• Architect Frank Gehry (above) in front of his latest design--MIT's Stata Center, named for alumnus Ray Stata and his wife Maria Stata.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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  • Ray Stata

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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  • Speaking to a media audience about construction of the Stata Center on May 5 are Professor William Mitchell, head of the Program in Media Arts and Sciences (left), Stata Center architect Frank Gehry (center), and Rodney Brooks, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), which is housed in the new building.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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  • Cathy Dertouzos, widow of Michael Dertouzos, former director of the Lab for Computer Science, and Victor Zue, co-director of CSAIL, let out a yell to the heavens, as they said Michael would have done.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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  • Architect Frank Gehry (left) and Ray and Maria Stata celebrate the opening of the Stata Center.

    Photo / Donna Coveney

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New building embodies vision -- and quirkiness

MIT celebrates Stata Center

The speeches ranged from a paean to Frank Gehry's design to admiration for President Charles M. Vest's courage to humorous anecdote at Friday's dedication for the Stata Center, where the mood was celebratory and sweet; the dream had been realized.

The May 7 dedication ceremonies for the Ray and Maria Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences at MIT included upbeat speakers, tours of the whimsical new building, and demonstrations of some of the research projects it now houses, followed by outdoor music and dance performances in the amphitheater named after the late Michael Dertouzos, longtime director of the Laboratory for Computer Science.

"Computers and ways of thinking and crumpled paper and ideas slowly became a design. We moved from rhetoric to reality. The towers started to rise and so did steel prices," Vest told the audience in Kirsch Auditorium, poetically voicing a bit of angst from the construction phase. "Feet turned cold. Only Frank Gehry's were warm, as Bob Brown held them closer to the fire."

"As [my wife] Becky and I left this building last evening, a student was asleep on a couch and another stared into a computer screen. I knew that everything would be well," said Vest, giving voice to the relief of a project completed after five years of difficult decisions and sleepless nights since Building 20 was demolished.

"Frank," he said to Gehry, "you exceeded every possible dream we had."

In his remarks, Institute Professor Morris Halle of linguistics and philosophy described his new office, Dreyfoos A208--which stands nearly exactly over the spot of his old office in Building 20 (20B-201)--as "the best I've ever had in all the 50 years I've been here."

Describing the Stata Center's role as a new face for the northeast edge of campus, Provost Robert A. Brown said, "When you round the corner and see the Stata Center, you will know you're at MIT."

"The angles and curves of this building represent our ability to solve problems," Cambridge Mayor Michael Sullivan said. "It stands as an economic anchor of this community." He confessed, however, that the first time he saw a model of the new building he commented, "It looks like my kids took a hammer to your model."

"I was lost many times," said Vincent Chan, director of the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, who moved into the Stata Center in April. The building consists of two C-shaped towers with lower buildings connecting them, many open spaces and atria, but few, if any, traditional corridors. One wall of Chan's office slants at a 30 degree angle.

"Many times I would go to the bathroom and it would take me a very long time to get back to my office. So a friend gave me a handheld GPS [Global Positioning System device]. He told me to follow the instructions on the system. A nice voice said, 'Go to outside wall and place in four corners.' I did that and the voice said, 'We cannot do the test. The wall is not upright.'

"So I tried it on a window and then on the back wall. And it said, 'The second wall is not parallel to the first wall.' Then the voice went on to say I must wait for the next software upgrade," Chan said to much laughter, before thanking the "administration for having the courage to authorize the building."

On a more serious note, Alex Dreyfoos (S.B. 1954), for whom one tower of the center is named, said the tower is his thanks to MIT and to Professor of Physics Arthur Hardy "for being a great mentor and for being there for me at a difficult time in my life." Dreyfoos' father died on Thanksgiving eve of his sophomore year at MIT and Hardy took him under his wing. Dreyfoos, who holds 10 patents, is now chairman of the Dreyfoos Group/Photo Electronics Corp. and a life member of the MIT Corporation.

"For us, it's an opportunity to express the enormous amount of gratitude to MIT for what it's meant to our lives and means to us today," said Ray Stata (S.B. 1957) about the decision by him and his wife Maria Stata to make the building possible through their financial gift to the Institute. Ray Stata is co-founder and chairman of Analog Devices and a member of the MIT Corporation.

"We are fortunate to have had Chuck Vest as our leader at the outset of this project because he had the courage to approve this bold design. It demonstrates the forward-thinking that is part of MIT," Ray Stata said.

"Frank's creation will change the world for people who work here, and stand as a reminder of the incredible creativity and imagination which permeate MIT. The outcome exceeds our wildest dreams of what we thought we would do."

The other major donor to the project is the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The second tower is named the William H. Gates Building.

Stata Center facts


- 720,000 square feet
- 2.8-acre site
- 2.6 million pounds of steel in framework
- 120,000 tons of concrete in foundation and floors
- 200,000 cubic yards of soil removed from site in 10,000 truckloads

Materials used on exterior:

- 12,800 stainless steel panels (brushed and polished)
- 1,000,000 bricks
- Painted aluminum
- 70,896 square feet of glass

The results

- Two C-shaped, nine-story towers
- One amphitheater
- One indoor Student Street
- Two two-story neighborhoods in the towers
- One fourth-floor town center in between
- Whimsically named sections: Giraffe, Lucky, Wind Dam, Kiva, Achilles, Pisa, Nose, Star
- One 350-seat lecture hall/auditorium
- Two 90-seat tiered classrooms
- Two 50-seat flat classrooms
- Lounges and social spaces
- Pub
- Caf��� that seats 250
- Faculty dining room
- Fitness facility linked to Alumni Pool
- Child care center for 65 children
- Two levels of underground parking for 700 cars

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 12, 2004 (download PDF).

Topics: Campus buildings and architecture, Special events and guest speakers


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