Tufts University Science and Engineering Complex

Architecture Firm: Payette

Owner: Tufts University

Location: Medford, Mass.

Project site: Previously developed land

Building program type(s):  Education – College/University (campus-level), Laboratory

A delicate glass box floats effortlessly between two historic red brick bookends. Its taut skin cradles and reflects its surroundings, complements the brick, and lends quiet dignity to the existing buildings. The interdependent forms shape a nested series of interior and exterior spaces that heighten awareness of the existing buildings.  

The new Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) is the product of a strategic infill addition on a steeply sloped site that creates space for interdisciplinary research in biology, environmental science, and neuroscience while connecting two historic buildings to create a dynamic, community-focused, high-tech hub for open communication and cross-pollination. The resulting academic precinct addresses the institution’s desire for a critical mass of research and teaching space to support cross-departmental collaborations in an environmentally responsible manner.    

This LEED Gold project, located three miles north of Boston, is an unexpected and innovative response to site and existing context. Rather than relocate or demolish one of the significant historic buildings on the site, as the client’s initial project brief had proposed, the design team arrived at a solution for a smaller new addition that leverages and strengthens the existing buildings through adaptive reuse, creating a vibrant integrated complex. From the onset of the project, the client had ambitious energy and sustainability goals, setting aggressive performance targets for the team. The project’s sustainable solutions are integral to its architectural solution, thoughtfully demonstrating the interdependence between sustainability and scientific research. The SEC serves as the academic and social heart of a precinct much larger than the building itself. The spaces between new and existing buildings become as important as their prominent public faces, generating an animated campus system of movement that highlights science and one’s connection to place with a simple, transparent, and elegant architectural expression.

Additional information

Project attributes

Year of design completion: 2015

Year of substantial project completion: 2017

Gross conditioned floor area: 177,000 sq ft  

Number of stories: 5

Project climate zone: ASHRAE 5A

Annual hours of operation: 8,760

Site area: 200,000 sq ft  

Project site context/setting: Urban  

Cost of construction, excluding furnishing: $81,000,000

Number of residents, occupants, visitors: 560

Project team

Construction Manager: Turner

Landscape Architect: Andropogon  

Engineer - Civil: Nitsch Engineering    

Engineer - MEP: Van Zelm Heywood & Shadford  

Engineer - Structural: Simpson Gumpertz & Heger  


Margaret Cavenagh, AIA, Chair, Studio Gang, Chicago

Angela Brooks, FAIA, Brooks + Scarpa, Los Angeles

Nakita Reed, AIA, NOMA, Quinn Evans, Baltimore

Z Smith, FAIA, Eskew Dumez Ripple, New Orleans

Image credits

The Science and Engineering Complex is about doing more with less.

© Chuck Choi

The addition significantly increases the variety of spaces available to students and scientists, creating a diverse network of social and informal learning environments.

©Chuck Choi

The SEC’s unique positioning creates multiple avenues for pedestrian routes.

©Chuck Choi

Within the atrium, a series of surgical interventions breathe new life into the existing buildings. Materials were carefully selected to for their durability and low maintenance.

©Chuck Choi


©Chuck Choi