Flats on First
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Flats on First

Cambridge, MA

New apartment housing revitalizes East Cambridge with a contemporary yet contextual design centered around thoughtfully planned green space.

In what has proven to be a milestone in the multi-year transformation of East Cambridge’s First Street corridor, Flats on First is a contemporary yet contextual intervention that knits together an urban fabric composed of both industrial and residential building types. Located midway between the Lechmere and MIT rail stations, this mixed-use apartment complex forms an L shape, with its First Street façade taking inspiration from brick warehouse buildings along the commercial corridor. Brick detailing and metal cornices modulate the building’s massing and provide visual interest. The wing that stretches up the residential side street is clad in pale metal and fiber cement to create an unexpected contrast while subtly reflecting the clapboard wood siding found throughout the neighborhood. The interior finishes echo the exteriors, blending both rustic and refined material textures. The common amenities include a fitness center, rentable event space, pet washing station, kitchen area, and a living room that opens onto a private patio via a fully retractable glass wall system.

A smaller, residential-only structure is located to the rear of the property, while richly detailed landscaping runs between the two buildings to form a public, park-like connection between two side streets in addition to private outdoor amenity spaces. Also part of the landscape design is a prominent, tiered public seating area that cleverly hides a ramp leading to the development’s underground parking.

Each building was designed individually to respond to the unique environments abutting each elevation. The project also included the design of commercial structures on First Street that book-end the main apartment building. The aesthetic and contextual integration of the structures and green space within the First Street community is the product of a sustained dialogue with both the developer and city planning department throughout all phases of the design process.