federal brick townhouses built in 1829, to create a new asphalt parking lot.

Sources: Wikipedia; "Design a Conflict of Values in East Cambridge," Robert Campbell, Boston Globe Magazine, 1/27/80