Weiss/Manfredi uses frits and fins to clad a tower for MIT

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Design Architect: Weiss/Manfredi
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Across the Charles River from Boston, a spate of recent projects has altered the skyline of Cambridge’s Kendall Square neighborhood. MIT Kendall Square Site 5, designed by New York–based firm Weiss/Manfredi, is one such project, and it makes its presence known with eye-catching massing and a glass curtain wall shaded with a ceramic frit and terra-cotta colored aluminum fins.

The building comes to a bold cantilevered point toward the street. (Albert Vecerka/Esto)

Weiss/Manfredi has been on something of a tear when it comes to institutional, and glassy, projects, recently ranging from the curved structural glass of Yale’s Tsai Center to the staggered brick-and-glass form of Kent State’s Center for Architecture and Environmental Design. In Cambridge, the office’s 17-story tower was completed last year and houses a number of programs, such as the MIT Museum, MIT Press bookstore, and Boeing’s Aurora Flight Sciences research unit. In its massing, the project seeks to blend in with its neighbors. “The building creates a transition from the brick buildings of Main Street to a newly created campus green that will become an important part of MIT’s open spaces,” Weiss/Manfredi cofounders Michael Manfredi and Marion Weiss told AN. “The building responds to these contexts and programs through the sectional articulation of its massing and facade, which are keyed to the datum lines and rhythm of adjacent buildings.”

Facade detailing includes different levels of etched glass and bronze colored fins to offer depth and varying degrees of sun protection for interiors.(Albert Vecerka/Esto)

The 4-story podium consists of a fully glazed ground floor curtain wall to establish a lively presence at street level, and the rhythm of opaque and transparent elements above reflects the scale of nearby historic buildings. Above the podium, the 13-story tower is arranged in a bow-tie-like floorplan that magnifies the pleated detailing of the facade system.