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Holl Discusses Initial Dormitory Designs

By Laura McGrath Moulton

The design process for the new undergraduate dormitory moves into a new phase this week as members of the Founders’ Group and the administration met with architect Steven Holl to discuss and review possible designs for the building.

Ideas expressed in the plans include combinations of towers on top of a large, common base as well as more rectangular buildings. Long, sloping hallways are also present in several potential designs, such as tower connections.

In each one of the concepts, “Holl is trying... to create great social spaces and great living spaces,” said Chancellor Lawrence S. Bacow ’72, who established the Founders Group jointly with Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams.

Founders’ Group member Jeffrey C. Roberts ’02 said that Holl’s “main concept was porosity.” External porosity would allow sunlight to pass through the building, while internal porosity means that divisions between common internal areas would be filled with openings.

Bacow said that the concepts were “design experiments”, exploring ways to keep the dorm from being “a wall between what’s going on on the north side of the building” and the south side. He said that towers were a form of “vertical porosity” while tilted hallways are a form of “horizontal porosity.”

‘Hybrid’ receives raves

One concept that received enthusiasm from the Founder’s Group is nicknamed the “Hybrid” by the architect. Williams, who also serves as Founders’ Group chairperson, said that this “design combines a zig-zag ramp on the lower common spaces with three towers for student living spaces.”

In one interior concept, Holl envisions living spaces divided into groups of 14 to 16 on two floors of a tower, connected by an open stairwell. In addition, rooms would be constructed with hinged walls so that “you could build your own rooms,” Roberts said.

The Founders Group described some of Holl’s concepts at a meeting of the Undergraduate Association Committee on Housing and Orientation, where students offered feedback on several issues.

Matthew L. McGann ’99, co-chairperson of UACHO, was concerned whether towers could “emphasize community” and whether they would “work at MIT.” He suggested soliciting feedback from students about MacGregor Hall and how the tower design works there.

However, Roberts said that Holl “emphasized that this is not MacGregor.” UACHO members agreed with the Founders’ Group’s decision to recommend “horizontal integration” rather than the “vertical integration” of towers, perhaps through skywalk connections between towers.

These connections could also double the size of the living groups from 14 to 16 to around 30. Holl said that such horizontal integration was a “fine idea” according to Roberts.

Dorm separated from campus

Another important issue under discussion is how to link students in the new dorm with the rest of campus without ruining Briggs Field. “We have to think hard about how to help people who want to cross Briggs Field,” Bacow said, adding that the new dorm must not become “an island.”

“Basically, you can go over it, around it, through it, or under it,” Bacow said. Solutions suggested by Holl cover almost all these options and include a bridge over the field or fully or semi-recessed tunnel.

Williams said that “the bridge has appeal because it would not take up existing playing space, or not much.” UACHO members expressed concern about flying baseballs or soccer balls. Tunnels would bring up issues of safety.

“We just cannot crowd athletics more and connect the new dorm with the existing campus,” Williams said. “We will be actively examining... additional field space in the coming months.”

However, Bacow noted that since current plans call for a number of dorms to someday stretch down Vassar Street, the problem will take care of itself eventually.

According to Williams, Holl “stressed the usefulness of the student feedback.” Both Williams and the Founders Group members said that they are currently soliciting further feedback.

Bacow said that the concepts will be made available to students through a variety of venues over the course of the spring semester. Williams said that an initial scheme should be ready this spring, with a final design finished by the end of 1999.

Faculty members on the Founders Group include Associate Provost for the Arts and Theater Arts Professor Alan Brody, Foreign Languages and Literature Section head and Professor Suzanne Flynn, John F. Elliott Professor Linn W. Hobbs, Architecture and Mechanical Engineering Professor Leon R. Glicksman, Associate Professor Candace L. Royer, Associate Dean of Students Andrew M. Eisenmann, in addition to Chairperson Williams.

In addition to Roberts, student members are Anne T. McLeod ’00, Jonathan S. White ’00, Walter G. Holland ’01, Joshua C. Randall ’01, Rima A. Arnaout ’02, and Tina P. Lin ’02.