Fayerweather Street School Renovation

Cambridge, Massachusetts

This project transformed a four-story, double-gabled, concrete-framed school into a private residence for a family of five, turning a stark institutional space into a warm and inviting home. The plan introduces new scales of occupation and varied spatial qualities. Emphasis on the warmth of materials, texture in details, and flow of movement juxtapose the regularity of the existing structure with the idiosyncrasies of a more personalized space. An unfolding sequence begins at the entry, where a pebble path and stone fountain create a moment of transition and stasis between outside and in. The compressed spaces created by the eight-foot ceilings of the former school are interrupted by a mahogany-slat ceiling plane that offers glimpses of the second floor through its spaces. The opening and expansion continues in the living room, where the vaulted two-story ceiling creates an atrium with a wraparound mezzanine above. Materiality has been brought into the structure with an emphasis on warm materials and texture in details. Light filters through 18-feet of mahogany-framed windows, warming the space through solar gain. A trellis system on the outside deck shades the living room against intense summer sun and dapples the light along the interior.  

The nearby kitchen was designed to promote family gathering. The stepped-down island allows for cooking, conversation, and homework to occur simultaneously. Adjacent to the mezzanine upstairs are the family’s bedrooms, which are located on the same level to support the idea of togetherness. On the third floor, the school’s existing gymnasium lives on and is the locus of many family activities. The thick concrete walls dampen any noise from frequent basketball and softball games, while an artist’s studio and offices on this level remain quiet. The basement contains an art room and fully-equipped wood shop.