Founded in 1964 from the merger of Boston State College with other programs for teacher training, the University of Massachusetts, Boston, moved to a new campus in 1974 on 121 acres along the southern side of Columbia Point. “An urban campus by the sea” was the motto of the lobbying efforts for the new university. Greater access to public transportation was promised but never created. The massive blocky brick buildings, often elevated on stiltlike piers, followed the master plan by Pietro Belluschi but with different architects for each building. Despite the dramatic views of Dorchester Bay to the south and of Boston Harbor to the east and north, the campus feels strangely disconnected from its surrounding, with everyone arriving by commuter bus from the Columbia Point subway stop or by car to the parking garages beneath several buildings. The internal streets of the campus are the second-story walkways that facilitate access but leave users hermetically sealed from the outside world.
A new Student Center opened in 2003 partially perpetuates the dominant brick vocabulary, but it opens dramatically to the waterfront with walls of windows and a light gray limestone palette. Atria and walls of glass contrast with the prisonlike forms of the original campus. The scale and transparency of Kallmann, McKinnell and Wood's student center provides the impressive central focus that the University of Massachusetts, Boston, had always lacked.