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New EECS Complex Will Replace Bldg. 20

By Dan McGuire
News Editor

Building 20, the last of MIT's temporary World War II structures still standing, is scheduled to be demolished in 1998 to make way for a 254,000 square foot building that will house part of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

The Laboratory for Computer Science and the Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, both currently occupying leased space in Technology Square, are slated to occupy the new complex when it opens in the fall of 2000

They will be joined by parts of the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, currently in Building 20, the Department of Brain and Cognitive Science in Building E25 and Building E10, and the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems in Building 35.

Senior Vice President William R. Dickson '56 said these plans have been in the planning for some time and represent a natural step for MIT. "From my viewpoint, we have a lease that's expiring in Tech Square at the turn of the century and we have a plan to remove Building 20," he said. Dickson also cited the advantages of having the EECS buildings closer together.

Plan expected to move forward

There has been a general consensus for a number of years that Building 20, the last of MIT's temporary World War II structures still standing, should be demolished and replaced. Plans for its demolition have been discussed for decades, but until now there was neither an actual plan nor the money to demolish and replace it.

"There's been discussion of it for many years," Dickson said. "I wouldn't [call] what's gone on in the past as a plan; it's been an idea."

The catalyst for the construction of the $95 million building was a $10 million grant by Raymond S. Stata '57, a member of the MIT Corporation and president of Analog Devices, Inc. Given that the funds have been raised, it would be quite unlikely that the new EECS building will not be built, Dickson said.

The important thing is that "the decision has been made to try to build it," Dickson said. "The process is at the very beginning There is money to be raised, there is programming to be done, there are architects to be hired."

Dickson said that Building 20 is not a historic building. However, standard procedure requires that "before you can remove any building over 50 years old, the city historic commission has to get the opportunity to comment on it," he said. Such an inspection would probably take place over the next year.

Dickson said that the asbestos in Building 20 would not pose a problem for demolition. Building 20 "has a lot of asbestos, but most of it is in the shingles on the outside," although there is some remaining asbestos board inside, he said. "The shingling and the asbestos board are safe as long as one doesn't ground them. We'll be removing them carefully one by one," he added.

"As in any building of that era, there's some asbestos on the pipe covering. The pipe covering is noting out of the ordinary," he said.

Activities to move

"A number of activities will be going over into [Building]16 and some others, like the Tech Model Railroad Club, are going up next to the museum," said Associate Director of Planning Robert K. Kaynor. The ROTC program will move to Building W59 on Vassar Street.

Dickson said that the Institute will be footing the bill for the activities' move. "It's all part of the construction, so the Institute will fund it," he said.

"We started planning well over a year ago," said Ruth Trometer, director of the Language Learning and Resource Center, currently housed in Building 20. LLARC will move to the sixth floor of Building 16 and is slated to open next winter when Building 16 reopens.

"They started out with a need assessment plan," Trometer said. "At that point they were trying to figure out where people who were going to 16 would fit," she said. "The guiding rule was that you couldn't add anything to your space."

"We know the room layouts and who's going to be in those rooms and pretty much how furniture will be arranged," she said. "The fine details probably could still be discussed."

"To tell you the truth, I'm looking forward to the move," Trometer said, citing the black grit that falls from the ceilings into the workstations and the structural pillars in the middle of classrooms. "We'll be in a building that [we] don't have to explain away to visitors."