Rising Star: Alina Wohlhardt
October 15, 2018
Designer Alina Wolhardt is the force behind the look and feel of some of Boston’s most distinctive new condo buildings.
Text by Marni Elyse Katz
Step off the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s swathe of downtown parkland and into the light-filled lobby of Boulevard on the Greenway, and you could be forgiven for failing to notice you’ve moved inside. Thanks to the nearly twenty-foot-high expanse of freeze-dried greenery set against walnut paneling, the transition from the outdoors is almost seamless.
This welcome to Boulevard, a thirty-six-unit condominium building by the architecture firm Finegold Alexander, is the work of designer Alina Wolhardt of Wolf in Sheep Design. “Proximity to the Greenway is the reason people want to live here,” she says. “We built on that with a simple visual that establishes a sense of place and marks your arrival.”
Such pared-down, statement-making schemes are Wolhardt’s hallmark. At The Lucas, a onetime church in the South End that Finegold Alexander converted to a condo building, she turned a staircase into a major moment. “It’s a small lobby,” she explains, “so we kept it stark, mixing blocks of dark-stained oak with gray marble tile. The effect is striking.”
Similarly, in the lobby of Port45, a South Boston condominium building designed by Icon Architecture, Wolhardt reiterates the clean, urban aesthetic with nary a frill. Here, she simply cut geometric shapes in the drywall, then backlit it. “It was an uncomplicated way to introduce drama,” she says.
Wolhardt, who founded her company in 2014 following a four-year stint at Boston powerhouse Elkus Manfredi Architects, begins each project by crafting a narrative of the user’s experience. “A big part of designing is telling a story,” she says.
Her narratives are multi-layered and consider a wide array of factors. Some are abstract: what mood should a lobby convey, how will the interiors relate to the site and the architecture? Others are quite concrete: what brand of appliances will attract the target buyer, what type of backsplash tile presents as simultaneously fresh and timeless?
Wolhardt often walks a fine line in tying her interiors to a structure’s architecture. At the Gothic-style Lucas, for instance, the elevator floor boasts a rosette pattern based on the facade’s rose tracery screens. Inside the units, however, finishes are sleek and details minimal. “We wanted to highlight architectural elements that make the building special, but we didn’t want people to feel like they actually live in a church,” she says.
Developers appreciate Wolhardt’s vision. David Goldman, principal of New Boston Ventures, with whom Wolhardt collaborated on The Lucas and Boulevard on the Greenway, says, “Alina doesn’t use a formula. She translates each building’s distinct personality.”
Regardless of her method, Wolhardt leaves her mark. Goldman says, “Alina can take the simplest material and make it cool.”
Wolf in Sheep Design, Boston, wolfinsheepdesign.com