Challenge Accepted: Activating Large Forum Spaces

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals at 675 West Kendall
Cambridge, MA

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals, an organization leading the translation of RNA interference into rare medical treatments, engaged SMMA in 2017 for a Kendall Square campus Master Plan. Together with lab architect TRIA, SMMA provided a 5-year plan to accommodate the company’s growth from its current occupied spaces at 300 3rd Street and 101 Main Street to its future location at 675 West Kendall. The organization’s goal was deeply grounded in inspiration: Alnylam sought environments that would reinforce its mission to its clients, prioritize efficiency, and support its future ambitions.

After completing renovations on 101 Main Street, SMMA shifted focus to Alnylam’s new headquarters at 675 West Kendall. This strategic location would not only serve as additional real estate for its office and lab space, but also take advantage of activating the building’s atrium – thus creating a community space - to help unify and ground its global campus and foster active collaboration amongst its burgeoning employee base.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals brand images, starry night.
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals brand images, patient looking across water.
Alnylam Pharmaceuticals brand images, starry night.

From Ground to Sky

One of the largest components of the new project involved branding and translating a unified journey throughout the space. Alnylam’s name, which originates from Alnilam, the middle star in the belt of the constellation Orion, carried huge influence on the choice of displayed imagery in the multi-leveled building. The images are inspired by nature and human connection, incorporating everything from macro and micro photography of plants, to photography of actual patients; after all, besides the obvious connection to the skies due to its namesake, the natural world is where Alnylam’s science began with the petunia plant. Though they carry Alnylam’s extensive vision with them, these photos remain “grounded” to the Earth.


The concept of “ground to sky” proved so monumental that it was applied beyond graphics and can be seen in the rest of 675 West Kendall’s design; the different environments within encourage innovation, but remain grounded by a common cause. Starting from the lobby’s atrium, all the way up to the building’s top floors, tenants are reminded of Alnylam’s values through strategically placed quotes from the organization’s mission statement by each elevator. If one proceeds down the hall, research papers written by Alnylam’s founders, who also happen to be Nobel Prize winners, portray the importance and depth of their science.



Introducing Gathering Spaces

How do you get brilliant people to interact across all departments?

Serving as a catalyst for meaningful interaction and a more relaxed work environment, SMMA focused heavily on rejuvenating the building’s atrium. The space, which includes a multi-level platform, organization experience wall, media wall, and a coffee bar/café, can be utilized for both casual gatherings or company-wide presentations. Tiered seating options are accompanied by larger spaces that have been cut out of the platform to incorporate additional furniture, establishing multipurpose usage.


Inside the atrium volume on the upper floors, employees can also find comfort outside of their typical work zones in a set number of “living rooms.” These breakout spaces are specifically designed to evoke a home-like feel; each has a different scientific theme portrayed through framed images and casual decor. Near each living room, pantry areas are easily visible and accessible to invite employees to further engage over food and leisure.

Alnylam Pharmaceuticals forum space.

Providing Adaptable Services

Over the course of the project, SMMA had to remain adaptable in its services to keep ahead of several challenges surrounding existing building conditions, budget, and scheduling. Before Alnylam’s occupancy, the team had limited access to the building coupled with limited information about existing conditions during the design period. In response to this, SMMA’s design technology experts recreated the entire building in Revit from original design drawings. Their assistance allowed for a helpful coordination model that underwent clash detection at multiple stages of the design.


The team also worked closely with the Construction Manager to resolve coordination conflicts during the shop drawing phase. While saving valuable field time and facility down time during construction, changing design strategies affected the project’s scope and caused funds to be re-allocated to accommodate the additional work. Alongside working under an expedited schedule due to the building’s lease and an immediate need for additional seating, SMMA showcased extreme flexibility in its design concepts and ability to efficiently complete an ever-changing itinerary.

Before photos of Alnylam Pharmaceuticals at 675 West Kendall.

A Level Three Alteration

To ensure the building would be compliant with Alnylam’s scientific needs, SMMA needed to identify all items requiring replacement or upgrade within the 20-year-old building. Due to the extent of renovation, the project is a Level Three Alteration, meaning that the entire building needed to be brought up to code. The team also worked closely with the project’s lab architect, TRIA, to properly update, modify, and design the lab floors to support the organization’s chemical usage.

“Ultimately, we wanted to create an environment that cultivates Alnylam’s life-saving talent and science. We aim to inspire their staff through habitable spaces that celebrate both their patients and their work.”

Marie Fitzgerald

Director of Interior Design, SMMA