The Laurent at 55 Wheeler
The Laurent, located at 55 Wheeler Street in Cambridge’s Alewife Quadrangle District, will bring 525 apartments, green space, and 100 affordable units to the former corporate campus site. It is the first project to meet the city’s new 20% inclusionary zoning rules. Previously, with only a single access the point, the new design opens the site by connecting Wheeler to Fawcett Street, providing for a pedestrian pass thru the block, bicycle lanes, and a neighborhood park with landing space for a future pedestrian bridge to Alewife Station. The buildings are organized around three courtyards facing south, west, and east. The massing is expressed as three buildings with the first relating to adjacent Reservoir Lofts condos, and two interlocking forms that take inspiration from the curve of the former railroad spurs to open up the corners of the site. Building two bends away from Wheeler Street pulling the eye left, signaling the entry courtyard and visually terminated in a tower of living room glass in building 3, which overlooks the new community park across the street, signaling it is for all neighborhood residents.
The buildings are expressed as cousins, related but with unique attributes so it appears as part of the city and not a project. Building one draws its clapboard expression from the adjacent projects and time-honored materials. The brick base hints at the 5 over 2 construction type, all above an underground garage. Buildings 2 and 3 also express the construction type, but use the concrete frame order for the first two floors recessed below a staggered corrugated skin, which is further articulated by the color of the inner and outer layers. The public side is copper colored and articulated with wood accents and balconies. The courtyard elevations are a crisp white to reflect the different light of each orientation the courtyards face. It is further accented with patinated copper panels and balconies, both real and French. The street level of all buildings is activated with direct entry units and fenced private outdoor space as well as building entrances and views into courtyards. All of the parking is below grade and the building addresses climate change by meeting Cambridge’s 2070 flood mitigation, targeting LEED Gold, being solar ready, and providing places of refuge.