About Context Architecture

Continuing the legacy of Donham & Sweeney, founded in 1967, Context Architecture remains committed to providing unique, customer-driven design solutions to a diverse range of public, private, and corporate clients throughout the New England area. Our firm is recognized for designing buildings that establish their own identity and character yet remain contextually sensitive to their surroundings. We pay special attention to the distinctive architecture of the region in order to cultivate designs that are firmly rooted within their communities. The resulting facilities are immediately claimed by local residents, and provide a source of pride that ultimately leads to better maintenance and longer life-spans.


Design Philosophy

Active listening is our priority.
Our designs begin with a fundamental desire to produce inspired, timeless architecture that serves both the client and the general public. This requires a tuned sensitivity to the perceptions of a community – to their beliefs, needs, and core values. As a result, a core value of our firm is active listening. Our ability to listen critically and work closely with our clients is integral to our design process. We are patient, and carefully work over our designs when changes and alterations are requested. We believe our clients trust our judgment and integrity, both in design and in representing their interests throughout the project. We take this responsibility very seriously.

We value working with groups of people.
A client that is a group of individuals held together by the common goal of making a building can be a powerful resource, one with the potential to create amazingly unique and transformative architecture founded on a their combined vision of what is possible. We are well versed in working with diverse groups of individuals that include key stakeholders as well as the public, and are ignited by the possibilities that these types of projects can bring to life.

We make sure your buildings are functional & beautiful.
Successful buildings achieve more than the merit of beauty. They perform the role for which they were designed and are well thought through, with planned space use that complements future growth and transformation. They are functional, cost-effective, and energy-efficient. We believe that our clients care just as deeply for success in these areas as they do for an attractive building. In some cases even more.

We believe buildings should stand the test of time.
Buildings may not be modified or renovated for decades. The form of the building, its size, and chosen materials all affect its ability to last. The process of designing buildings is a constant test of our abilities as architects to weigh complex problems and propose elegant solutions. This is the purest form of sustainability, and the kind of challenge we thrive upon.

Creative problem solving is our wheelhouse.
At Context Architecture, we can confidently say that all of the buildings that we’ve designed have required creative problem solving. We have come up with innovative and exciting solutions to every obstacle we’ve encountered, all while keeping beauty, practicality and affordability at the forefront of our minds.


Our Commitment to Sustainability

Over the course of the firm’s 50-year history, Context Architecture has always promoted sustainability as an integral part of the design process. Notable projects include designing offices for the Union of Concerned Scientists in Cambridge, with a very high degree of sustainability to serve as a model for their mission. We have designed two active solar-heated buildings, a church and a house, and one passively solar-heated house.

As a measure of our commitment to sustainable design, Context is a member of the U.S. Green Building Council. Jeff Shaw, Principal-in-Charge, is a LEED Accredited Professional with a specialty in Building Design and Construction; he acts as an in-house green design consultant on all projects.

Most of our work in the last 15 years could have been LEED Certified, many at the Silver level, though some clients have chosen not to officially pursue Certification. Several of our recent projects with particular emphasis on sustainability include:

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Lincoln Town Offices – Lincoln, MA
The Town Offices restoration and renovation were designed to be LEED Silver Certified under the most current version of the LEED program. In addition to being a rehabilitated building, other sustainable design elements include high efficiency mechanical systems, introduction of a tight building envelope, high recycled content
and low VOC materials, reduction of water usage, requiring diversion of over 95% of construction waste from landfills and requiring the establishment of an indoor air quality program during construction and before occupancy.
 

Highland Fire Station – Arlington, MA
This project has earned a LEED Silver Certification in May 2012 achieving 42 out of 69 possible credits. In addition to being a rehabilitated building, the project used several techniques to achieve the Silver LEED rating, including: a tight building envelope, high performing windows, high recycled content materials, water saving fixtures, diverting over 95% of construction waste from landfills and performing a building air “flush out” to achieve high indoor air quality before occupancy.


Belmont Town Hall Complex – Belmont, MA
Designed to be LEED - Certified though the Town chose not to pursue actual certification, the municipal complex that Donham & Sweeney restored and renovated was preliminary estimated to reach LEED Silver. In addition to being a rehabilitated building, other sustainable design elements include gas-fired radiant heat and fully operable windows.
 

Belmont Fire Headquarters & Substation – Belmont, MA
This project did not include vinyl products or site irrigation in order to save clean, potable water. We included a white roof to reduce heat gain, the heating system and included 90% efficient boilers, and local brick and granite was used on the exterior.