an events space with exposed brick and upholstered bench seating
Crump & Kwash Lloyd chairs and Grazia&Co Iva stools serve the tables and counter, all custom, in the adjoining events space.

How Atelier Cho Thompson Revamped EQ’s Boston Office

Christina Cho Yoo and Ming Thompson sat back-to-back in their studio course at Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Upon earning their masters’, they started their architecture careers at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson before establishing Atelier Cho Thompson in San Francisco in 2014. Today, the woman-owned business has grown to a team of 14, most of whom are female. As for project type, the studio is all over the map, literally and figuratively. Cho Yoo, who also has an engineering degree from Stanford University, oversees West Coast work, which ranges from the renovation of a Bay Area home to developing innovative learning spaces for a Houston school. Thompson, who teaches at the Yale School of Architecture, runs East Coast projects out of ACT’s New Haven, Connecticut, office, which recently completed 179 Lincoln Street, the reimagining of 8,000 square feet of shared spaces in a 19th-century office building in Boston.

Designed by Peabody & Stearns in 1899, the full-block beaux arts edifice originally housed the United Shoe Machinery Company. Hundreds of years later, it had been converted to a multi-tenant configuration and purchased by real estate company EQ Office. ACT’s second project for EQ, the scope entailed renovating sections of the building’s five floors, including the lobby, into a mix of areas supporting socializing and cross-pollinating. The structure, as Thompson recounts, “had been mostly abandoned and misused,” and was devoid of today’s must-have amenities. To draw new and improve conditions for existing tenants, her rehab plan was to “offer opportunities beyond what’s experienced working from home.”

inside the lobby of 179 Lincoln St, an office building
The lobby of 179 Lincoln Street, a five-story, multi-tenant office building originally containing the United Shoe Machinery Company, has been reno­vated with a textured plaster–coated wall CNC-cut with a fluted pattern inspired by the ornamentation on the 1899 structure’s beaux arts exterior; opposite the desk, stairs descend to parking and fitness facilities.

Custom Accents and Original Features Shine in EQ’s Boston Office

Initial efforts were subtractive. Removing decades worth of carpet and vinyl tile in the lobby revealed handsome terrazzo flooring requiring only patching. Next, bringing the “exterior ornamentation inside,” Thompson notes, translated to a “fluted” focal wall CNC-cut with slender arches, some fitted with padded leather, a nod to shoe manufacturing, to function as backs for a built-in banquette. The reception desk is similarly grooved, “but at a different scale, so it reads more hospitality than security,” Thompson continues. Streamlined globe pendant fixtures, almost art moderne in feel, glow from above.

The fluting, leather, and lighting continue in the adjoining events space and fifth-floor collaboration area. Both feature walls of original brick, which Thompson unearthed and retained the holes and pocks to celebrate the site’s age. She learned from interviews that occupants expressed more interest in a historic rather than a futuristic setting, and took that into consideration in conceiving signage, crafted in solid brass, just like the shoe building’s original mail chute.

a building's company directory signage made of brass
The custom company-directory signage is polished brass, the material matching some of the building’s 19th-century details.
brick encloses a collaboration space in this office building
Walls of original brick enclose the fifth-floor collab­or­ation space.
a pendant light hangs above a lobby area, complete with an upholstered bench and coffee tables
Below Katy Skelton’s custom pendant fixture, electrical and mechanical apparatus are concealed within the lobby’s built-in bench, its seat and back cushions upholstered in leather.
a white-oak reception desk in the lobby of 179 Lincoln Street
Also custom is the white-oak lobby desk, which stands on terrazzo flooring uncovered during renovation.
an events space with exposed brick and upholstered bench seating
Crump & Kwash Lloyd chairs and Grazia&Co Iva stools serve the tables and counter, all custom, in the adjoining events space.
bendheim: balustrade glass (lobby)
armadillo: rug (collaboration)
West Elm: tables (lobby)
through gestalt: stools (events)
hugo & hoby: custom tables
crump & kwash: chairs
katy skelton: custom lighting
farrow & ball: paint
spinneybeck: leather
sean thornhill: artwork
lam partners: lighting consultant
cadwell design & sign: custom signage
mcnamara salvia: structural engineer
commercial construction consulting: mep
butler architectural woodworking: millwork
structure tone: general contractor

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