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Proposal Calls for Change, Addition to Space in W20

By Angeline Wang

As the design team for the proposed extension of the Student Center and addition of a “Do-It-Zone” finished up their architectural plans during final exam week, a public meeting was held to spread the word about the most recent version of the proposal and to address the concerns of various student groups.

Originally developed by a group of students two years ago under the guidance of Professor Alex H. Slocum ’82 as part of an Independent Activities Period class, the Do-It-Zone is conceptualized as a hands-on learning center in the basement of an expanded Student Center. This would serve as a central location for the various construction-related student groups on campus, such as the Hobby Shop and Edgerton Center shops.

The design extends the present building out into the grassy area on Massachusetts Ave.

At this point, the project is only in its planning stages and is not yet funded by the Institute. “The only way this is going to get built is if money can be raised,” Slocum said. He is looking toward possible donations for the project. Tower anticipates that the construction will cost $150 million to $200 million. The next step is for the Office of the Dean for Student Life to spread the word among the administration and lobby for continuation of the project, he said.

According to Phillip J. Walsh, director of Campus Activities Complex, approximately 50 people, most of them students, showed up for the May 22 meeting. Walsh said that the meeting was a good opportunity for the design team to test some of their working assumptions, as well as to have an exchange with concerned student groups.

“The biggest issue was that a lot of people hadn’t heard about it,” said Slocum, referring to the project proposal.

Concerns voiced on fate of LCC

The students representing the Latino Cultural Center were especially vocal in expressing their concerns at the information meeting. Constructed in the fall of 2002 as a community center for Latino students and Latino groups at MIT, the LCC is currently located in the basement of the Student Center.

“The LCC itself doesn’t have any issue with the project. A lot of members like this idea and welcome this endeavor,” said Hector H. Hernandez G, a member of the LCC and attendee of the May meeting. “The issue the LCC has is specifically how the administration is choosing to handle the situation. There are long-standing instances in the past of the administration ignoring the concern of Latino students on campus.” Hernandez cited a long struggle for the creation of the LCC, “a place for Latino students to meet, a nice community center.”

According to Hernandez, the LCC also has no problem with the idea of restructuring the basement, as long as the plan provides an alternate location for the LCC.

The fate of the mural located on the LCC’s walls, painted as a donation by prominent artists, was also discussed during the meeting.

Chin Lin ’86, who teaches at the Student Art Association and works at an architectural firm, is a member of the design team and was quick to say in an interview that the project is still in its planning stages, with “many technical issues to be worked out.” The LCC, he said, would have a place in the expanded Student Center.

“The overall space is increasing, nobody is going to be short-changed,” Lin said.

“There is still a tremendous amount of work to be done,” Walsh said. The DIZ project is not officially a project of the Institute yet, he said. “We want a concept and idea that is comprehensive in approval with a solid consensus of support behind it.”

One thing both Hernandez and the DIZ design team agreed on was the usefulness of the meeting. There were misundestandings about the project on the part of the students that were resolved during the meeting, Hernandez said. “Professor Slocum did a good job presenting the project, how to get involved, how to keep everyone abreast of the situation.”

“Student participation will add value in helping to develop the vision through this phase of its concept development,” Walsh wrote in an e-mail advertising the meeting.

Proposal draws variety of groups

The overall theme of the DIZ, as printed on the front of a brochure created last week, is a place where “students meet, tinker, create and experience” what is unique to MIT. The brochure was created by a volunteer team of students and graduates from the Boston Architectural Center led by Lin.

The IAP class that originally came up with the idea of the DIZ envisioned bringing together all the various student shops, which are currently scattered around campus, “so that interaction can happen among the groups, the fostering of innovation, the sharing of ideas,” said Leonard Tower Jr. ’71, who is involved in the DIZ project.

The class created a preliminary “space budget” of 30,000 to 40,000 square feet, the amount of useful new space that the Student Center would need for the creation of this central shop, Tower said. T

The project continued with a group of volunteers, mostly consisting of MIT students, faculty, and alumni, who gathered input from administrators and student groups. The proposals was presented to the student life visiting committee, as well as the CAC advisory board earlier this year.

The current plans for the expanded Student Center includes the DIZ in the basement for student shops, as well as a welcome center and auditorium, which spiked the administration’s interest.

Walsh said that there has been a great deal of positive feedback and excitement about the proposal.

“We feel the strongest component of the idea is the ability to bring all sorts of MIT people together to do what they love in the same building,” Formula SAE Team Captain Brad W. Schiller ’06 said. The Formula SAE Team currently has its shop in a run-down building close to Sidney and Pacific, Schiller said. They share the building with the solar car team.

Schiller also said that a centralized shop would help decrease the overall costs of machinery and expensive equipment. The location of the proposed DIZ would also give visiting prospective students a better idea of what MIT life is like.

The first, second, and third floors of the Student Center add-on would house a 200- to 300-seat auditorium and welcome center where campus tours could start, as the brochure illustrates.

The extra space on the fourth floor would increase office space for student activities, and the fifth floor would be inhabited by the SAA. The art groups would have larger and more modernized studio space with skylights.

“A larger art program really benefits everyone in the studio, since most of us learn and are inspired by other artists working around us,” said Kristen Mattern G, who is part of the SAA and Hobby Shop, and also involved in the DIZ project.

“It would be great if the space was open and social, like a kind of art-nerd clubhouse,” SAA Coordinator Clay Ward ’97 said.

Ward also said that the project may create new spaces for students to pursue hands-on arts and crafts that currently do not exist on campus, including oil painting, clothing design, puppetry, and stained glass among others.

The brochure, along with additional information about the DIZ is located at