Cambridge Bicycle: small business niche in an emerging technology corridor
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
Design Team: Justin Viglianti, Andres Bernal, Alfredo Rico-Dimas
Owner: Boston Bicycle LLC
Woodworker: Grusby Woodworks
Construction Contractor: Dipaolo Builders
Photographer: Justin Keena Photography
Project Year: 2014
Cambridge Bicycle occupies the ground floor of a flatiron factory building in the heart of MIT’s expanding tech campus. As the campus marches further up Massachusetts Avenue toward Central Square, its assimilation of real estate will inevitably change the economic landscape along this important urban corridor. Historically, the major casualty of academic gentrification has been the local small business. Despite this fact, for the past 30 years Cambridge Bicycle has remained a major staple of Central Square’s business district. Recognizing this, MIT has worked with the business tenants of 259 Mass. Ave. to maintain and improve thier individual spaces. A new design within the corner space reasserts Cambridge Bicycle among its new steel and glass neighbors as something independent, yet community oriented.
The space’s main theme is the separation between sales and service. The mechanics are housed in a penetrated enclosure, a store within a store, which allows for a semi-private workspace. A compact service core runs along the rear wall allowing the sales floor to remain open with no bottlenecks. A clear distinction is made between bicycle and accessory sales floors. The former being located in the triangular corner of the floor space and staggered against the rear wall in a cascade of hanging bikes. The accessory floor is lined with a flexible wall display system punctuated by custom display islands. Secure display cases hold sensitive and marquis merchandise within the wall and underneath the long merchant’s counter. A diagnostic station within the repair area allows mechanics to perform estimates with less hassle and crowding around the merchant counter’s point of sale.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
The repair box is clad in corrugated metal, its acid-wash coating references the aesthetic of ad-hoc, yet quite unique, merchant shacks of shanty town traders. The box interior is painted black with stainless steel work surfaces to minimize the buildup of bike grease and grime. Distressed wood slats have been sized to accommodate standard merchandise hooks along the sales floor walls making product arrangement less difficult. Tactile surfaces such as the merchant counter and display islands are skinned with reclaimed and refinished lathe wood from a turn of the century dutch colonial in nearby Quincy. Accented by a mix of warm tones, the industrial grade pendant and sconce lighting evokes a factory floor feel enhanced by the original terrazzo floor slab complete with stress cracks accumulated after decades of heavy use.