MIT's Cogeneration Plant produces most of the power and steam for the Institute, and has been designed to celebrate this utilitarian function.
The plant is located on a street lined with two-and-three-story industrial and research buildings. Machinery is visible through three-story windows with horizontal grids so that huge ducts appear as sculpture from the street. Between the windows, brick piers relate the building to its neighbors, particularly to the façade of the original MIT steam plant next door. Above the windows, a decorative metal cornice reconciles the differing cornice heights of the adjoining buildings. The result is industrial architecture that enlivens the streetscape while honoring a tradition of architecturally significant utility plants in the Boston area.
The building is clad in MIT's familiar buff brick. The main façade incorporates a large translucent panel, with a horizontal grid similar to the windows, which can be removed to install or remove large machinery. A complex array of exhausts and equipment at the roofline is unified by three prominent circular air intakes. The aluminum-paneled penthouse is recessed to reduce its visual impact on the street.