‘The Daily Bike’ by Nader Tehrani

Dear S.

My daily bike rides take me along routes where construction sites in Boston and Cambridge are underway, the most recent ones passing by SANAA’s Performing Arts Building and Kieran Timberlake’s dormitory, both at MIT.

KT’s dorm is just west of your building. It’s thoughtful, correct, and more importantly, scaled to speak to Bosworth’s main complex: neo-classical, though with no overt iconographic references to the classical language outside of the stacked 2 story pilasters that form its base, giving a residential type the kind of monumentality it is rarely bestowed.

To your east sits Maltzan’s recently completed dormitory, which in contrast to yours deftly breaks up its massing into a pieces of micro-urbanism: courtyards, arcades, and passages that, in dialogue with its “slipped” cladding further disaggregates it’s otherwise clear massing. Working with a known type, he subtly defamiliarizes the generic –though falling just short of the strange.

Further down, the Metropolitan Warehouse is being renovated by DSR, also almost complete. The Met anchors Vassar Row, but its major transformations are internal, and to its north. However, to the south, the combination of its deeply recessed existing windows –diminutive as they are, in dialogue with the newly inserted ones they have grafted flush onto its exterior, together they register the beautiful oddity of scalar ambiguity that is central to this building. This fenestration, in some way speaking to yours, gains traction because of the monolithic brick mass from which they are both conceived.

This leaves you, almost dead center, a building presumably conceived as an “object” in the terrain vague that was its original context, a precursor to all these new buildings, waiting almost 20 years for a city to grow around it. And yet, despite that, it would appear that the urban gestures –the entry canopy, the amphitheater looking over the fields, the monumental window of the dining hall, all together indicate an urban force that either anticipated this future, or in effect, prompted it. More importantly, it is as if the building had already imagined the invariable conventionalism of its future neighbors, beautifully tame, correct, and intelligent, all of them looking over their shoulders at the ineffable strangeness of your concoction: the indecipherable scale of the sponge windows, the amorphous anomalies of the common rooms, the excavations extracted from the overall mass: a stubborn object, all the time having played an urban chess game that spoke to the unscripted moves of others some twenty years later……. now in full evidence.

The urban elevation as seen from across the fields is just stunning!

You should be very happy today.