More Than Words Renovation
In 2018, the newly renovated and expanded More Than Words Bookstore and Warehouse opened its doors to a two-floor social enterprise hub in the South End, launching a new, first floor retail business and expanding the organization’s ability to provide skill-building opportunities for at-risk youth. The design celebrates the non-profit’s unique mission to empower young people and provides them with a proud manifestation of their hard work and identity. This project has had a profound impact on More Than Words: it has allowed the organization to add 35,000 books to their inventory, engage with more than 16,000 visitors, process almost 1.5 million more donations, double their revenue, and serve over 100 more youth in need annually.
The design challenge lay in fitting many programmatic needs in an existing building with a limited amount of space. In addition to a retail space, a community room, support spaces, and offices, the clients wanted to relocate their warehouse operations from Winchester to downtown Boston, a strategy which would save them hours of traffic-ridden transport. With a full scale warehouse and new storefront at a single location, the total program amounted to an area much larger than the 10,000 SF available. Following an in-depth study of the programming needs and a careful survey of the existing conditions, the solution was to create a flexible and highly optimized plan that would strategically deploy program and maximize productivity. A key component of this strategy is a uniquely convertible multi-purpose room, which presents itself as a distinct object within the bookstore. Large, custom sliding and pivoting doors transform the space to allow for a multitude of configurations and uses. When completely open, the retail space is expanded and the movable bookshelves flow into the space. When the doors are closed, the space can be rented and used independently as a micro-cinema, yoga or dance studio, or an event space where visitors can gather around common causes, hone social enterprise skills, and host celebrations. For larger events such as weddings and MTW’s annual fundraiser breakfast, the whole bookstore can be activated, with bookshelves stored in the warehouse, tripling the rentable space.
The project is located in an old, industrial building of masonry and wood joist construction that formerly housed a textile factory. In the 1980s, the first floor was converted to a Medieval-themed restaurant theater whose exterior was boarded up eliminating all natural light. This renovation returned the façade to a glazed storefront, immediately connecting the public with the activity inside. A new entry vestibule and interior glazing provides glimpses into warehouse space, highlighting the youth at work. The bookstore is organized to extend from front to back, bringing light from both ends and adding views through the space, a move emphasized by the ten-foot bookshelves along the perimeter walls. Ultimately, this new, beautiful, and well-organized space makes the important and powerful statement that disadvantaged youth belong in the heart of the city, working, learning and contributing to the life of their community.