- Architect In Charge: Elizabeth Whittaker
- Project Architect: Anne-Sophie Divenyi
- Project Manager: Jamie Pelletier
- Design Team: Allison Austin, Amy Garlock, Deb Katz, Parker Lee
- City: Cambridge
- Country: United States
Text description provided by the architects. This multi-use research and collaboration space was developed for students, faculty, and technical professionals in the Tech Square hub near MIT’s campus in Cambridge. Beaver Works, a joint center for MIT Lincoln Laboratory and MIT School of Engineering, serves as a work space and showcase where students and faculty develop and test ideas for incorporation into the National Defense portfolio. Along with a research lab, the space incorporates a café/lounge area, meeting rooms, and a prototyping shop, where affiliates can carry out design/build research projects.
In addition to meeting the basic functional requirements of the project with fabrication facilities, Merge Architects utilized highly flexible custom design elements and multi-layered transparency to address the primary function of the space: to attract and retain innovative thinkers with an architectural language that enables collaboration between researchers, encourages serendipitous social encounters, and galvanizes creative thinking.
The primary social node of the project is the café/lounge area which serves as a hub between the laboratory, classrooms, and entry way. A wedge-shaped transparent entry zone carved out of the café and lounge space blurs the boundary between public and private, extending the public space of the hallway into the café, and providing daylight and views to the outdoors for the windowless multi-tenant corridor. Similarly, punched windows provide views between the corridor and the secured lab area.
A kitchen island, bar area, and ample lounge seating facilitate socializing and the exchange of ideas. The custom millwork throughout the space is constructed from Radiatta pine, a modest material typically used as a backer for more expensive wood, but here is deployed for the graphic quality of its variegated knots and coloring to maximum effect.
Merge Architects designed and assembled the two primary design elements in the lounge and laboratory, a meeting pod and felt pendant lights, realizing the faceted forms with a combination of digital modelling, CNC-milling, and hand-crafted assembly. Merge worked closely throughout the design and construction process with RadLab, a fabrication consultant, assisting with the creation of a fabrication model and in the field with assembly and finishing.
A large glass window between the café/lounge and lab space serves multiple ends: it delineates a secured zone for the lab, blurs the boundary between lounge and laboratory, and performs as a surface for writing. The lab space is outfitted with custom designed and fabricated mobile furniture, providing flexible storage and work space to enable collaboration. Similarly, the classroom spaces are outfitted with mobile tables and chairs as well as operable partitions to accommodate a wide range of functions.