The Machon Elementary School replaced the Essex Street school on Essex Street, in Swampscott, MA in 1920. It served generations of residents until the town decommissioned the school in 2007 and it sat vacant and unused. B’nai B’rith stepped up to fill the need for Senior 55+ affordable apartments in 2018. Thirty-eight one-bedroom apartments inhabit the three floors of the existing school footprint, as well as a three story addition. Though not on the registry, this building has nostalgic personal historical value to the community. Swampscott resident, Governor Charlie Baker, announced the Massachusetts 2019 housing portfolio on the very grounds of the Machon School. This signaled the importance of maintaining the historical character that drove the dialogue of interior components.

Photo Cred; Bruce T Martin

Though Wellesley Design Consultants, Inc. (WDC) had worked with B’nai B’rith before, it was clear this project would be different. Keith Construction joined us again and paid special attention to items that could be reused, repurposed, and recreated. Chalkboards were saved and inspired the ‘chalkboard green’ walls that sat behind white courier type resin panels. These partitions not only give residents a resting and gathering space; they provide separation for the apartments that abut open common areas.

Photo Cred; Bruce T Martin

Classroom doors were preserved and are used as panels for space dividers. They allow transparency through the antique lit panes and provide privacy through noise dampening. Shared lights were a high priority to maximize the perception of space. The primary use as a school building challenged the ideal volume and area proportions required for housing. Most of the exterior glazing of the school is dedicated to resident apartments, which leaves some common areas buried from direct natural light and ventilation.

Photo Cred; Bruce T Martin

It's been so rewarding to be a part of this project. The kickoff Community Celebration brought out former students who have fond memories of the Machon school. In fact, there were four generations from one family in attendance, who were overwhelmed with feelings of nostalgia and thrilled with the results. This serves as a testament to how special this place is in the community’s heart.  We’re so happy to be a part of it.

Photo Cred; Bruce T Martin

And to bury the lead:  It was just announced that The Machon is being awarded the 2022 Vanguard Award for Major Rehabilitation of a Historic Structure into Affordable Rental Housing.  We couldn’t be more proud.







What is your favorite part of our office culture?

We are a real family. At work we together to help find solutions for the A&D community but we also help each other on our regular day to day as a family.

What do you wish more designers knew about your Job?

That we are here to help! We get as invested in the projects as them and we also want  to achieving the best outcome.

What's been the most challenging part of working remote, as a team?

We do tons of actives together and being remote vs live is just not the same.

What advice would you give to someone entering our industry? 

Be open to learning new things and don’t burn any bridges.

What is your favorite productivity tool? 

Scale and Hyperlinks…

 What does your logo say about your brand?

The BLS Sail is easy to fill with metaphors. When I look at it I think of how the winds of design often blow steady, but without the proper crew and without all hands (from captain to deckhand) working together and supporting each other the ship won’t get to where it needs to be. Take too long to set your sails and the breeze can pass you by. The filled sail of the BLS logo speaks to an organization fully-crewed, trained, and engaged – ready to read the wind and course-correct as needed.

What's the best perk of your office culture? Fav part of your office?

Folks that visit always talk about the location; walking out the door at night to see all of downtown Boston aglow is certainly impressive, but, for me, the people are what makes BLS an office to be proud of. This is a place where people stick around. We recently celebrated a few 30 year work anniversaries, but you can also often find a few of us hanging out in the conference room after work for a drink or two. People have no interest in leaving!

What are you reading?

I’m puzzling my way through the chaotic gothic space fantasy by Tamsyn Muir, “Nona the Ninth”. It’s the third book in the series and is utterly incomprehensible, yet somehow I can’t put it down. It’s rife with cataclysm, interplanetary politics, bone-magic, and romance. If you’ve read it and have any clue what’s going on, let me know!

What advice would you give to someone entering our industry?

Join an industry organization. Whether you just attend the events they host or join their board, these groups provide a welcoming community that will connect you with professionals, expose you to ideas, and create friendships that will foster your career and sense of belonging in the industry.

What was your first job?

I got my first job when I was 14 at the run-down mini-golf & batting cages near my house. I was responsible for weed whacking, raking the rock pathways, and un-jamming the pitching machines. For some reason they would cancel my shift if it was too nice out, and to this day I can’t for the life of me figure out why.