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University Park

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1987–2003, various architects; Forest City Enterprises, developer. 350 Massachusetts Ave.

Once an urban wasteland dominated by Simplex Wire and Cable Company (a small bronze site plan model of 1937 is now part of the park's decoration), this suburban-type office-research compound off the city's principal thoroughfare now commands a twenty-nine-acre site composed of biotechnology companies. What is amazing upon entering the complex is its overwhelming coherence, dominated by a greensward as part of a grid plan. The Lafayette Square Fire Station (CS7) serves as a prominent landmark at the entrance from Massachusetts Avenue, while an undistinguished residential structure provides a focal point at the far end on Pacific Street. Office buildings are aligned on both sides of the expansive lawn, only relieved at the edges by garden trappings and rock-scapes in an effort to soften the severity of the whole. A plaque on a granite block informs us that the site was a salt marsh before 1800 and that by 1900 Sidney Street mudflats were buried under ten feet of fill.

This is definitely pharmaceutical country. Four five-story brick buildings are symmetrically aligned. Twin office buildings along Sidney Street (1989, Symmes, Maini and McKee Associates with Koetter Kim and Associates, 38 Sidney Street; 1990, Koetter Kim and Associates, 64 Sidney Street) are composed of eight bays separated by double brick piers facing end walls of dark glass. Fronting on the lawn opposite are the twin red brick Millennium Pharmaceutical buildings (1999, Tsoi/Kobus and Associates, 45 and 75 Sidney Street); they are marked by grid trellis roof overhangs and three-story entrance pavilions covered in gray aluminum. Between, a treelined street reveals the connecting sky-bridge and, beyond, a large parking facility and new three-decker-like town houses and a six-story building for low-moderate income (1986, 2000, Goody, Clancy and Associates, Auburn Court). At the far southern end of this pedestrian axis, the vista terminates in the blue-glass-curved-and-canted, nine-story facade of 40 Landsdowne Street, Millennium Pharmaceuticals (2003, Elkus/Manfredi Architects), opening on the Landsdowne Quadrangle, making it the major structure of University Park.

Not surprisingly, the buildings closest to Massachusetts Avenue are those most frequented by the public, for they contain such amenities as pub, bank, supermarket, and, above all, the Hotel @ MIT. The lobby is confusing but spacious, and high-tech design elements such as welded steel robotic and digital imagery on loan from the MIT Museum (see CS6) provide appropriate notes for the desired technological ambience of being wired for success. Homage to the scientific establishments of the research buildings appears on a plaque (2002, Elkus/Manfredi Architects, 88 Sidney Street) from the developers to the talents invested in the building, citing Galileo Galilei—“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”

Writing Credits

Keith N. Morgan


What's Nearby


Keith N. Morgan, "University Park", [Cambridge, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 294-295.

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