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Exhibit review: Undergrad Talent Shines in Architecture Exhibition

Second Floor of Student Center Transformed into Impressive Gallery

By Jillian Berry
ARTS EDITOR


Process of Designing

MIT Undergraduate Architectural Design Program

Wiesner Student Art Gallery

Sept. 8 - Oct. 7

MIT’s architecture department has created a new undergraduate design program that will begin this year. To mark the occasion, the department is showing off some of the pieces produced by undergraduate students over the past year in their exhibit, “Process of Designing”. Armed with this idea, Rebecca Luther, a lecturer in the department, was delegated the task of designing and coordinating the exhibit on the second floor of the Student Center (with the help of Christopher Dewart). The exhibit opened this past weekend and will run for a month.

“Process of Designing” transformed the bare area on the second floor between the Lobdell dining area and the lounge from a tired and empty room to a lively space of ideas. Luther recounted that “the space to begin with was not very inspiring,” but “undergraduates are so full of energy that [she knew] they could energize the space”. With a little paint and a lot of imagination, they were successful in their revitalization. Even though the gallery is a relatively small area, the creators of the exhibit display many pieces of original design without making the space feel either overwhelming or cramped. They also installed a slideshow offering pictures and quotes related to architecture, such as “Architecture is not a science, nor is it truly an art; it is more nearly a value structure.”

While the design of the space is pleasing, the focal point of the exhibit is the students’ architectural works. Most pieces are grouped together based on the class for which they were designed, with multiple students’ projects representing each class. This provided a fascinating way to compare multiple interpretations of the same assignment. For example, there are two prominent designs for an “MIT Visiting Arts Pavilion.” One, by Jihee Han ’08 is a modern building with sharp angles and overhanging roofs that interweave indoor and outdoor, as well as public and private, spaces. The other model, by Yuliya D. Bentcheva ’08, employs partial walls, using vertical wood slats to separate private and public spaces. If the works were separated by student, you would not be able to distinguish each composition in the same way, and some of the subtle (and not so subtle) differences in design would be lost.

All of the works were impressive and distinct, with pieces ranging from a chair to a Community Care HIV Center in Zambia to a design for the Charlestown Navy Yard. In addition, nearly every piece had a corresponding poster which showed various computer models of the designs showing the structure in its intended setting. These posters helped me to visualize the intended use of the facility and its interactions with existing structures.

A few of the pieces really stood out, including a chair created by Noel R. Davis ’06. Entitled “CNC Routed Sheet Good Chair,” the wood for the piece was cut and assembled in two hours at a cost of $18.88 (and it looked pretty comfortable).

Impressive also were two designs meant to wrap around the Boston University bridge, by Timothy D. Koch ’07 and Jenna L. Fizel ’07, of the “Scholars Community + Theater”. Again, their juxtaposition with each other is nearly as interesting as the actual designs; Koch based his design on multiple, gravity-defying, “triangular” protrusions, while Fizel employed large sheets of flowing copper in her piece.

Caitlin T. Mueller ’07 showed “Two If By Sea: Ferry Terminal” (which at the very least deserves the honor of best title), a design for the Charlestown Navy Yard ferry terminal that is cutting-edge, yet traditional enough to possibly exist. The white steel and glass structure looks as though it is floating over the water, with terminal and water each enhancing the beauty of the other.

Weifeng Victoria Lee, ’06 excelled in her design for a North End Community Center, entitled “A Spatial Exchange of History; A Spatial History of Exchange.” The design is complicated, weaving around and up existing buildings and pulling them together. Like the Stata Center, no two places give you the same view, although for that reason, it is difficult to piece together all the parts of the structure.

Finally, I must mention Diane Lee ’07, whose design for a North End Rooftop House features a unique structure that bends around the building.

All of the works in this small exhibit are built to impress — they form a display of the amazing talent of MIT’s undergraduate architecture students. The space is small, but full of brilliance: stop by the second floor of the Student Center and see for yourself!