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MIT Site 4


Cambridge, United States

September 2020






Massachusetts Institute of Technology


John Horner


The MIT Site 4 building includes a complex mix of academic, retail, childcare, and public programs, interconnected across new and renovated structures, topped by a 300’ tower containing 454 new residential units for graduate students. When the Institute initiated Site 4, the vision was that the collective project be designed for a service life of at least a Century. In the context of an uncertain future, this long-term investment by MIT required a significant allocation of team resources focused on Climate-resilient design, Resource sustainability, simple and robust Operations & Maintenance protocols, flexible use scenarios, and Lifecycle cost analysis. This, paired with the project’s key location at the intersection of MIT’s campus and the heart of Kendall Square in the City of Cambridge, as well as its unique indoor/outdoor communal spaces for residents, will allow the building to serve MIT and its community well into the future. The building’s height and unique façade system that changes from hour to hour in the sunlight has created a new icon for the city and has gained the building much support in the community. The massing was carefully studied and does a few critical things that will extend the life of the building: it maintains key views of Boston from the neighboring towers, it creates the most energy-efficient form for the tower, allows the maximum of light onto Main Street, and gives housing residents incredible views of the Boston skyline and Charles River.


In 2014 MIT invited our team to collaborate with their masterplan committee on the East Campus Masterplan. We worked to synthesize the urban design and landscape strategies organically. The masterplan involved the planning of seven buildings, the programming of each building, the infrastructure that connects the campus with the city, as well as landscape systems. The purpose of the masterplan was to identify the specific massing of the various buildings to ensure maximum connectivity with the City of Cambridge and Main Street, the creation of a gateway to campus, and the insertion of a new green space. Following the masterplan, our team was selected to design Site 4 as well as a gateway canopy for the Kendall Square MBTA subway stop. The design team worked with the following stakeholders to develop the program and design:

ADMINISTRATIVE OVERSIGHT: MIT System Design & Management, MIT School of Architecture and Planning, MIT Office of the Executive Vice President and Treasurer, MIT Graduate & Family Housing council, MIT Office of Campus Planning
ACADEMIC STAKEHOLDERS: MIT Innovation HQ, Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation, Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship, Environmental Solutions Initiative, Abdul Latif Jameel Water and Food Systems Lab, MIT Venture Mentoring
ADMINISTRATIVE USERS: MIT Office of Sustainability, MIT Admissions, MIT Open Space Programming, MIT Division of Student Life, MIT Center for Work Life and Wellbeing- Childcare
COMMUNITY STAKEHOLDERS: City of Cambridge, Cambridge Historic Commission, Kendall Square Association, and Neighbors.


The MIT Site 4 project has activated a neglected urban site along one of the busiest streets in Cambridge. The building and new green space have replaced many surface parking lots with new construction and a major park at the nexus of several significant pedestrian/bicycle pathways and the Kendall subway stop. The project has increased density to help ensure a critical mass of 24-hour activity in the neighborhood and is helping to animate restaurants, businesses, and the new green space. The new green space blends with our building, which anchors the northern end of the new gateway park, creates a connection to the subway stop, and features a raised play space roof terrace. Residents of the tower have access to indoor and outdoor communal spaces including a community kitchen, mixed-use space, fitness space, terraces, and access to the childcare center.

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