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Dorm Designers Reveal Ideas

Residence Hall Plans Presented in Forum

By Laura McGrath Moulton

After months of forums and debates about the future of MIT housing policy, the discussion on campus has finally shifted to bricks-and-mortar decisions.

Last night, approximately fifty students met with members of the Founders Group in a lively exchange of ideas about the new undergraduate dormitory.

“There were a lot of good questions,” said Project Coordinator Deborah Poodry. “I was pleased people got into the drawings” of the dormitory, which were posted in the front of Room 10-250.

Design focal point of discussion

Tim Bade of Steven Holl Architects offered a half-hour slide presentation of the new dormitory before answering questions from students.

Initially, the modern design of the building, described by Bade as embodying “isotropic porosity,” elicited some laughter from the audience. Soon, however, questions turned towards an examination of the design’s details.

Kristie L. Tate ’01, an architecture major, said of the design, “It’s pretty interesting. They’ve come up with ways of incorporating ideas from different dorms. It’s great that there are lots of public spaces, which I think MIT lacks as a whole.”

“MIT has a history of commissioning contemporary architecture,” Bade said. Other notable buildings on campus include Baker House by Alvar Aalto and the Green Building by I.M. Pei ’40.

Diversity a dormitory theme

The presentation emphasized the role of diverse living options within the dormitory, which will feature multi-story lounges interspersed among doubles and singles. Each room will include a bathroom, and some will also include a vestibule.

Founders Group member and Associate Professor of History Anne E.C. McCants said, “We shouldn’t try to figure out the one room configuration that MIT students want, but the twenty room configurations MIT students will consent to live in if pressed.”

Asked about the possibility for single-sex floors, Founders Group member and Professor of Materials Science Linn W. Hobbs said, “The idea behind this dormitory is to encourage diversity rather than dividing people by any kind of denominator.”

However, McCants said that as a result of the “vertical and horizontal spacings” in the dorm, students will be able to create communities of their own without difficulty.

‘Student Art’ may be included

One topic discussed in depth was the possible role of student art in the dormitory. MIT has commissioned two artists to create works for the building. Some students asked whether the dormitory would include outlets for student art, such as painting room walls or decorating lounges.

“Given what we’re going to spend on this dorm to get it right, the expectation is we’re going to try to preserve this design,” said Chancellor Lawrence Bacow ’72.

However, McCants noted that one of the commissioned artists, Dan Graham,was “intrigued by the spontaneous student art in East Campus, especially the Elvis Shrine.”

Student involvement discussed

The Founders Group is currently in the process of forming subcommittees to determine the character of the new dormitory’s community.

“We’re trying to prevent the community from being just 350 undergraduates who happen to show up accidentally. We want them to have a community to move into,” McCants said.

Student members of the Founders Group offered brief presentations of the topics to be addressed by the subcommittees, including the food available in the dining room and cafe, house government, overall community, and use of facilities.

“Hopefully there were students out there [in the forum] who will want to get involved in the planning, and who will maybe even want to live in the building,” McCants said.