Brown, De Mars, Kennedy, Koch & Rapson, 1950
Harleston Parker Medal, 1951
At the end of WWII MIT found itself a changed institution with greater aspirations and the need for housing to provide for a growing faculty and research staff. Without the capital to build on its own, it leased the site of this apartment house to the New England Mutual Life Insurance company. With the help of Architecture School Dean William Wurster, they retained an all-star cast of faculty members to design housing for returning faculty, staff as well as the general public .
The design was exhibited at MOMA’s “Built in the USA” exhibit in 1953, alongside a series of other influential American buildings of the mid 20th century.
The apartment building uses innovative approaches to planning to achieve economies in construction. The disposition of the building slabs creates a high density on the site, with most apartments facing the Charles River, while defining landscaped courtyards that soften its hard edges.
The skip-stop circulation system has corridors on every third floor with ribbon windows to bring in light. Residents enter apartments off the corridor, or walk up or down a flight of stairs to their unit. This minimizes the number of hallways while allowing two thirds of the apartments to have windows looking out in both directions. Large expanses of glass and balconies in living rooms contrast with smaller bedroom windows and brick panels to animate the 14-story facades.
Images: Above, ©Peter Vanderwarker. Below, ©Ezra Stoller / Esto