The Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Residences

Client Millennium Partners, MDA Associates
Location Boston, MA
Status Completed in 2001

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel & Residences transformed a neighborhood known as the “Combat Zone” into a high-quality, mixed-use destination.

For decades, Boston’s blighted Midtown Cultural District defied previous efforts at renewal. Handel Architects' plan for the revitalization of the district began with the two-building Ritz-Carlton, which contains a hotel, retail, a fitness club, a community daycare center, movie theaters, boutique office space, and parking, coupled with apartments.

The challenge was how to insert a project of significant scale and to stimulate 24/7 activity on four irregular open lots fronting seven streets in the southern part of the district. The solution required careful reading of the existing mix of building types and scales. The new buildings needed to have distinct identities while acknowledging the syncopated character of historic Washington Street. The irregular site touches on three of four corners of the block, and the character and history of these corners and the abutting neighborhoods needed to be sufficiently separated that each define a precinct.

Ritz Downtown Boston 1

The project required particular care to organize the building massing, re-enforce street activity, and locate the high-rise portions of the program into a meaningful civic design solution.

The 1.8 million sq. ft. mixed-use complex resolves its diverse program into a unique formal entity, articulated at various scales. Specific tactical design “operations” organize the various podium elements and establish clear thresholds at the four street intersections. Metal canopies mark primary entries on all sides. The granite and glass towers organize the upper hotel podium while creating a meaningful civic scale gateway from Boston Common to Washington Street.

At the intersection of the Avery and Washington, a pavilion acts as a pivot point at the south end of the straight street corridor, the other end defined by the steeple of the Old South Meeting house. This irregular semi-rotunda is a 90’ glass enclosed pavilion facing out to the street. Intended initially as one of two cinema entries, it houses a restaurant above, retail on the ground floor, and a fitness studio in the middle.

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At the pedestrian scale, multiple points of entry, with varying uses, were created around the perimeter of the site to enliven the street experience.

The street wall, combined with its architectural components (materials, openings, expression lines), are shaped to articulate these unique experiences: the corner at Boylston marks the “gate” into the Cultural District from the edge of Chinatown; the corners of the mid-rise portion of both north and south block frame the linear space of Avery Street.

At the city scale, the stone-clad rectilinear towers bracket Avery Street 75’ apart, reinforcing the threshold experience between the open expanse of The Common and the embedded density of Washington Street.

Each contains a prismatic glass and metal portion, rotating about the stone towers. The south block presents a broad face to the park and the north block a narrow edge to the north. The latter draws the eye to the Paramount Theater, and a shallow setback reinforces the syncopated character of Washington Street. The towers are not mirror images, but rather “cousins” with similar features differentiated in scale.

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Transformation of Boston's Midtown Cultural District

Read the award-winning urban design story of Boston's Midtown Cultural District.

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2003 Award for Excellence - Urban Land Institute Project of the Year - National Commercial Builders Council Awards of Excellence 2002 Charter Award - Congress for New Urbanism Award of Merit - Concrete Industry Board Finalist, Design Excellence - Urban Land Institute


Design Architect Interior Designer

Design Partner(s)

Architect of Record - CBT Architects


Bruce Martin Lester Ali Millennium Partners