New tower rises at Berklee College of Music

14,000-square-foot addition makes room for growing enrollment, adds studio space
By: | Issue: April, 2014
March 26, 2014

People walking past 160 Massachusetts Ave. in Boston are likely to both see and hear beautiful music being made. That’s the point of this 14,000-square-foot addition to Berklee College of Music.


College enrollment had grown to 4,000 full-time equivalents but housing was lagging behind. “We only had about 800 beds and we were unable to accommodate entering students,” says William D. Whitney, vice president for real estate. “One-third of our student body is international, and we felt it was important to afford them the opportunity to live in college housing and connect with other students.”

The new building needed to accommodate several uses in a tight urban site, starting with a dining hall because Berklee’s other dining hall wasn’t centrally located. Officials also wanted to encourage collaboration among students and strengthen connections with the outside community.


The new structure includes 369 beds, and a 400-seat dining hall that has a raised stage and doubles as an evening performance space. The building also has 20 soundproof practice rooms, three rehearsal rooms and ground-floor retail space. Twelve stories of windows offer sweeping views of Boston.

Underground is a two-story production space featuring three recording studios, isolation booths, a mastering/critical listening lab, a suite of four project studios and a music technology lab. On the Dolby-certified dubbing stage, students can record music and sound effects, and add dialogue to films and video games.

Each of the rooms in the production facility has floating floors—built separately, and then mechanically attached to the main building floor, while leaving a small gap in between to absorb movement. “So if a truck rumbles up Mass. Ave., or if someone was playing a deep base in one studio, it wouldn’t affect another,” says Clifford Gayley, principal at William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc.

COMPLETED: January 2014

COST: $100 million

PROJECT TEAM: William Rawn Associates, Architects, Inc., building architect (Boston); Walters-Storyk Design Group, architect, music production complex (N.Y.); Lee Kennedy, contractor (Quincy, Mass.).