Peeling Away the Clutter

141 Portland Street Lobby
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Located in the heart of Cambridge’s Kendall Square technology quarter, 141 Portland Street is a 10-story multi-tenant office building. The 140,000-square-foot structure was last renovated in the mid-1980s to include a tower element and a large arched entryway. The ground floor comprises a double-height L-shaped lobby and a sky-lit bank branch. The lobby wraps around the bank and eventually terminates at a hidden elevator bay that serves the office tower.

Prior to SMMA’s involvement, the lobby was a worn version of 1980s design, with granite tiles, dark wood wainscoting, a low-hung louvered ceiling canopy, and a variety of dim light fixtures. All these elements contributed to a disjointed, dark, and forgettable space that was not representative of the building’s growing technology-focused tenants, and certainly did not make a good first impression.

The focal point of the reimagined lobby is the wood “wave” wall. This feature begins as a curved surface at the entry that slowly morphs into a ceiling plane as visitors turn the corner toward the elevators.

Riding the Wave

Linear lights dance along the length of the wall to provide visual interest and low-level illumination. Existing structural columns penetrate the wave wall, then rise to the full height of the space, which is illuminated by disk-like circular pendants. Bold graphics in bright red announcing “141 Portland” draw the visitor toward the rear of the L-shaped space, where they find a waiting bench and a video screen, including a tenant directory, and a bank of newly refurbished elevators directly ahead.

Well lit entrance to 141 Portland Street

Designing for Lightness

Materials were chosen for durability and to create a sense of lightness that evaded the previous lobby. The new lobby is now a proper front door for the tenants and visitors of 141 Portland. 

  • Colleagues walking through newly designed hallway