Industrial Chic

89 A Street | Center 128 East
Needham, Massachusetts

Center 128 is a burgeoning mixed-use development located along one of Greater Boston’s busiest motorways, just beyond the limits of the city. When Normandy Real Estate Partners purchased the Center’s 89 A Street building, home for years to a manufacturing client for which confidentiality and functionality were of the highest importance, its ambitions were as grand as the facility’s 260,000-square-foot footprint. Normandy initially engaged SMMA to help attract the ideal tenant to anchor the building—someone modern, innovative, and growing. It found a match in SharkNinja.

SMMA Site Plan for 77A

Shifting from marketing to designing, SMMA began working with both clients to determine how to revitalize what had for so long been a hulking, nondescript, two-story office building. Our design concepts centered on economically maximizing value for Normandy, which, in turn, sought to meet the practical requirements and fulfill the aesthetic aspirations of SharkNinja. The team focused on increasing daylight throughout the space, enhancing the user experience by incorporating “moments” into our designs, and improving the building’s overall aesthetic by creating a cohesive “feel.” 

Let There Be Light

One of the most significant questions facing the design team was: How do you brighten a cavernous facility—large enough to house three football fields—with limited access to natural light? We began by addressing the roof, initially incorporating several dramatic “pop-ups” into our design that would allow sunlight into those areas of the building without proximity to windows. As the project progressed, however, those pop-ups gave way to skylights, which essentially provide the same solution for a fraction of the cost.

  • Garden site planning at 77A
  • Sketch of Green Space Opportunities
  • Block Courtyard Design

Bringing the Outside In

SMMA created two interior courtyard spaces, punching holes through both the roof and floor plate, to provide employees a connection to nature and the outdoor environment. Our site designers sought to provide soft landscapes, favoring the ephemeral qualities of spring plantings to the permanence of evergreens. The courtyards also feature Asian-inspired rock gardens and incorporate elements of feng shui, a Chinese philosophy that promotes harmony with one’s surroundings.

A Hub of Activity

We cut into the envelope of the building to deliver a two-story-high south lobby into which sunlight pours. This entrance is the focal point of the facility, a grand expression that effectively defines 89 A Street and around which a newly redesigned café and courtyard are situated. This space is the heart of the facility—it is designed to be the most trafficked, the most attractive, the most special. 

Materially Rich

The client gravitated toward rich materials that had a certain roughness and life to them—an “industrial chic” aesthetic—and that gave the development a distinctive character.

To the exterior, we applied a coppery, steel-like cladding, randomly interspersing perforated panels among solid ones, giving the building a new visual identity while simultaneously providing another opportunity for natural light to penetrate the space.

The interior of the south lobby juxtaposes raw and finished materials, featuring a staircase that makes use of reclaimed barn wood pillars, as well as mesh metal paneling and LED Edison-bulb lighting on the ceiling. Pops of color throughout the space further convey a sense of warmth. 

Design Rendering of 77A Entrance

SMMA’s interventions at 89 A Street have resulted in a LEED-certified facility that positions Center 128 East as a new, attractive destination for Greater Boston’s always-expanding talent pool.

  • Design Rendering of Interior Cafe