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Letter to the community on East Campus/Kendall Square design firm selection

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The following email was sent today to the MIT community by Provost Martin Schmidt and Executive Vice President and Treasurer Israel Ruiz.

To the members of the MIT community:

We write to provide an update on MIT’s East Campus/Kendall Square planning process. In our July 2014 communication, we reflected on several key initiatives and studies that have guided this effort over the past few years, and shared a proposed site assembly as well an outline of next steps.

The East Campus/Kendall Square Gateway area represents a tremendous opportunity to create a vibrant cluster of activity. The blending of an array of uses — including innovation space, housing, childcare, retail, commercial, and space for the MIT Museum — has the unique potential to convey MIT’s and Kendall Square’s unparalleled innovative energy. Now, we have reached a point where architectural teams have been identified and design work, which will build on previous efforts, will commence. We would like to inform you of the firms that have been selected, describe the process that led to those important decisions, and convey how we will move ahead.

Design Firm Selection Process

We conducted a rigorous selection process for architectural teams that will design the buildings in the East Campus/Kendall Square area. We began by soliciting statements of qualifications from dozens of firms with relevant design expertise. From that list, we invited three or four firms to submit proposals for each of the sites.

We then appointed two internal ad hoc Architect Selection Committees to review proposals and conduct interviews over the summer. Committee members included the former Dean of the School of Architecture and Planning, the Head of the Department of Architecture, and the Head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, a faculty member in the Department of Architecture, the Associate Provost for Space, and the Deputy Executive Vice President. Representatives from the Department of Facilities, the Office of Campus Planning, and MITIMCo also served on the Committees.

The criteria used by the Committees to evaluate the architectural firms included design excellence and creativity, specific experience designing similar comparable buildings, and a clear understanding of both academic and commercial requirements.

The recommendations of the Architect Selection Committee were then forwarded to the MIT Building Committee for review, discussion, and approval.

Site-Specific Design Firms

We plan to launch the formal design process by focusing on Sites L, N, O, P, Q, and S (described below). The programming and design for Site M, which will serve as future lab space, and Site R, which will be the site of a future academic building, will be defined later.

Site LElkus|Manfredi Architects will design the building at Site L, which will be a high-rise residential building with ground floor retail space. The building will include a mix of units, including innovation units and affordable units, to meet the diverse housing needs of the Cambridge community. Elkus|Manfredi Architects is a Boston-based firm founded in 1988 by Howard Elkus and David Manfredi. The firm has a broad base of experience in multiple building types, including residential, office, laboratory, and retail buildings, for both commercial and institutional clients. Elkus|Manfredi has worked closely with the Institute over the last several years during the early planning and re-zoning phases of the initiative.

Site NPerkins+Will will design the building at Site N, which will be a high-rise commercial office/lab facility designed to provide space for science and technology companies seeking to locate or expand in the innovation cluster around MIT. Perkins+Will is a 1,600-person firm founded in 1935 in Chicago with offices in 24 cities around the world, including Boston. The firm’s design expertise spans most building types, including institutional, residential, and office buildings. The firm’s laboratory design group comprises seasoned designers with extensive experience working with both institutional and commercial clients in the Cambridge market.

Site ONADAAA (design architect) and Perkins+Will (architect of record) will serve as the design team for the building at Site O, which will include graduate student housing, a child-care facility, academic space, and retail space on the ground floor. NADAAA is a 25-person firm with offices in Boston and New York. Founded in 2011, NADAAA has received numerous design awards, including being ranked the #1 design firm in the US by Architect Magazine for the past two consecutive years. Professor Nader Tehrani, former Head of the Department of Architecture, is one of the three founding principals of the firm.

Site PWeiss/Manfredi will design the facility at Site P, which is a commercial office building that will include space for the MIT Museum on two of the lower floors, as well as ground floor retail space. Weiss/Manfredi is a 36-person New York design firm founded by Marion Weiss and Michael Manfredi 25 years ago. The firm specializes in architecture, landscape architecture, programming, interior design, art, and urban design for institutional, corporate, and academic clients. The firm has won numerous design awards for both its buildings and landscapes.

Site Q — The area designated as Q represents open space and underground parking. We have issued requests for proposals to landscape architects for the design of the open space, and will follow the same committee selection process we used to select architects. Perkins+Will will design the underground parking garage.

Site SnARCHITECTS will design the small building at Site S, which will include office space and ground floor retail. nARCHITECTS is a 14-person design firm based in New York City founded by Eric Bunge and Mimi Hoang (MIT Class of 1993) in 1999. The firm has won numerous design awards, including several from the American Institute of Architects.

West Campus Planning

Now that we have completed the zoning and planning processes for the East Campus/Kendall Square area and are moving forward with the formal design phase, we are preparing to turn our attention to the west side of the campus. In the next few weeks we will be launching a formal planning process for the west and northwest campus areas that will include exploring opportunities for additional housing.

Moving Ahead

Building on the successful experience of the East Campus Steering Committee, which was of tremendous benefit to the East Campus Urban Design Study, we will soon launch a continuation of this working group with both faculty and student participation. As we transition from the selection process into the design phase, the Building Committee will work closely with this group and with the new Faculty Planning Committee to ensure that our shared vision for the area is being realized.

There will be many opportunities for information sharing and the solicitation of input along the way. We plan to hold community meetings to share our progress, and hope to launch the City’s public hearing process through the submittal of design proposals to the Cambridge Planning Board in the coming months. We are populating a website with relevant materials and information as they become available, and we encourage you to share your thoughts as the process moves forward by sending email to

A hallmark of this impressive multi-year effort has been the active and productive involvement of many different people across the MIT and Cambridge communities. This engagement has resulted in an improved and more holistic approach towards activating the East Campus/Kendall Square gateway area. We hope that you will stay involved.


Marty Schmidt, Provost, Co-Chair, Building Committee
Israel Ruiz, Executive Vice-President and Treasurer, Co-Chair, Building Committee

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