MIT has embarked on one of the most ambitious new building programs in American higher education. The architectural metamorphosis now under way at MIT will reinvigorate several existing facilities and will add nearly one million state-of-the-art square feet to MIT’s 154-acre campus.
We at MIT now have a front row seat at one of the most life-changing academic, social, and architectural transformations in the history of a college campus. Each renovation and new building will provide greater resources for faculty, students, and staff to help MIT do what MIT does best –– solve some of the world’s most complex problems and help invent the future.
This massive enterprise was launched in 2000 and is the largest new building effort on campus in 40 years. It was stimulated in part by the Task Force on Student Life and Learning, whose 1998 report called for preparing students for life through an educational triad of academics, research, and community. The report noted that an MIT education should provide more opportunities for faculty and students to interact outside formal learning situations, since learning exists not only in the classroom and lab but is a continuous process on campus and endures for life.
In that spirit, MIT’s new buildings are designed with more community spaces that will encourage a more interactive learning environment. The new labs and living areas, classrooms and courtyards are all being designed to unify the campus and to inspire teamwork, collaboration, and communication. And the creation of three new residence halls will enable over 1,200 more graduate and undergraduate students to live on campus, further creating the spirit of a collegial neighborhood.
New construction and major renovations are critical to enhancing MIT’s academic community. Competitiveness for the best students and faculty increasingly depends on providing a world-class environment for living and learning. And top quality education demands facilities that we appropriately match to new teaching methods and the use of information technology. The new campus will bring together faculty and students, artists and engineers, biologists and brain scientists. By stimulating interaction across disciplines, and across generations, it will lead to the collaborations that will surely lead to creative outcomes.
Right now, more than a dozen major building projects and renovations are under way or in the planning stages. Among them are:the Stata Center for Computer, Information and Intelligence Sciences, which will foster collaboration among electrical engineering, computer science, artificial intelligence, linguistics and philosophy; the Brain and Cognitive Sciences project, a complex of facilities for world-class research and education with the potential for revolutionizing our understanding of the brain and mind; the East Campus project, a complex that will bring together the Sloan School of Management and MIT’s Economics Department, spurring intellectual interchanges vital to producing influential ideas and developing leaders; and the Media Lab Extension, a new building created for a field of study invented at MIT. And this is in addition to the newly-opened Simmons Hall, a dynamic living community for 350 undergraduates; two new residences that provide housing for nearly 900 graduate students;and the Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center, a state-of-the-art facility with an Olympic-class pool.
MIT has enlisted some of the world’s top architects, including Pritzker Prize winners, to help us achieve our goals. Among them are Frank Gehry, Kevin Roche, Fumihiko Maki, Steven Holl, Charles Correa, and landscape architect Laurie Olin. Their work reinforces the legacy of architectural invention at MIT, which began with the creation of the original campus in the early 1900s, and which includes such significant buildings as Alvar Aalto’s Baker House, Eero Saarinen’s Kresge Auditorium and MIT Chapel, and several buildings by architect and MIT alumnus I. M. Pei.
This bold building program will create a vibrant, electric atmosphere on campus that will inspire excellence and intellectual adventure. The new buildings on this extraordinary campus will be as diverse, innovative, and audacious as the community they serve, and they will stand as a metaphor for the ingenuity at work inside them. In our long history of innovation, this building program is just one more of MIT’s great inventions. And like many great inventions, it is tremendously exciting to anticipate the energy, power, and significance it will have upon the world.
Charles M. Vest