An Iconic Building for a Transitional Site
Navigating diverse neighborhoods through shifts in massing, detailing and scale

The site occupies nearly an entire city block at a critical juncture between the dense urban fabric of Kendall Square in Cambridge, MA and the residential neighborhoods of East Cambridge. 

Responsive Façades
The high performance cementitous façade panels are cast with a rippled pattern that changes visually over the course of the day. Each panel has brightly colored edges, either yellow toward the city or red toward the neighborhood, harmonizing with the red brick residences native to the area. 

Strategically placed cut-outs in the south façade provide occupants on every floor with easy access to outdoor space. Each façade is unique, tuned in response to solar orientation, interior programming and urban context. The facades create depth and shadow, provide corner windows, create occasional balconies and intermittently open to the ground floor. 

Alexandria Real Estate Equities
75–125 Binney Street

Cambridge, MA / United States

380,000 GSF

Life Sciences Laboratories, Offices

LEED-NC 2.2 Gold Registered

This project for flexible laboratory and office space consists of two buildings that step from five to four stories in height. A glass-enclosed atrium joins the buildings, creating a shared entry that features bridges, terraces, gardens, balconies and other informal spaces. Occupying almost a full city block between the dense urban fabric of Kendall Square and the residential neighborhoods of East Cambridge, the new buildings rely on massing, program placement, and façade detailing to negotiate the communities’ different scales. Initiated as an Integrated Project Delivery (IPD) project, the buildings resulted from a highly collaborative design-assist process.

The client requested an iconic building to stand apart from the ubiquitous glass curtainwall buildings that populate Kendall Square. In addition, the project needed to work within city zoning regulations while establishing a connection with its surrounding urban and residential neighborhoods.

Responding to the city’s zoning constraints, the design situates the larger-scale lab programs in five story-zones along the Binney Street (south) façade facing Kendall Square, while the smaller-scaled office programs occupy four-story zones that face the residential neighborhoods and Rogers Street Park (to the north). An underground two-story garage provides parking for 400 cars.

Using parametric modeling, the team manipulated the pattern of façade panels around the building’s perimeter, varying the pattern according to exterior context and interior programs. The final version provides approximately 60% glazing along the south facades, creating a light-filled environment in the main lab spaces, and an average of 40% glazing on the north facades, along the more private office spaces. To establish connectivity to the site, both buildings are entered through a transparent five-story atrium that provides a gateway to the adjacent park on Rogers Street. An open, sculptural, red staircase serves as a vibrant focal point within the atrium, which is further enlivened by rich paving and plantings drawn from the landscaped exterior.

Sustainability Strategies
The building was designed to LEED Gold Certification and is anticipated to use 68% less energy than a typical building with a similar mix of research and office space. The exterior detailing reduces the load on the mechanical systems through a highly responsive electrochromic glass roof, radiant heating strategies that minimize ductwork in the public atrium and tight system details that curtail air leakage and thermal bridging. The electrochromic glass roof can change from clear to dark with a minimal electric charge. As a result, the glass roof reduces solar heat gain in the warmer months and allows the sun to warm the space in the winter, while users benefit from constant views of the sky.

Photography: © Chuck Choi

Robert J. Schaeffner, FAIA, LEED AP

James H. Collins, Jr., FAIA, LEED AP
Design Principal

Barry A. Shiel, AIA
Project Manager