Kendall / MIT Gateway

  • No categories

For decades, Kendall Square was defined by parking lots and industrial brown fields, however, over the past two decades it has developed into a new center within the Boston/Cambridge metropolis. With MIT’s main entry being on Massachusetts Avenue on the west side of campus, this project has been an opportunity to define the threshold from the east side of campus on Main Street. The project makes a critical connection between East Cambridge and MIT communities.

A NEW GATEWAY FOR MIT  The gateway masterplan has included the renovation and adaptive reuse of significant historic buildings, the addition of new mid-rise buildings, and the creation of open public spaces including an entry plaza at the end of the Infinite Corridor. The site serves as a new center bringing together East Cambridge, Central Square, the MIT Sloan School, and the core of MIT’s campus into a coherent set of public spaces with the Marriott Plaza and the MIT Open Space serving as their epicenter. The Kendall/MIT Headhouse responds by creating a threshold that acknowledges the depth of the block from Main Street all the way into the campus, a condition that few gateways have historically been asked to address.

HEADHOUSE(S) + CIRCULATION Subway headhouses are commonly optimized by creating a singular volume that incorporates the elevators, staircases, and escalators. In this instance, due to the multi-functionalities of this stop–an orientation towards both Main Street and MIT’s East Campus, and another towards the MIT Welcome Center and MIT Museum–the project offers the opportunity to disaggregate the three vertical circulation elements, to create a more porous ambulatory for public flow into campus.

URBAN ACUPUNCTURE To maintain the porosity of the site the idea was to use the thinnest possible columns, each rising 25 feet from the ground. Under such a premise, the columns are not merely holding up the canopy; in fact, they are holding it down. A traditional organization of these columns would have them equally spaced at the perimeter of the canopy at about a 10-foot spacing. However, given the complexities of the infrastructure below, the structural foundations, and urban potentials above ground, the recalibration of column locations initiates what appears to be a more random distribution of columns around both the edge and the center of the canopy. 

REFLECTIVE UNDERBELLY The reflected ceiling plan of the canopy panels form a series of striations running east/west. Aligned with each of these columns, lighting, and other mechanical needs are located within these striations. The underbelly of this canopy is conceived as an interactive realm whereby passersby, students, faculty, and the general public may prompt the lighting program to animate the ceiling on certain occasions while pre-set programs operate on a daily basis.

THE MONOCOQUE Conceived as a canopy with many intricate parts, the tolerances for making such bespoke connections posed many challenges. Our outreach to the maritime and aviation industry turned out to be the most critical and practical path towards the coordination of a complex set of systems into one single buildable shell. Fabricated in two halves the formwork only needed to be created once. The monocoque is composed of a fiberglass composite shell, incorporating lateral and intermittent longitudinal ribs. While the underbelly surface is flat, the roof surface is pitched (invisible to the eye from the street level), incorporating the drainage gutter on the two edges. The drainage is coordinated with several of the columns on the edge.

CANOPY CONSTRUCTION The canopy construction process was composed of four phases. The first involved the construction of a wooden formwork, which conforms to the figure of both halves. The second involved the overlay of a composite system including a honeycomb shell with fiberglass and carbon fiber composites created with a vacuum bagging process. The third was the insertion of the lateral bracing which do not conform to a grid, but rather to the eccentric locations of the columns producing erratic, though more rational, structural connections. The fourth involved the resin finishes, powder coating, and waterproofing layers.

Project Team

Design Architect: NADAAA

Principals: Nader Tehrani; Katherine Faulkner, AIA

Project Managers: Harry Lowd, RA; Tom Beresford

Team: Arthur Chang, AIA; Alex Diaz; Tim Wong, AIA; Nick Safley; Elias Bennett; Ali Sherif; Katie Solien; Ergys Hoxha; Luisel Zayas


Architect of Record: Perkins&Will

This is a unique website which will require a more modern browser to work!

Please upgrade today!