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Building Renovations make Changes Around Campus

By Erik S. Balsley
Staff RePorter

A number of renovations to buildings around the Institute will mean not only structural changes but also the shifting around of the space that a number of departments and other groups currently occupy around campus.

While renovations in Building 7 are done and changes in Building 56 come to a close in December, the plans that have been in the works for several decades to tear down Building 20 may actually be coming to fruition in only a year and a half.

The renovation of the fourth floor of Building 7 is the last phase of the School of Architecture and Planning's plan to "move the Department of Architecture back to its traditional home," said William J. Mitchell, dean of the school architecture and planning.

When Mitchell arrived at MIT four years ago, he found "fragments [of the school] all over the place." He subsequently began work on developing a long-term plan to move the architecture department away from its location at the time, Buildings N51 and N52.

"Essentially, we tried to go back to the fundamental logic of the buildings and get modern services into them," Mitchell said. These services included better lighting and computer workstations for computer-aided design, he said.

School was systematically moved

The first phase of the project involved the renovation of the dean's office.

The second phase focused on the construction of studio spaces, faculty offices, and laboratory space for the Building Technology Program on the fourth floors of Buildings 5 and 10.

The third phase targeted the creation new space for the headquarters for the School of Architecture and Planning on the third floor of Building 7. This included the construction of the Frank Stella conference room with Stella's mural Loohoomooloo, which was donated by Elliot K. Wolk '57.

The final phase of the project created new studio space in Building 7 and provided exhibition and social space around the dome at the top of the building.

"These are excellent old buildings. With a little bit of judicious use we can rehabilitate them and make them extremely pleasant and functional for modern use," Mitchell said.

The space around the dome was designed to be social space for the school and is home to the new Architecture and Planning Cafe.

Part of the project was to make the dome visible from the fourth floor of Building 7. This was done to make it the "symbolic center of the space and school," Mitchell said.

Building 56 renovations continue

Meanwhile, renovations to Building 56 are continuing. After the work on Building 56 finishes this December, construction on Building 16 will begin, probably in February.

"Part of the reason for renovating Building 16 and 56 is to house some of the people from Building 20," which is scheduled to be taken down in the spring of 1998, said Director of Planning O. Robert Simha MCP '57. Most of the offices in the building are scheduled to be moved into Building 16 once the renovations there are finished.

Building 20 is being demolished so that MIT can take it down and "reuse the site more effectively and efficiently," said Nancy Joyce, project manager for Beacon Construction Company, which is the outside contractor for the project.

In addition to these moves the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy will move into the offices of the MIT Press above the bookstore, Simha said. The offices of the MIT Press will move into leased space across the street in Cambridge Center.

The specifics of this part of the plan are still being worked out. The Department of Linguistics and Philosophy declined to comment until plans become finalized.

Buildings 16 and 56 used to house laboratories and offices for the Department of Biology. When the new biology building was finished and everything in Buildings 16 and 56 moved out, a third of the buildings was left vacant, Joyce said.

The ongoing renovation is the first phase in the larger project. The second phase involves moving the people in Building 16 into Building 56 and making changes in Building 16.

"It's been challenging and complicated to come up with a modular plan [for these buildings] because of the variety of uses involved," Joyce said.

This set of renovations "will probably be more disruptive to campus," as access to 26-100 may be affected, Joyce said. Currently, Beacon Construction Company is planning a tunnel through the area so that people may travel there.

Some of the features to be added during the projects are a handicap-accessible ramp in the basement connecting Building 8 and Building 16, and an elevator to connect the various floors of Building 8 and Building 16.

The new spaces in the buildings will consist of classrooms on the first floor, as well as laboratories and offices on higher floors.

Student lounges will also be constructed in Building 56. In addition to these improvements, a new 70-seat lecture hall is being built in Building 56, and one more classroom will be built in Building 16, Joyce said.