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THIS STORY HAS BEEN FORMATTED FOR EASY PRINTING

PROJECT RENOVATION: MIDDLESEX JAIL AND COURTHOUSE

The cupola of the neighboring probate and family court dominates the view from the fourth floor mezzanine over the law library in the old Middlesex County courthouse building in East Cambridge. (Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe) The cupola of the neighboring probate and family court dominates the view from the fourth floor mezzanine over the law library in the old Middlesex County courthouse building in East Cambridge.
By Linda Matchan
Globe Staff / April 21, 2012
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We showed photos of the Middlesex jail and courthouse to two local architects and asked what they’d do with it.

Katy Flammia, THEREdesign founder and architect

“Since it’s Cambridge and walking distance to MIT, I think it would be very interesting if the developers were to make the primary function of the building experimental offices or incubator space that pushes the limits of the contemporary work environment. . .

 “The jail has an outdoor recreation space that could be used for a gym, garden, or terrace. The cells themselves are tough. Practically they might need to come out, but an interesting alternative would be to use them to address issues we are coming across in the design of very open corporate offices: the need for break-out private space. In this age of constant stimulation maybe what this new work environment needs is a sort of monastic hideaway space to just go think in peace, meditate, have a small meeting, or make a private phone call.” 

Gary Johnson, Cambridge Seven Associates, lead architect for the redevelopment of the Charles Street Jail, now the Liberty Hotel

“I don’t think that repurposing with an emphasis on preservation of the jail or the courthouse spaces, has much merit. I do believe that the building would make for an interesting conversion to housing or even office uses. These uses could make great use of the high courtroom spaces and possibly the exercise courtyard at the jail level. Certainly keeping some remnants of the past life of the building could be interesting within that concept. For instance, the courtroom paneling, or repurposed jail cell bars for decorative purposes could be fun and cleverly integrated into new uses. Finally, the building should be saved. There is simply too much waste by demolishing it and throwing it away. In this age of green sustainable design practices, finding a good and suitable use for the Middlesex Courthouse and Jail is the appropriate response to a building that has outlived its intended purpose.”

 

Linda Matchan can be reached at l_matchan@globe.com.

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