The Broad Institute, a joint venture between M.I.T and Harvard University, applies the understanding of the Human Genome to help cure disease. Located in Kendall Square, it integrates laboratory space, office space, exhibition space, retail space and an auditorium in one building to provide the Broad Scholars with an ideal environment in which to conduct research.

Eric Lander, founder and director of the Broad Institute, provided the inspiration for the project in his vision for an "open" and transparent scientific process. The building's design speaks to Eric's vision in its formal and material openness and transparency. A layered use of glass, both on the exterior skin and within the building, allows for a transparent understanding of the workings within the Broad. Light suffuses through the interior glass walls that enclose offices, conference rooms and laboratory spaces to interior corridors and common spaces. Layered visual connections between offices and labs, public and private spaces, promote community and inclusiveness and support a sense of transparency in the scientific process. The glass volume on the exterior of the building identifies the laboratory spaces. The materially transparent laboratory volume addresses the street in an effort to support public awareness of the processes within. The material transparency of the building's skins also brings sunlight deep into the site's thick floor plate, creating a wonderful and light-filled place to work. Circulation routes within the building are oriented towards the light and create a sense of the "outdoors" within this large laboratory structure.

Design strategies which support academic and scientific "transparency" also include a floorplan that promotes interdisciplinary interaction through spaces that encourage different disciplines to cross each other's paths. Crossroads between laboratories are occupied by interactive program pieces, such as open kitchen spaces, in order to create an environment where scientists from diverse disciplines will "bump into each other," promoting discourse and the cross fertilization of ideas. On the laboratory floors, vertical circulation elements open onto "living rooms" which are layered onto transparent conference rooms lit by large windows beyond. Both the exterior louvers, which block glare, and the scientist's use of the interior glass walls as "whiteboards" further a layered reading of the building.

The lobby design seeks to demystify science in its interactive exhibition space. The vertical circulation elements are located at the far end of the central lobby to draw the scientists through the exhibition area, engaging them in the public areas of the building and supporting the notion of the lobby as a meeting ground. The sinuous curves of the lobby's mezzanine, open riser stair and egg-shaped, transparent, seminar room enliven the open space. Floor and ceiling planes negotiate between the lobby and the exterior entry courtyard, where large central pivot doors open the lobby to the city of Cambridge, creating a thickened and mutable threshold between inside and outside.

Maryann Thompson Architects served as the Design Architect on this project and Elkus Manfredi was the Architect of Record. Signer Harris teamed with MTA in the design phases on laboratory layout and design.

Photo Credits:

Anton Grassl/Esto