Genzyme Center

Behnisch, Behnisch & Partners in association with Next Phase Studio, 2003

Harleston Parker Medal, 2008

LEED Platinum

It took a German architectural firm to set the standard for architectural innovation in Kendall Square – perhaps the most innovative place in America. Surrounded by too many off-the-shelf office buildings, Genzyme created a model for this country’s progressive corporations and research centers to emulate. The building is notable both for its sustainable design features and for the quality and character of its interior environment.

In addition to the solar panels on the roof, the building has a double glass skin that controls heat loss and heat gain through computer controlled vents at the top and bottom, and shades that open and close with the sun. Along with the green roof that captures rainwater and the use of recycled and locally source materials, these features earned it a LEED Platinum rating, the first in the Commonwealth.

The most interesting elements are those that not only conserve energy but also create a wonderful place to work – like the central atrium around which offices are organized. Heliostatically harvested daylight is refracted down through a series of reflective devices that reduce the need for artificial light and give the atrium a truly radiant quality. The 12-story volume is wrapped with staircases, balconies, communicating corridors and interior gardens that reach out to all corners of the building. Along with the glazing that makes most work spaces transparent, these features foster a spirit of collaboration that is in stark contrast to the Dilbert-like cubicles that characterize too much of the workaday world.

On the exterior, the building skin reflects the variety of spaces inside and the solar orientation of each façade, with shades that adapt to the change of light, weather and season.

After a decade of occupancy, Genzyme faced the need to develop a new headquarters as a result of its merger with Sanofi. The relatively inefficient use of interior space with the massive atrium was one factor in the decision to move to a new, smaller building at nearby 50 Binney St. that will house 350 more employees. Though perhaps not optimal for the building’s owners, future tenants here will enjoy the many benefits of Behnisch’s visionary design.

Source: HPM Jury reportImage: ©Anton Grassl / Esto, 2005