Brain and Cognitive Sciences Building, 2005

Charles Correa
Aerial view of a white building with lots of windows on the corner of two streets. In the background, there are a lot more buildings and the Charles river at the top of the frame.

Charles Correa, Brain and Cognitive Science Building, 2005.

Building 46
Charles Correa

Developed in conjunction with Boston-based firm Goody Clancy, the Brain and Cognitive Sciences Complex (Building 46) is home to three distinct groups: the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

The building conforms to the industrial logic of its surroundings, accommodating for the extant railroad track while filling up the irregular plot of land through a trapezoidal form that culminates in a sharp angle at the intersection of Main and Vassar Streets. 

In the interiors, it adheres to the tight demands necessitated by wet lab practitioners, using double-corridor “racetrack” layouts that enable more flexible lab configurations (depending on light and entry/exit point requirements) and more circulation paths to accommodate the flow of staff, supplies, and testing animals. All three sections face the ninety-foot-high atrium, where light streams in from a glass ceiling. The white walls are interspersed with rectangular apertures and subtle curvatures at varying scales, creating pockets of light and darkness.

The limestone exterior cladding matches William Welles Bosworth’s extant campus architecture, while simultaneously infusing the old order with a turn toward lightness and dynamism. Despite the proliferation of technical and spatial constraints, the structure maintains an imaginative quality through its geometric adaptations and jumps in scale across its facades, which animate the building and allow it to hold its ground in the face of the gregarious Ray and Maria Stata Center (Building 32) across the street. Charles Correa responded to the irregular shape of the site by creating large cutouts in the simple limestone facade—referred to as “urban windows”—that integrate the structure with its surroundings and refrain from overcomplicating its presence in the area.

Charles Correa (1930–2015) was born in Secunderabad, India. He studied at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and MIT. In 1958, he established Charles Correa Associates in Mumbai and taught at a variety of institutions, including the University of London, Cambridge University, and MIT. Notable projects include the Mahatma Gandhi Memorial at the Sabarmati Ashram, the Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, the Ismaili Centre in Toronto, the Crafts Museum in New Delhi, affordable housing projects in cities across India, and the master plan for Navi Mumbai.