Houben’s design brings light to Boston’s Dudley Square

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Francine Houben designed the city’s new Bruce Bolling Building
Francine Houben designed the city’s new Bruce Bolling Building / © Phil Nijhuis / Boston Globe
 Francine Houben designed the city’s new Bruce Bolling Building
Francine Houben designed the city’s new Bruce Bolling Building / © Phil Nijhuis / Boston Globe

Far away from Roxbury, in the land of tulips and windmills, is a small replica of the new Bruce C. Bolling Municipal Building in Dudley Square.

It is an architectural scale model, and it is sitting in the board room of architect Francine Houben’s firm Mecanoo. Houben — considered one of the world’s most influential architects — designed the $125 million Roxbury building, in collaboration with Watertown-based Sasaki Associates. It opens this month and will be the new headquarters for Boston’s public schools.

Municipal buildings are notoriously unpleasant and user-unfriendly — mazes of confusing corridors, lookalike cubicles, dim light, and salvaged furniture. But this one is different.

The building is meant to be a symbol, the centerpiece of a revitalized, no- longer-neglected Dudley Square that will “unlock its potential,” in the words of the late Thomas M. Menino, who as mayor championed the project.

It incorporates the facades of three buildings more than a century old, including the iconic Ferdinand furniture building, which has been vacant for 40 years. ….

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