King Open/Cambridge Street Upper Schools & Community Complex
Architecture Firm: William Rawn Associates with Arrowstreet Inc.,
Owner: City of Cambridge, Cambridge Public Schools
Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Project site: Brownfield
Building program type(s): Education – K-12 School, Office – 10,001 to 100,000 sq ft, Public Assembly – Library
There were two city goals for the project: to be the first net zero emissions building in the city demonstrating a new net zero zoning; and to address the climate risks outlined in the vulnerability assessment. The project should meet those goals while creating a healthy, equitable environment for the community. The result is a learning lab for sustainability, wellness, and resiliency.
Through months of community engagement, the design team heard two needs: the importance of open space in this dense urban neighborhood; and Cambridge’s commitment to inclusion, community, and lifelong learning. The building program elements were designed to create a complex that is the heart of the neighborhood and welcomes all. The project increases the green open space by almost an acre. The building is organized into two wings reducing the overall scale of the complex while creating a civic plaza along Cambridge Street and around a beloved centuries-old sycamore tree. The two wings create a green spine through the block, providing a connection to the park beyond. The massing significantly reduces energy use by grouping programs by operational hours, allowing for system setback for different areas.
The project is a vital resource to address increased heat and economic vulnerability identified in the city's climate assessment by providing a pool, splash pad, and shade trees. Five distinct outdoor play spaces with seating are provided on the site to accommodate all ages. A bocce court, basketball courts, a reading garden, and reflection spaces support physical and emotional wellness. The building is open and airy, creating inviting, light-filled spaces. Separate entrances for each of the program elements give each program a unique identity. Natural materials, bright colors, fun patterns, community commissioned art, interactive displays, and signage all create a joyous place for all ages.