The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 53.0°F | Partly Cloudy

New Dorm Planning, Building Continues

By E. Zachary Berry


Work on Simmons Hall is progressing on two fronts, as contractors race to finish the concrete structure before winter and students try to resolve residential life questions.

As casting of the ninth floor finishes today and form work begins on the tenth and final floor, Construction of Simmons Hall nears a major milestone. Chief Engineer Jim Whalen of Daniel O’Connell’s Sons, the contractor for Simmons Hall, said that all concrete work, including the roof, should be completed by Thanksgiving. The building is currently one week behind the original schedule.

While weather was generally good over the summer, “We lost about a week of work because of hot weather,” Whalen said. Temperatures were occasionally too high to cast concrete.

Cold temperatures would also make concrete pouring difficult, and Whalen said the contractors hope to get the building weather-tight as soon as possible to prevent further delays from rain and snow. “Rain really bothers the job,” Whalen said.

However, the building has long had a weather-tight temporary seal on the sixth floor, which has allowed work to continue on the lower floors. Contractors are currently working on heating, ventilation, plumbing, and electrical work on the basement through the third floor.

Founder’s Group seeks input

Student members of the Simmons Hall Founder’s Group held an informational meeting last Tuesday, informally known as the “Sponge Committee.” The name derives from a description of the building by architect Steven Holl.

A handful of interested students attended Tuesday’s meeting, led by Founder’s Group member Jeffrey C. Roberts ’02. The meeting primarily served to introduce many topics which need to be resolved in future meetings. Computer-generated images of the rooms and common areas were also on display.

Some students at the meeting expressed interest in living in Simmons because it will offer a large number of singles, and because it gives groups of friends the chance to live together. “If all of my friends and I could move together into the new dorm, we could all live together,” said Jacqueline M. Dubrisingh ’04. “I’m just hoping that, being a junior and moving in there, I will get a single. Otherwise I won’t move in.”

Simmons Hall dining, dormitory government, interior decorating, and room selection policy are among the primary considerations for the Sponge Committee.

“Things are wide open,” Roberts said. “We’re working on getting students to generate options.” Simmons Hall is intended to build a strong sense of community and feature unique policies from other campus residences, and the Sponge Committee meetings will help shape decisions on these topics in the months to come.

Meeting draws mixed reviews

Some students at the meeting were satisfied that MIT is letting students debate many of the student life issues for Simmons Hall. “MIT is making a step in the right direction in getting student input,” Dubrisingh said.

Others, however, expressed doubts that the meetings would have any real impact on residential life at Simmons Hall. “I think that the nature of the dorm isn’t really going to be affected by the decisions made in this committee, but rather by the people who actually live there,” said Margaret H. Cho ’04. “I don’t know how much of an impact this will really have.”

Dorm delay decision due soon

Despite what Whalen called an “extreme schedule” from the onset of construction, Simmons Hall currently has only a one or two week window between the scheduled completion date and the date students would need to move in. MIT will decide before the end of the semester whether students will be temporarily housed in the new graduate dorm at 70 Pacific Street.

Kevin R. Lang contributed to the reporting of this story.