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Work Almost Done on Biology Building

By Ramy A. Arnaout
Associate News Editor

Work is nearing completion at the Ames Street site of the Biology Department's new building, with the official ribbon-cutting ceremony slated for Oct. 7.

"The site work is for all practical purposes" complete, said Francis A. Lawton, MIT project manager for the new building.

Workers are still wiring the site and placing the concrete slabs for the sidewalk, Lawton said.

While the grounds await final touches, the inside of the building is complete, Lawton said. So are the underground tunnels that connect the new building with Buildings 66 and E17, he said.

Staff and faculty have already moved into the new 258,000 square-foot building. "The administrative offices are up," Lawton said. "We moved all of the biologists in during the months of May and early June. They are all up and running as far as their research is concerned," he said.

Faculty, students impressed

Many faculty members and students in the Department of Biology are excited and pleased with their new building.

Phillip A. Sharp, head of the biology department, called the building fantastic. "It really is a beautiful home. We're still [having] the finishing touches put on; some of the detailed work is still being done to the building."

The new residents are especially impressed by the new building's artistry, bright natural lighting, and spaciousness.

"It's a beautiful, interesting building," Sharp said. "It begins with the art pieces in the front. There's a large, tall mural going down the front hall. It's playful and lively," he said. The entry way also features a solid floor-to-ceiling column that has been molded and painted to resemble the trunk of a tree.

"I like the staircase areas," Sharp said. The staircases, which end in benches suspended above the ground, are nearly free-standing; "they have granite steps, and it sort-of induces you to walk up the flights of steps between the floors instead of using the elevators," he said.

Reaction to the planned Biology Cafe has been equally positive. "It will be the social center of the building," Sharp said. "It's already a hangout area for workers, [who] retreat into that area and eat lunch. It's a sunny space."

The Biology Cafe is a new location being opened by Food Services. It will offer a similar selection to the Building 4 Coffee Shop, according to Robert A. McBurney, director of Food Services.

Sharp is also pleased that the new building incorporates the undergraduate laboratory, putting it near the rest of the department.

Biology major Namyi Yu '95, who works in the new building, welcomes the physical openness of the building's design. "We share a lot of facilities," she said. "There is a door from one lab to another."

"There is a lot more interaction between labs," Yu said. "We have lots more space."

Yu also welcomed the safety precautions added by the new security doors, but she was less enthusiastic about the labs' motion-detectors, which switch off lighting after several minutes of idle time.

Building 68'

While the new building may be up and running, its only official name is Building 68. The building will be introduced at the October opening ceremony as "The New Biology Building," according to the occasion's planners.

"I guess they're waiting for someone with a good-sized amount of money to [donate to] MIT," Lawton said.

Lawton believes the building to be under or close to its $70 million budget, although he notes that the final cost will not be available until the project is fully finished.