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Baker Renovations to Begin in Summer

Bikui Chen--The Tech
Heavy renovations to Baker House's rooms and common areas will begin this summer.

by Naveen Sunkavally

The fruits of several years worth of planning will finally be realized as Baker House receives massive renovations during the next two summers. Plans to renovate the dorm were approved in the middle of January in a discussion between President Charles M. Vest, Provost Joel Moses, and Senior Vice President William R. Dickson.

Dickson put the figure for the cost of renovating Baker at $25 million, compared to the $11 million spent on reconstructing Senior House. Dickson said, however, that much more work will be done on Baker than was done on Senior House. "We're going to raise as much as we can," he said. "The rest will most likely be covered through a low-interest loan.

Plan to Respect Aalto's Vision

The renovations, whose expected completion date will coincide with Baker's 50th anniversary, will encompass all components of the dormitory. Tracy M. Sadowski '99, Baker's student chair of building renovations, said reconstruction of the kitchen, basement, the dining room, the commons, and other areas will take place during the upcoming summer, while student rooms will be renovated during the summer of 1999.

"The main thing to emphasize that we want to only enhance the original dormitory. Hopefully, we'll respect what [Alvar] Aalto wanted," Associate Professor of History and Baker House Housemaster William B. Watson said, referring to the famous Finnish architect who designed Baker.

"The general illumination is very low and will be increased [with] custom designed lighting fixtures," said Susan R. Personette, senior architect and project manager. The plumbing and roofing will be renovated, heating will be improved, and more program spaces will be added.

The lounge areas in Baker that were made into student rooms during the 1960's will be restored to their former state, Watson said. Since currently "a whole leaf can float through a closed window," Watson said, all the windows will also be replaced.

A roof trellis will also be added, in accordance with Aalto's original plans, Sadowski said.

Though precautions have been taken to preserve Aalto's intentions, some of the modifications planned are in response to changes in student lifestyles and needs. "Baker is a very old dormitory. We have to remember that fifty years ago there were no television sets or hi-fi systems," Watson said.

The kitchen area, meant at first to service 900 students will be reduced in size since only 200 students frequent the dining area now, Personette said.

In addition, the plan calls for adding air conditioning to the main lobby and for an expansion of the Baker convenience store. The housemaster's suite, designed originally for a couple, will be increased in size in response to the number of housemasters with small children, Watson said.

In addition, Watson said, the sprinkler systems will be redone and, as a consequence of the Americans for Disabilities Act, a ramp will be built for front-door wheelchair access and elevators will be modernized.

Students will be displaced

As a result of renovations, students who would originally occupy Baker during the two summers will be forced to live elsewhere. Though plans have not been fully laid out as to where students will be housed, "MIT is anxious to find places for students and is quite aware of its obligations," Watson said. A plan for student summer housing will be laid out in about two weeks, he said.

"Students are 100 percent behind it," Personette said. She said all students in Baker are fully aware that they will not be allowed to live in Baker during the summers. Students will most likely be housed in surrounding residences on either side of Baker, such as Burton-Conner, MacGregor, or Bexely, she said.

Students living in rooms that will be restored to their original state as lounge areas will move elsewhere in the dormitory.