Boston Five Cents Savings Bank

Boston Five Cents Savings Bank

Kallmann and McKinnell, 1972

Harleston Parker Medal, 1974

This building is a brilliant response to programmatic requirements on a challenging urban site by the architects of Boston City Hall. Both are robust concrete structures, but where City Hall is a free-standing monument to democracy, Boston Five Cents Savings is a commercial building knitted into the historic city streetscape. Cutting away the corner of School Street opened views to the Old South Meeting House and the Old Corner Bookstore across a triangular plaza, while the new building's bold openness and simplicity strike a contrast with those landmarks' solid decorated masses.

A concrete colonnade follows the curve of the adjacent sidewalk with glass set back seven feet to form a covered passageway. Concrete beams radiate from a service core at the center of the building, penetrate a four-story glass wall, and interlock with the columns outside. The muscular but elegant expression of structure recalls New England heavy timber framing – without being trapped inside heavy brick walls. The bank was originally an extension of the neoclassical building next door, connected by an interior passageway, and the use – however different – of columns to create a civic presence.

The building was ultimately converted to retail – appropriate given the display-case quality of its glass façade.