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Empty Plinths Make MIT Distinctive

Lobby 7 is already a beautiful architectural space, to which the apparently empty plinths (waiting for the viewer’s imagination, or the viewer’s person, to fill them in) contribute greatly. Putting in statues, even classical ones in keeping with the Roman feeling of the lobby, would detract from the effect; worse yet would be inserting artwork so trendily contemporary as to turn one of the main entrances to the Institute into a permanent display of one decade’s taste.

I admit that MIT has been fortunate in most of its sculptural choices for the last century, acquiring works of permanent value like the Calder stabile and navigating well the transition from Edwardian classicism to midcentury abstraction and beyond. Unfortunately, over the last twenty years an increasing ostentation has been manifesting itself, as much in the concealment of infrastructure and prettifying of rugged interior spaces as in more spectacular follies. One cannot help observing that this trend has coincided with a period of bad financial investments by the Institute and an erosion of its distinctiveness.

Instead of filling the empty plinths, perhaps an effort should be made to conserve one of the finest and least-known artworks on display in Greater Boston: the mural diptych in the hallway leading to Building 14. This (so far as I know) anonymous work draws a remarkable and unexpected parallel between two well-known myths of great relevance to science, and has far more to do with the ethos and mission of MIT than most of the better-known pieces around campus.

Norman Hugh Redington

The Net Advance of Physics