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Dome Skylight Plan Hurt by Funding Shortage

By Sanjay Basu

Workers from the Department of Facilities recently began a major restoration and renovation project on the buildings immediately adjacent to Killian Court, including potentially restoring the skylights in the domes on Buildings 7 and 10.

The repairs primarily focus on Buildings 1 through 4, but also include repairs and additions to both domes.

"The project began nearly three years ago, when we started a cursory evaluation of the older buildings [around] Killian Court," said restoration director Richard A. Finn. "Because of the results of this study, we decided to hire an architect to conduct a more extensive study of the buildings," he said.

"Unfortunately, we found some severe problems," Finn said. The report "showed that Buildings 1 through 4 were in need of emergency repairs,"Finn said. Although the masonry work is generally very good, the limestone entrances to the buildings had the potential of collapsing.

The entrance repairs were finished recently, although officials from the Department of Facilities still have many additional construction plans for the buildings adjacent to the Infinite Corridor.

"Although the structural restoration to Buildings 1 through 4 was our primary priority because it had life-threatening consequences," Finn said, "we also had several other plans for the main group of buildings."

The Maclaurin Buildings, composing Buildings 1 through 10 with the exception of Building 9, were the first Institute buildings constructed inCambridge. They were completed in 1916.

Dome skylights a possibility

"We especially focused on Buildings 10 and 7, the two domes. We wanted to restore the skylights on the two domes so that natural light could come inside," Finn said.

Workers from Facilities have already removed the temporary caps above both domes, Finn said. The caps were placed on top of the domes during World War II, when Institute officials feared that the lights could be potential targets for air raids.

"We wanted to restore natural lighting to the dome skylights," Finn said. "A few days ago, we tried two strategies to restore the glass blocks on top of the domes, but both strategies failed."

Funding problems may prevent facilities officials from completing the skylight restoration process.

"We had just over $1 million dollars to spend on this project,"said Finn. "But we're in worse shape than we thought. We've exceeded our estimated budget and until we can get information from contractors, we might not be able to restore the skylights."

Currently, Facilities officials are replacing and repairing the copper flashings underneath the stonework of both domes. These repairs occur every 30 years, although the replacement of the dome skylights may follow the copper work this year if Facilities officials manage to budget funds for the project.

Kresge construction completed

Current construction work on older MIT buildings comes after an eight-week, $15 million project on Kresge Auditorium this past summer.

"We had an enormous and very fast renovation of Kresge,"Finn explained. "Phase one of the project is complete, and we mainly focused the project on bringing the buildings up to current legal codes."

The first phase of the Kresge restoration involved electrical repairs, the complete reconstruction of some bathrooms and technical rooms, and the replacement of some projection booths.

The next phase of the restoration plan will involve construction on the chapel as well as restoration of Kresge's glass and panel wall.

"We hope to finish this project during [Independent Activities Period], when the two buildings will be closed,"Finn said. "We're going to be pretty busy, to say the least."