Architects' design forum looks at evolution of MIT campus


Some of the world's foremost architects gathered at MIT from March 13-16 to participate in a design forum intended to shape the vision of the MIT campus for the next generation. Entitled "Spaces In and In Between," the forum was conceived by William J. Mitchell, dean of the School of Architecture and Planning.

Noting that MIT is embarking on the most ambitious program of campus construction since mid-century, Dean Mitchell called the forum a "once in a generation" opportunity to change the campus for the better. MIT has so many new construction projects, he pointed out, that they will collectively transform the Institute's physical environment over the next decade. We must take this chance, he said, to "create great spaces where wonderful things happen."

President Charles M. Vest, Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow, Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams, Dean Mitchell and O. Robert Simha, director of the Planning Office, welcomed the team of internationally known architects and designers to the forum on its opening day.

"The MIT campus must support and inspire a future-oriented community of extraordinarily talented faculty, students, and staff who excel in fundamental research and scholarship, yet take pride in interacting with, and positively affecting, the world beyond its boundaries," President Vest said.

Five architects and one landscape architect participated in the forum. Each of the six has a national or international reputation as well as a relationship with MIT.

The group included Frank Gehry of Santa Monica, CA, architect for the new Stata Center; Fumihiko Maki of Tokyo, architect for a new Media Laboratory building; Steven Holl of New York, architect for the new residence hall on campus; Visiting Professor Charles Correa of Bombay; and Harry Ellenzweig of Cambridge, architect for a new parking garage on the campus. Landscape architect Laurie Olin of Philadelphia is preparing MIT's campus landscape master plan and assisting Mr. Gehry with the Stata Center.

The architects were charged with designing places as well as the spaces connecting them and with doing so in ways that support MIT's mission, programs and growth needs while conveying vision, purpose and a sense of place.

"A sense of place is crucially important in the age of 'information at a distance.' Our students need places to gather, places to relax with one another, places to study in comfort and places to amuse themselves," Dean Williams said to the design team. "We have built functional buildings and pathways among them. Now we need a welcoming social environment."

MIT's senior officers and the design participants opened the forum with a discussion about the Institute's past, present and future; its mission; and their impressions of the campus. The participants were asked to examine the Institute's buildings, open spaces and circulation systems, and then to propose innovative and coherent directions for the future. They considered ways to satisfy academic, residential and service space needs as well as to create a strong sense of community both within MIT and between MIT and its neighbors.

The forum was developed by the Planning Office and coordinated by Jennifer Marshall, associate planning officer. The architects were assisted throughout the forum by School of Architecture students. Jos� Duarte, Larry Sass and Susan Yee were captains, while Michelle Apigian, Rebecca Berry, Nina Chen, Sheila Colon, Michael Kilkelly, Benjamin Kou, Kristin Little, Raymond Pan, Heidi Rosenwald, Teresa Tourvas, Allen Tsai and Joel Turkel also participated.

A version of this
article appeared in the
April 7, 1999

issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume
43, Number
25).


Topics: Architecture, Campus buildings and architecture

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