BCS Building Construction is on Schedule
By Kelly Rivoire
The new building to house the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Picower Center for Learning, and Memory and McGovern Institute for Brain Research is currently on schedule to open in the fall of 2005, said Project Manager Arne Abramson MCP ’82. Unlike the construction of the Stata Center, which encountered problems with delays and additional costs, construction of the BCS building appears to be proceeding on schedule.
However, construction of the extension for the Media Laboratory, which has been on hold for several years, is still pending funding. Head of Media Arts and Sciences William J. Mitchell said he is optimistic that groundbreaking may begin within the next year.
BCS building underway
About 65 percent of the construction on the BCS building is currently done, Abramson said. The building will be 411,000 gross square feet, comparable in size to the Stata Center, he said. Faculty are scheduled to move into the new building in September 2005, with the official opening date for the building still under discussion with donors.
The construction of the BCS building has faced an unusual challenge: a railroad track runs through the middle of the building site, said Abramson. To accommodate this difficulty, the two buildings on either side of the track are connected at the third floor, he said.
The vibrations associated with the railroad should not affect the laboratories, Abramson said, as the foundation of the building has steel piles driven deep into bedrock, and the building was specifically designed to minimize vibrations.
New building to unite BCS faculty
The new BCS building will accommodate all professors in Course IX, said Professor Mriganka Sur, Head of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Currently, he said, faculty are spread among buildings E18, E19, E25, and NE20.
The additional space provided by the new building will allow the Picower Institute to hire three more faculty members, expanding its faculty from ten to thirteen, said Professor Susumu Tonegawa, head of the Picower Institute.
Faculty have had the opportunity to tour the building, and are “excited about the move,” Sur said.
Tonegawa said that funding for specialized equipment in several of the experimental facilities of the Picower Center is currently a few million dollars short. However, he said he is currently working with Dean of the School of Science Robert J. Silbey to secure the additional funding, and he does not anticipate a problem with finding it in time for the opening of the building.
Media Lab Extension still on hold
Construction on an extension to the Media Lab has been delayed for over three years because the economic recession forced several donors to retract their promised funding, Mitchell said.
As to a date when construction might begin, “my guess is within a few months,” Mitchell said.
The total cost of the extension will be about 97.5 million dollars, with 20 to 25 million dollars in funding still lacking. Originally, the cost of the building was anticipated to be about 30 million dollars more, but at the time of the delay the construction plans were changed to cut the costs, mostly by eliminating basement space, Mitchell said.
Mitchell said that Media Lab is currently “desperate for the [additional] space to accommodate existing activities” and new activities as well. He said that value of the project is “both functional and cultural,” referring to the innovation of architect Fumihiko Maki.
Once funding is secured, a new project team will be created, as the original team was disbanded during the delay. Mitchell estimates construction would take about 26 months in a best-case scenario.