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Hundreds Miss Out on Lecture by Ghery


Omar Roushdy -- The Tech
Frank O. Gehry, a renowned architect from Santa Monica, Calif., speaks on his work in Wong Auditorium Friday. Gehry has been selected to design the Stata Computer Information and Intelligence Sciences building which will be constructed on the Building 20 site.

By Susan Buchman
ASSOCIATENEWSEDITOR

Overwhelming demand for a seat to hear a lecture given by architect Frank O. Ghery left many people out in the cold on Friday night peering through the window of the Tang Center for a glimpse of the world-renowned architect who is designing the Stata Complex.

At 6:10 p.m. on Friday, an MIT student called Campus Police with a "complaint relative to fire issues," said Anne P. Glavin, chief of the CPs.

Glavin received estimates that 1500 to 2000 people were crowded into the auditorium, which has a capacity of 291.

At 7 p.m., the expected starting time of the lecture, CPs were still escorting attendees out of the building. Both Wong Auditorium and the overflow room, the TingLobby, were packed to capacity.

Approximately 100 people were outside of Building E51, peeking in through the windows to watch Ghery on the television monitor in the lobby. At one point, a subset of the crowd began chanting "Ghery," and several members of the crowd verbally resisted police officers when told to step away from the door. When told it was a fire hazard, one man replied, "Where's the fire?"

People who had been waiting in the auditorium from as early as 5 p.m. had to sit in the aisles, and were among those later told to leave.

Ghery's talk was the latest in the Department of Architecture's lecture series. The department had reserved Room 10-250 on Tuesdays this fall to accommodate the series. Ghery's lecture was originally scheduled for today, but the architect cancelled and offered to speak on Friday instead. According to Anderson, Wong Auditorium was the largest venue available for Friday.

"I have received numerous messages, understandably agitated, about the events surrounding the Gehry lecture of last Friday evening," said Department of Architecture Head Stanford Anderson in an e-mail sent in response to student complaints.

Many angry about event handling

Many attendees wondered why the Department of Architecture chose such a small venue.

"This is the most popular architect in the world; would they accommodate Pearl Jam in that space?" said Randy Kaufman, a student at the Boston Architectural Center who takes classes at MIT. There was "almost an element of trickery involved."

Forty-five Temple University architecture students chartered a bus and drove for over seven hours to attend the lecture, but only "a handful" made it into the lecture.

"We called ahead and they said there was plenty of room," said a Temple student.

Doug Dalrymple, an employee of the Sheply, Bulfinch, Richardson, and Abbott architecture firm, said that MITshould have been prepared for a large turnout.

"The millions and billions [MIT] has and you can't put up a monitor?" for those left outside, Dalrymple asked.

MITstudents wanted priority

MITstudents were also denied access to the lecture.

"This guy is building a building here; it'd be nice to know what he's about. We can't even stand in there," said Peter Siu '99.

Anderson responded specifically to the suggestion by some in the Department of Architecture that the lectures be closed to the public. Closing certain lectures to the public would be "sending a very negative message, discouraging attention to our school and lectures at all, and also being needless except when the speaker forces a rescheduling such as the present one,"Anderson said, noting that the lecture hall would not normally be filled if attendance was restricted tothe MITcommunity.

Police involvement questioned

Students also complained to Anderson about the attitude of the police.

"No one likes to see the police involved in any academic event,"Anderson said, adding that he was concerned about "reports of the aggressive removal of persons from aisles and circulation spaces of the hall and building," Anderson said.

"I think the police were a little heavy handed. This is a pretty nasty situation for everyone involved," said Edward Kohler G.

A similar situation of overcrowding occurred on Thursday evening at Harvard's Piper Auditorium when architect Renzo Piano spoke. The police were not called, although people were sitting in the aisles and the front of the lecture hall.

"Had the Harvard Police learned of the situation, they too would have intervened," Anderson said.

Some believed that the turnout for the Piano lecture should have prepared MIT for Friday night.

"[MIT] should have learned from lectures yesterday and the day before," said Judy Hodge, a graduate student at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.