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Tech Square faces space problems

By Sujata Madan

Technology Square -- the nerve center of artificial intelligence and computer science activities in Cambridge -- is crowding up, though the lack of space hasn't yet affected the activities of the Laboratory for Computer Science and the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

"We're okay -- crowded but okay," says LCS Associate Director Albert Vezza. "Recently MIT acquired another floor in the building, which has decreased the crowding. But over the next few years, with research increasing -- we will feel the pinch again."

Laurel A. Simmons, AI Lab facilities manager, adds, "We're crowded but it is all right. There is no crisis of space. We're not doing research in the hallways!"

Tech Square was originally owned by MIT. In 1962, because of increasing community pressure against MIT's expansion policies, MIT sold the building but rented most parts of it. Today, MIT rents the entire building (except the cafeteria which belongs to Polaroid) from Prudential Insurance.

Apparently, the condition of Tech Square is far from satisfactory. "The building has a number of problems. It is old, the heating and ventilating systems give [us] trouble. The air-conditioning unit installed here was an experimental design which does not work," Vezza said.

He added: "The labs ought to move out of this building. Next year there will be problems -- just like one year ago, when we spent a lot of money trying to do something with the interior space. We could use the basement more effectively, but that would be very, very expensive because the basement, as it stands today, is not suitable for habitation. If we had a building on campus, we would be much better off."

There is a plan to construct a computer science complex where Building 20 and the garage stand today, according to Simmons.

When asked about what was being done by MIT, Vezza said, "I've heard a lot of plans but none of them are on the floors. It has to be the inhabitants of the building who decide what to do. For as it stands today, space is a more important resource than money."