Just a few miles outside of Boston is the new Hilton Garden Inn Boston Brookline, an all-glass tower located in the suburban neighborhood of Brookline, MA.
In 2018, Claremont Companies selected architecture firm CambridgeSeven to create an urban development at the crossroads of Brookline Ave., Route 9 and Emerald Necklace public park. Opened in 2021, the 10-story, 130,000-sq.-ft. hotel is quite distinctive as the first all-glass tower in the city, according to CambridgeSeven.
“This unique, glass-clad hotel is built on a dynamic triangular site with three opposing faces, each with a distinct geometry forming a design expression that creates one engaging form,” explained Gary Johnson, president, CambridgeSeven. “With such a prestigious location adjacent to the Emerald Necklace, the new property acts as a gateway between the Town of Brookline and Boston’s Longwood Medical and academic area.”
CambridgeSeven worked with the Town of Brookline and its planning board and zoning board of appeals to guide the community with a vision for a new, forward-thinking, yet contextual, urban hotel, Johnson added.
“The Hilton Garden Inn property was situated on a parcel that had stood empty for many years,” Johnson said. “The new hotel’s design needed to embrace and respect its historic location and feel appropriate within the surrounding community.”
History is surely within reach, with the property surrounded by not only the Emerald Necklace, but a collection of open and green public parks designed by legendary landscape artist F. L. Olmsted in the 1860s.
“While remaining respectful of these elements, we took a strong and contemporary approach to the hotel’s design,” Johnson said.
The driving design factor, Johnson said, was the common concern of the town and the Emerald Necklace Conservancy that the building not cast a long shadow that would diminish the park-like setting. “As architects, we approached this challenge with ‘form-based design,‘ which overlapped with the need for a new town zoning initiative, developed just for the site,” Johnson said.
He explained that form-based zoning is not a new concept, but for this site, it was a natural fit. The architectural approach protects adjacent green space from unwanted shadows, which was key in securing community support.
“Once the geometries and shadow studies were thoroughly understood and developed, the building took on its strong sculpted design that included triangulated forms punctuated with soft curves,” Johnson said. “The sculptural glass building steps back from the Emerald Necklace to allow light into the park, while the urban street edge addresses arrivals and creates a gateway nod to the Town of Brookline.”
The property, he said, strikes a balance by remaining architecturally strong yet yielding to its neighbors regarding height, shadow and composition. “The entire project was designed to activate the street level and invite engagement with the historic greenway,” the CambridgeSeven president said. “Not only does the hotel transform the streetscape experience through improved sidewalks, crosswalks and a new traffic pattern, but a new bike and pedestrian path were incorporated into the design with bike racks, a repair station and drinking fountains.”
The hotel has 174 guestrooms, two meeting rooms, the Punch Bowl bar and restaurant, an indoor swimming pool and a fitness room.
Because the building is sited on a heavily traveled thoroughfare, it was also designed to make a statement, noted Johnson.
“Sheathed in glass with softened curved transitions, the building’s geometry cascades from high to low, ever mindful of the shadows it may cast and the sculptural nature of the building,” he said. “The shapes are derivatives of the neighboring context; it is highest directly along the busy street upon which it sits, and lowest along the park edge. It is most sculptural at the entry where it overlooks adjacent medical office buildings. The design focused on both a welcoming street-level arrival and creating guestrooms that feature a variety of unique views due to the sculpted shape.”
Each guestroom has floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic views from the Boston skyline to Olmsted Park. The unique facade, Johnson explained, conceals a second-story parking structure and rooftop equipment while showcasing the nine stories of guestrooms using a glass frit pattern and a curved facade.
“The curved motif of the facade finds its way into the lobby giving a rich arrival experience for guests and as a wayfinding tool to navigate the public spaces,” he said. “Celebrating the corner of the site is a dynamic, two-story lobby space. Outdoor dining opens onto the beloved historic park.”
The architecture is undoubtedly one of a kind, but also grounded in functionality for both locals and business travelers, while remaining sophisticated and artistic.
“This new urban hotel has revitalized and energized the historic gateway between Brookline and Boston, with an elevated, modern and contemporary design inspired by the natural elements of the adjacent Emerald Necklace,” Johnson said.