Sanjay Gangal is the President of IBSystems, the parent company of AECCafe.com, MCADCafe, EDACafe.Com, GISCafe.Com, and ShareCG.Com.
Kendall Square Research Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts by CO Architects
February 15th, 2018 by Sanjay Gangal
Article source: CO Architects
To ensure design excellence, Lyme Properties—original developer, which then sold to BioMed Realty—sponsored an invited, international design competition for the 1.3-million-square-foot Kendall Square mixed-use project in Cambridge, MA. The objective was to create a cluster of high-caliber laboratory buildings to position Kendall Square as a major research center strategically located in close proximity to MIT and Harvard. In addition to providing new laboratories, the developer wanted to animate the neighborhood street life by offering urban amenities including a hotel, housing, shops, restaurants, and open public space.
Following the design guidelines and master plan, CO Architects created a contemporary, innovative building, in contrast to the prevalent red-brick architecture in the surrounding area. Each façade of the building is treated differently, adding visual interest but, more important, taking advantage of opportunities for creating an energy-efficient structure.
Predominantly glass and metal, the building façades are grounded by a one-story band of terra cotta panels along three sides. Inset within aluminum mullions, as well as louvered, the horizontal slats lend a warmth to street level that interacts with passersby.
A broad, wedge-shaped canopy near the roof extends over the sidewalk providing protection from sun, rain, and snow, yet allows natural light to penetrate the interior. A smaller canopy below indicates the location of the main entry on the transparent west façade, where retail spaces face the plaza. A vertical band of clear glass rises from the east façade, bisecting the otherwise solid array of vertical louvers. The glass band wraps around to meet the full transparency of the west façade, and defines the interior atrium space. Office and laboratory spaces are located at either side.
The glass roof floods natural light into the atrium, which is bolstered by strategically placed recessed lighting. Vertical conveyance is achieved by elevators on the north side of the atrium, while a series of staircases weaves in and out of the south side of the atrium, articulating the open space. The half-height sides of the stairs are covered with the same beech wood used to veneer the walls of the open circulation spaces. With only the half-height glass walls separating these circulation areas from the atrium, the sense of transparency prevalent throughout the building is elegantly underscored. Horizontal and vertical white bands create an orthogonal grid articulating the individual floors and bays. This grid element is repeated on the terrazzo floor, further unifying the design. The atrium connects public spaces, such as the winter garden, café, and library, creating opportunities for scientists to meet informally and to foster collaboration.
The design evolved from the firm’s commitment to sustainable, energy-efficient design, and the building is pre-certified for LEED-Gold. Thus, treatment of each façade varies according to geographic orientation to minimize the harmful effects of solar radiation and maximize the natural light that enters the building. The building skin is composed of layers of materials and shading devices appropriate to each façade’s orientation. The vocabulary of the curtain wall system is standardized for the entire building, with the infill and suspended elements treated differently at each façade in response to the sunlight.
The East, North, and South façade are constructed of a curtain wall system made up of insulated low-emissivity (“low-e”) glazing and spans floor to floor. At the East façade, vertical fins clad the curtain wall and shade the interiors from morning sun. The top of the East wall of the atrium has operable units to allow natural ventilation of the space. The ground level is clad in terra cotta.
At the North façade, the curtain wall is expressed without sunshade devices, emphasizing the module, spandrel glass material, and even glow of north light. The ground level at the North side is articulated with a storefront glazing system at the retail space at the west half of the wall and terra-cotta panels at the east end, where mechanical spaces and the loading dock are located. The terra cotta provides scale and texture for pedestrians.
At the South side, horizontal blades shade high altitude summer sun while allowing low-angled winter sun to penetrate the space. The ground level of the south façade includes storefront glazing at the retail space and glazing and terra-cotta panels at the office/lab space.
The intake and exhaust air for the garage mechanical system requires an open, permeable part of the façade. To accommodate that, terra-cotta extrusions run across the supply-air openings, integrating them into the wall on the South side. The North side exhaust openings are covered with louvers designed into the architecture of the wall, and are placed in the zone above pedestrian level, below the second floor.
The Western façade, fronts the plaza, has more direct sun exposure, is a garden zone, and acts as an environmental buffer between exterior and interior walls. The exterior façade is a four-story curtain wall of low-e insulated glazing with a frit pattern screening a portion of the wall. Motorized operable elements on 20 percent of the façade allow for natural ventilation and smoke exhaust of the atrium. The large glazing panels give the buffer wall a light and open appearance. Planters line the space and are filled with giant bamboo that provides shade for the interior. The buffer space extends into the heart of the building. It is connected, physically and visually, to the distinct places that are created within the building at all floors. This creates a strong link from the plaza into the building.
Los Angeles-based CO Architects is nationally recognized for architectural planning, programming, and design in the higher education, science and technology, and healthcare sectors, and works with leading institutions from coast to coast. CO Architects’ specialized expertise includes transformative schools of medicine and health professions, advanced research and teaching laboratories, and innovative clinical facilities on higher education, healthcare, and urban campuses. CO Architects is the recipient of the American Institute of Architects, California Council’s prestigious 2014 California Architecture Firm of the Year Award.
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