Thursday, April 26, 2012

And even more construction in Cambridge

The Kendall Square area of Cambridge is witnessing a huge amount of construction right now. The number of projects underway in this very small section of the city is truly astounding.   It will be surprising when it arrives.  And we will be left scratching our heads as to what it means.

Here's one thing it certainly means: Cambridge continues to be a desirable place to build.

Here's another things it means: The economy is coming back and there is a renewed availability of capital for large scale projects such as these.

The first photo is of a residential development getting underway behind the Watermark Building on Third Street.  Housing is a perennial topic in the discussion about neighborhoods.  How do we Live, Work, Play in the same place?  For this you need housing, but how much should there be and where should it go?  Here is some that is about to be.

Residential construction, behind the Watermark Building, 3rd Street (April 2012)

Speaking of housing, the second photo is of the expansion of the Broad Institute on a site that was originally slated for housing. The developer, Boston Properties, came to the City Council to ask to change the use, and the City Council said yes.

The expansion of the Broad Institute.  Ames Street between Broadway and Main Street (April 2012)

Part of the science that is going to happen in this building is the continued examination and understanding of the human genome.  For this, five floors will be dedicated simply for computers.  The intersection of ever-increasing computing power and biology is one of the true breakthroughs of the last 25 years.

Five floors for nothing but computers!  That fact alone is dazzling and it reminds one that these are not small efforts in the realm of human endeavor.  In addition, the simple truth cannot be avoided: there are not many places on the planet where this type of truly fundamental and revolutionary knowledge-building is taking place.

But we should not be over-dazzled by the uniqueness, no matter how dazzling or unique it may be.

The interaction between innovation, creativity, science, place, built space and community is a very complicated one.

The activity that happens in a computer at the electron level also has implications for the activity on the street at the city level.  One should always be seeking to connect intellectual vibrancy with urban vibrancy. And while we're at it, let's also add civic vibrancy.

This city is now undergoing that experiment.  It has become the frog in the pot of water with the heat slowing being turned up.  All of these construction sites -- now only holes in the ground -- will become steel structures amazingly quickly.  The enormity of this change will be upon us sooner than we are realizing.  Much sooner.