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Duany crits Koolhaas


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Thanks for the link, very interesting article. I have to admit that my appreciation for Duany is growing - not necessarily for his design work, but for his contributions to challenging the norms of modern developments.


Koolhaas is another story, but it's an interesting way to think about things. I still wish Eisenman had won, though.

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Seems like all the tech Uni's are going for high end architecture these times.... Thom Mayne still happy to actually build a school though....


[fontsize=10]Can Gehry get the techies out to play?


Architect's new MIT building has been designed to put some fun back into the stodgy institution



Associated Press

Saturday, May 8, 2004 - Page R21


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CAMBRIDGE, MASS. -- The Stata Center, the newest addition to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus in Cambridge, Mass., contains all the mysteries of a child's toy box: Open the top and a jumble of surprises tumbles out.


Walls lean and tilt like stacked building blocks. Pop-eyed windows and cylindrical outcroppings appear ready to roll loose. Alice-in-Wonderland balconies and walkways look out over high-tech research labs, and staircases seem suspended in air.


But the nearly $300-million (U.S.) building designed by renowned architect Frank O. Gehry is as much for work as play. MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, or CSAIL, and other departments moved in even as construction workers were adding the finishing touches.


University officials sought an unconventional design to help stir MIT's famous broth of creativity. They also wanted to attract top talent and banish MIT's reputation as a warren of dowdy buildings.


"We hope that it's going to be a building that will inspire people, make them think a little bit, and will frankly show a little bit of the audacity and fun we have at MIT, as well as the hard work we do," MIT president Charles M. Vest said.


Faculty have reacted to the building in ways uncharacteristic of MIT. CSAIL Director Rodney Brooks joked that "it's hard for a technologist to talk about it," but said researchers wanted to be in a place that makes the heart, not just the mind, soar. "I view it as a place to inspire people to do their research, to feel comfortable, to have amenities, to be part of campus, to connect back to the undergraduates," he said.


The campus long known for its innovative engineering work has not kept pace with modernity, Vest said. Faculty and students have toiled for decades in turn-of-the-century Beaux Arts buildings and drab utilitarian offices and labs.


About 15 years ago, school officials set out to change that with a master building plan. They demolished the beloved, Second World War-era Building 20, which housed the famous "rad lab" where radar was developed, to make room for the capstone project, the Stata Center.


Gehry, whose designs include the acclaimed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, and the new Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, said that even if critics believe the Stata Center is "a bit kooky," they'll find that it fits into the landscape of nearby MIT buildings.


"But it does take a step into another realm, of innovation, and a bit of a sense that it doesn't take itself so seriously, as some modernism does," he said. "It tends to have a sense of humour, and I think that is attractive these days -- I hope so anyway."


The massive 700,000-square-foot building is named for Analog Devices Inc. founder Ray Stata and his wife, Maria, who donated $25-million. Two towers that encircle and rise above its central public areas are named for two other major donors: Microsoft Corp. founder Bill Gates ($20-million), and investor Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. ($15-million).


The towers house labs and research "neighbourhoods" that straddle several floors, collectively called "the warehouse." Inside, a long arching corridor called "the student street" connects the towers and provides access to classrooms, lecture halls, a child-care centre and a café. Above the student street is the "town-centre" level, with a terrace, faculty dining room and a pub.


Not surprisingly, the building is wired to the hilt. Although MIT scaled back plans for interactive computing throughout the building -- intended as part of an existing undertaking called the Oxygen Project -- the centre is full of technological surprises, such as the "holodeck" where researchers hope to create 3-D virtual environments, reminiscent of Star Trek.


Natural light floods the building, and its toilets flush with collected rainwater.


Among the whimsical elements: "the nose," a rounded, silver-wrapped housing for a robotics lab; "the kiva," a bright yellow cylinder enclosing seminar space; and "pisa," a leaning building face.


Carol Burns, board member of the Boston Society of Architects and an adjunct MIT professor, said the building is "personally, not my cup of tea," but said it will likely be widely admired, as well as criticized.


"It represents for MIT a significant statement about their ambitions for the campus, and for buildings and spaces on the campus. I think that within the history of architecture, it's an important building," she said.


Originally intended to open more than a year ago, the centre's construction was slowed by a decision to add two levels of parking under the building as well as other new elements, such as the child-care centre. Costs soared because of the additions, and because competitive bidding suffered with so many of Boston's contractors involved with the massive Big Dig highway project.


Linguistics graduate student Raj Singh, 27, said the Stata Center is "full of surprises.


"Nothing looks the way it should look," he said. "It's sort of like a chess game. The more you get into it, the more surprises you find."[/fontsize]

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