Rendering of the outside of a reimagined Old Corner Bookstore, children playing, people reading outside on the lawn
Historic Boston Inc
Spatial Experience
History of Boston

Revitalizing History As A Beacon For Change

Historic Boston Inc (HBI) is a non-profit organization that works to identify and redevelop historically significant buildings in Boston’s neighborhoods. Other Tomorrows collaborated with HBI to reimagine the future of the Old Corner Bookstore, one of Boston’s oldest but lesser-known historical sites. The goal was to engage residents and visitors with a modern cultural corner that recaptures the space’s unique historical, architectural, and literary significance, while also making it more engaging and relevant to both Bostonians and visitors alike.


The Old Corner Bookstore is losing its identity.

Historic Boston Inc was founded in 1960 to rescue the Old Corner Bookstore, Downtown Boston's oldest commercial building, from becoming a parking garage. They succeeded in their initial goal to save the building, but its story has been lost to history over the past sixty years. Boston residents often call it "the old something something" or "the Chipotle building." With no clear identifiers on the building, tourists are liable to walk right past it. In essence, while the building itself is still standing, its historic presence and significance in the community have all but disappeared.

Today, the building's tenants are an essential funding source for additional historical development projects led by HBI. However, we heard in interviews that the public is unsatisfied with its current state. We needed to find a way to balance the Old Corner Bookstore's financial and cultural importance to create a sustainable, vibrant experience for Boston residents and tourists alike.

We immersed ourselves in the research from multiple angles, beginning with a neighborhood audit of Downtown Crossing. We paid particular attention to statues, architectural elements, materials, signage, typography — anything and everything that makes something feel like "authentic Boston". We analyzed the Old Corner's current state, and spoke to dozens of passersby. We also conducted numerous interviews with experts in historic preservation, urban studies, design, real estate, and publishing as well as Boston residents and visitors from across the globe.

“The charm of what that building could be is missing from it. It could bring in the community, other writers, a place to read...”

-Saad, Beacon Hill Resident

Photo of the current state of the Old Corner Bookstore, overshadowed by surrounding skyscrapers and hidden behind Irish Famine Memorial

Revealing the hidden (and sometimes unsavory) history of Boston

Boston has a rich history that dates back centuries. It was initially inhabited by Native Americans and later became an important center for the early American colonies. Today, it's a thriving city home to many hospitals, research centers, and universities. Throughout this project, we had to ask ourselves: "Whose history are we telling?" "What are the unsavory parts of our history that have been ignored?" "Whose voices need to be uncovered and amplified?" As one Downtown Crossing resident we interviewed said, "Those stories should not be hidden. Those stories have to be told."

Interweaving history, culture, and the present

Today, the Old Corner Bookstore meets the functional needs of HBI by funding other preservation projects. It also serves commuters and tourists as an economical lunch spot. However, locals and visitors alike yearn for much more from this historical icon. They don't want it to just become a museum, to simply be a ubiquitous food chain they could find in any other city, to just become a bookstore again for name's sake. The OCB must interweave its history with everyday modern life, radically partnering with tenants to recreate a cultural corner for the future.

"I love that juxtaposition of new and old. People feed off that, and see how society is changing. I love the diversity. We need to become more and more welcoming."

-Sean, Downtown Crossing Resident

Image of research insights being organized, photo of designer in front of Old Corner Bookstore conducting research workshop

The Old Corner Bookstore as a beacon, oasis, and enclave

To truly engage today's residents and visitors with a modern, culturally relevant city corner, the experience must be dynamic and catch people as they move by the building and through the square. That's why we designed an experience that would engage from 50ft, 5ft, and 5in away. Our envisioned intervention comprised three parts: the Old Corner Bookstore as a Beacon, which focuses on the exterior facade; Old Corner Bookstore Oasis, which leverages Reader's Park; and the Old Corner Bookstore Enclave, which focuses on a cozy interior that promotes lingering.

History was written here. Let's keep writing.

Based on our insights, Other Tomorrows envisioned a new future for the Old Corner Bookstore as a cultural hub of future history. We backcast this ideal state to prioritize elements of the vision and created a detailed roadmap for Historic Boston Inc. to build on over the next three to five years. Our vision has given HBI a vital tool to raise the funds needed to bring the future to life.

At Other Tomorrows, we love taking on projects that uncover and amplify hidden voices to transform spaces into experiences that better serve their communities. This work is even more meaningful because we're a Boston-based studio that is proud to contribute to our community. We are currently working with HBI to transform this vision into a reality.

“There’s a really untapped story there to be told about the institution and this building and how it connects with the's an opportunity to time travel for folks”

-Karilyn Crockett, MIT Professor of Urban History, Public Policy & Planning

Rendering of the outside of a reimagined Old Corner Bookstore during daytimeVarious renderings of the reimagined Old Corner Bookstore - the facade of the building, the inside, and the outside at nightVarious renderings of the reimagined Old Corner Bookstore - the facade of the building, the inside, and the outside at nightRendering of the outside of a reimagined Old Corner Bookstore during nighttime
Project Team

Other Tomorrows

Jen Ashman-Stauss

Nicole Nassif

Joshua Brown

Historic Boston Inc

Kathy Kottaridis

Lisa Lewis

Tony Lopes

Erika Tauer