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Students, Faculty Should Have Designed Stata

A recently released Boston Globe article regarding MIT filing a lawsuit against the architect of the Stata Center is very troubling, at least from my perspective as a member of the student body. Anyone who has lived in a climate similar to New England’s could have predicted the problems with snow, ice, and rain that have plagued the building.

According to the article, “MIT paid Los Angeles-based Gehry Partners $15 million to design the Stata Center.” This brings us to my first concern, which has to do with MIT paying a significant sum of money in exchange for design work by an outside organization. MIT is one of the top-ranked schools in the world when it comes to engineering, design, and architecture. Why do we need to look anywhere other than our own students and professors in order to find people capable of implementing a project such as this? MIT’s goal, according to the lawsuit, was to “catalyze interactions and innovations among MIT’s faculty and students in computing, information science, artificial intelligence, and linguistics and philosophy.”

This further reinforces my point: if MIT truly wanted to “catalyze interactions and innovations among [its] faculty and students,” one of the best ways to potentially do so would be to allow the students and faculty to work together to design the building. A design competition is the first thing that comes to my mind, and I am sure others could think of other options to consider. One further possibility includes a plethora of UROP students working on the project together with faculty and the MIT administration.

I believe that if it was truly desired by all, then a building that is not only designed to catalyze interactions between its occupants, but also interactions among members of the population working to design it, is a more than achievable goal. A project such as this has the potential to bring together the MIT community as a whole, and the possibilities for growth and learning for everyone involved are worth more than $15 million.

I hope that we can learn from our experiences with the Stata Center, and I hope that MIT in the future first asks (and pays) its own to design our next building! In fact, could we not start allocating the money needed to design fixes to the building? I believe that hiring our own faculty and students to fix the building’s design will yield opportunities for research, UROPs, class projects, and maybe even a few theses.

Alexander H. Slocum ’08