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Loft 23, Cambridge, MA

Loft 23, Cambridge, MA

DiMella Shaffer
Project Year
Robert Benson Photography

"Bring me something I haven't seen before"

DiMella Shaffer as Architects

To answer this challenge from our client, DiMella Shaffer looked at Loft23 through the lens of 21st-century urban living. We leveraged decades of residential design experience to create a building clad in copper and glass that is visually arresting yet practical, representing the client’s vision of an entirely new residential product that respects the university and city context. The building houses 51 loft-style units for lease with high ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows, and flexible open floor plans; glass ends provide dramatic views of the surrounding parkland.

This project for the final building site in University Park, offered the opportunity to take a step back and look at the development as a whole. The original guidelines had adapted well to changing economic times and shifting programs. However, as we entered phase four, all parties, including the planning board, realized that the red brick had become too dominant, necessitating more variation in the brick color and the addition of glass and metal as façade composition elements. These adjustments enlivened parts of the park, but the main space remained predominately a red brick wall surrounding a green space. Our team's solution was to compliment the brick using a completely different material: pre-patinated copper. With this choice the building has a dialogue with each of the other buildings and also recalls historic buildings in adjacent Central Square. From the standpoint of sustainability, the copper is 95% recycled, complimenting the building's vegetated roof and reduced interior finishes.

Ultimately, the building expresses itself as unabashedly modern with full glass facades overlooking two urban green spaces and copper-clad walls serving as a curtain that reduces the views into existing residential and hotel buildings on the other two sides. Walls are shingled in a running bond pattern and follow the façade guidelines for important streets such as Sidney without being literal. This building takes the approach of utter simplicity in plan and form to achieve a richness of materials that will age well and provide the client with a durable and easy to maintain exterior.

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