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$27M Gift Paves Way For New Media Lab Annex on E10 Site

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Editor in Chief

The Media Lab formally announced a major expansion Wednesday as it received a $27 million donation from Isao Okawa to build a new Center for Future Children on the current Building E10 site.

Okawa, who is the chairman of CSKCorp. and Sega Enterprises Ltd., made the gift as part of his "commitment to help current and future children around the world." The grant is believed to be the largest from a Japanese individual to a foreign institution.

While the Okawa Center is not scheduled to open until 2003, the new research work on how children learn in the digital age will begin immediately.

"Mr. Okawa's extraordinary gift provides MITwith the opportunity to become the world leader in the study of technology and children,"said President Charles M. Vest in a statement.

"Children are the world's most precious natural resource,"said Nicholas Negroponte, who directs the media lab. "Improving the lives of children is the best path to global wealth, health, and peace."

The goal of the new lab will be to develop"hard fun,"where projects both entertain and enlighten children at the same time, according to a Media Lab press release.

It will focus on direct exploration, expression, and experience and will be multicultural, multilingual, and multimodal, the CSKCorp. said. Technology will connect the Okawa Center to a variety of cultures, especially those in the world's most impoverished regions.

Researchers at the new Okawa facility will include children from the developing and developed world as well as the typical academic staff.

Okawa built his fortune initially with CSK, a business software and service company. In 1984 he acquired Sega Enterprises. Altogether, his 90 companies have an annual turnover of over $7.5 billion. Okawa also serves as a business policy adviser to the Japanese government.

Noted architect will design facility

The Media Lab also announced that noted Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki will design the new building.

Maki was selected by "an Institute decision in the normal process"and not by Okawa, said O. Robert Simha MCP'56, who directs the Planning Office.

The Planning Office has been working on the new project for a long time, Simha said. Last year, plans for the project were disclosed as members of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences became concerned that their current location would be demolished.

At this point, the researchers residing in Building E10 will be relocated temporarily to leased space at Cambridge Center. However, few researchers from BCSare in E10 at the present time, with many already residing in Building E25, Simha said.

Apermanent building for the department that was initially planned for the site of the Okawa Center is now planned for a site on Main Street, Simha said. The building is included among the goals for the upcoming capital campaign.

The new Okawa building, whose completion date is "dependent on resources," will be about the same size as the current lab or slightly larger, Simha said. It will occupy the space between the current lab, Amherst Street, and Building E25.

The announcement of the Okawa Center is the latest in an upcoming building boom at the Institute. Construction will start next year on the Stata Complex, which will replace Building 20, and plans are underway for a new athletics building and new undergraduate and graduate dormitories.