Small Space, Big Impact

The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory Cafeteria – "Doc's Place"
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Following the successful completion of our design at The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory’s One Hampshire Street location, the client again turned to SMMA for help with a nagging issue across the street, at 555 Technology Square. The structure—a massive 450,000 square feet, spread over six stories—is a concrete-and-ribbon-window high-security research building, constructed in the mid-1970s. Although it serves as Draper Labs’ primary facility, the location was lacking the collaborative spaces and amenities that the client’s high-tech computer and biotech neighbors in Kendall Square offer their employees. 

In particular, the cafeteria was a remote, small, drab, cramped room that had been shoehorned into the second floor. SMMA helped Draper Labs envision a bright new cafeteria space, prominently located in the central entrance courtyard of the U-shaped building. The seating area features high ceilings and is filled with light and color, and the space also functions as an informal collaboration and meeting area throughout the day. The new cafeteria also enlivens the empty, banal courtyard with an interesting architectural centerpiece. The project included 4,000 square feet of addition and the 3,000 square feet of reconfigured space on the first floor, new landscaping in the courtyard, and work on every floor to drive a kitchen exhaust system up to the roof. 

Window to the World

The cafeteria is now a sparkling, transparent pavilion, with 20-foot floor-to-ceiling exterior glass, interior art glass column wraps and feature wall, natural pecan wood paneling, stainless steel accents, colorful wall tile, and unique carpet patterns. The apparently random lighting placement evokes star constellations in the night sky.

Renovated Cafeteria at Draper Labs

Although the addition comprises less than 1% of the size of the building, it has made a disproportionate improvement in the daily lives of Draper Labs’ employees. The client was so pleased with the result that they named the new cafeteria “Doc’s Place,” after the laboratory’s founder, Charles Stark “Doc” Draper.