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The Lobby 7 Design Competition and the Empty Plinths

The public face of MIT is 77 Massachusetts Avenue. The building, with its imposing Ionic porch and lofty interior, is not only an architectural landmark in its own right, but also the gateway into the world of MIT. The lobby — officially titled the William Barton Rogers Lobby, but more popularly called Lobby 7 — was designed in 1939 by William Welles Bosworth as the culminating element of the campus that he designed and that was built in 1916. Ever since the completion of Lobby 7, the four plinths that define the corners of the great rotunda have remained empty. They were originally intended as bases celebrating Aristotle, Ictinus, Archimedes, and Callicrates.

The student competition is to elicit and present designs for filling the four Lobby 7 plinths. Designs are to be created in the spirit of MIT’s official creed “mens et manus.” They should also celebrate the past, present, and future spirit of MIT innovation.

There is no expectation that any of the winning entries will be built. There is no plan to remove or alter the plinths in any way. This is an opportunity for students to bring into visual form their understanding of MIT and how it could be represented to the world.

There will be two sections of student entrants: graduate and undergraduate. Each section will have its own set of prizes: $10,000 for first, $2,500 for second, and $1,000 for third. The public announcement and official opening of the competition will be on Friday, May 7, 2010. Winners will be announced on April 15, 2011. The Lobby 7 Design Competition is part of the MIT150 Celebration.

— Mark Jarzombek

Associate Dean

School of Architecture and Planning