Page D3.1 . 07 July 2010                     
ArchitectureWeek - Design Department
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Maki's MIT Media Lab

by James McCown

For an academic unit that produces such forward-thinking projects as electronic ink, humanoid robots, and a digital opera, one might expect an edgy, geometrically wild building by Zaha Hadid or Coop Himmelb(l)au. But for the new building for the MIT Media Lab, Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki designed a serene example of classic modernism — a glass-and-steel form wrapped in an elegant aluminum screen.

This structure, Building E14, stands at the heart of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, linked to the adjacent Wiesner Building (1984) by I.M. Pei. The two buildings form an integrated home for the Media Lab and other programs in the School of Architecture + Planning.

Cubes with a View

Maki designed the new building, in association with Leers Weinzapfel Associates of Boston, to foster the Media Lab's hallmark cross-disciplinary research.

A large room in Wiesner known informally as "The Cube" became the spatial prototype for the new six-story, 163,000-square-foot (15,100-square-meter) structure.

Maki arrayed seven double-height research "cubes" around a central atrium. Home to research groups such as Tangible Media and Lifelong Kindergarten, these lab spaces are vertically staggered such that no two labs share a continuous floor plate, creating a complex section.   >>>

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Fumihiko Maki designed the new six-story building at the MIT Media Lab Complex in Cambridge Massachusetts, with Leers Weinzapfel Associates as executive architect.
Photo: Courtesy Andy Ryan Extra Large Image

ArchWeek Image

Large, multistory volumes define the new Media Lab building interiors. Separated by narrow bands of single-story circulation and other support spaces, these large volumes are staggered between building floors, producing a sense of spatial variety within a relatively conservative building plan.
Photo: Courtesy Andy Ryan Extra Large Image


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