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Tall, Silver, and Somewhat Japanese
Tall, Silver, and Somewhat Japanese Snow tents and a kare-san-sui distinguish an office building built on spec.
By Allen Freeman

Budgets and codes dictate the design of landscapes at most speculative office parks, and a three-story structure in Waltham, Massachusetts, was no exception. In 2000, a large development company built the 175,000-square-foot shell for no one in particular and landscaped the surrounding 17 acres to formula. Then Praecis Pharmaceuticals bought the property, and the young biotechnology firm built out the interiors to the specifications of its hands-on chief executive officer, who has a quiet affinity for Japanese design. Then he had the entrance landscape torn out and replaced by a one-acre, Japanese-influenced, dry-pond garden with three towering snow tents.

Photo by Alan Mandell

For this serene forecourt, credit landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy, who trained in Japan; landscape architects Ed Hartranft and Chris McCarthy of John G. Crowe Associates; and Praecis CEO and board chairman Malcolm Gefter. .

A PhD chemist and professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Gefter helped found Praecis in 1993. By the summer of 2000, the company's roster approached 150, and employees were overflowing the space in an industrial/office building at Kendall Square in Cambridge. "Absolutely nothing" except necessity, says Gefter, attracted him to the building shell in the Waltham office park. It is located near Route 128/I-95, Boston's corridor of high-tech firms, on sloping, wooded land formerly owned by Polaroid, above the Cambridge Reservoir. Designed by Jung/Brannen Associates of Boston, the building is shaped as an asymmetrical boomerang. The entrance, positioned at the bend, opened onto a loop of asphalt around a smaller island of parking slots. A dumbbell-shaped bed of flowers and grass in the middle of the parking area had the impact of faded wallpaper and none of its charm.

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