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Planning Clarifications

May I offer just a couple of corrections on matters of fact in Eric Plosky’s column “Come in, Planning” from the February 18th edition of The Tech:

1. MIT has a number of published master plan documents which typically serve as extensions of the original master plan prepared by William Welles Bosworth 1889. Bosworth’s plan was forward-looking enough that its basic functional principles are still valid today. The MIT Museum’s “Fun Facts” web pages note, “MIT’s Cambridge campus was completed in 1916 and was an unusual and striking design for a college campus of the time. Bosworth incorporated comprehensive and functional planning in the manner then being practiced by other Beaux Arts architects in Europe but found his inspiration in Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia, with its Pantheon dome as the central feature.”

2. MIT is currently engaged in a new master plan effort, elements of which have recently been on display in Lobby 10 (“Building on Bosworth: An Evolving Vision of the MIT Campus”). John R. Curry, Executive Vice President, is supervising this effort, which began last year. Noted landscape architect Laurie Olin is the Institute’s consultant on this project, which includes staff from the Planning Office. This plan incorporates housing elements as well as open space, athletics and recreation areas, academic and research space, and parking. Mr. Olin has discussed his work on a number of occasions, including last fall as reported by Douglas Heimburger in The Tech on November 9, 1999 (“During the last session, landscape architect Laurie Olin discussed the long-term campus plan for the Institute”). The Chancellor has recently published his strategic plan for housing which sets a new direction for MIT, and from which more detailed plans will be developed. Among other resources, the Chancellor’s strategic plan drew on the student-led Unified Proposal of October 22, 1999; Matt McGann of the UA, and other students frequently consulted with the Planning Office during the proposal’s development. More recently, we have been discussing plans for graduate student housing with Luis Ortiz of the GSC.

3. The speed at which housing resources can be brought on line at MIT has traditionally been a function of resource availability, not the lack of available plans or planning options. Financial support for housing has come from the Institute’s general funds, the same funds that must also support education and unsponsored research initiatives. With certain notable exceptions, such as the recent $20 million Simmons gift in support of student life, housing projects depend on allocations from this pool of unrestricted operating funds. One of the key reasons that the 224 Albany Street project can go ahead at this time is that our plans meet the current criteria established by the senior officers and the Building Committee that it have no net impact on MIT’s operating budget. That is, with assistance from the Graduate Housing Fund, it is self-financing and does not require support from unrestricted operating funds.

Robert K. Kaynor
Associate Director of Planning