Fumihiko Maki’s Media Lab officially opens
Described upon completion by Boston Globe reporter Robert Campbell as ‘the world’s most exquisite building’, the new Massachusettes Institute of Technology Media Lab has a lot to live up to as it opens its doors to the global media today. But the fact that the new 163,000 sq ft building has been designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect, Fumihiko Maki can’t hurt.
Challenged to create a building to expand the capabilities for the Institute's unorthodox research methods, Maki's task was made all the more daunting by the new Media Lab's physical connection as an addition to the existing Wiesner Building, designed by MIT alumnus and fellow Pritzker prize winner I. M. Pei in 1985. All eyes on the task at hand.
MIT's Media Lab was founded in 1985 with a remit of conducting unorthodox research to envision the impact of emerging technologies on everyday life. For a building with a loaded agenda to house the List Visual Arts Center, the School of Architecture + Planning's Design Lab and Center for Advanced Visual Studies, the Department of Architecture's Visual Arts Program, MIT's Program in Comparative Media Studies and the new Okawa Center for Future Children, the six storey building maintains a generously spacious appearance. The floors are divided according to purpose around a two part atrium. The lower four floor-height atrium to the exterior of the building provides public exhibition space while the internal upper atrium rising at the third and fourth floors doubles as social space for the occupants within.
Consequential to its purpose, the new building's lab space is integral. Seven dual-level labs face each other across the atrium in a staggered configuration, allowing the Labs' 30 cross-discipline research groups to work atelier style conducting more than 400 projects.
7 conference rooms are housed on the lower 5 levels, with an additional 2,500 sq ft conference room on the sixth level event space. As well as the conference room, the top floor event space boasts a 100-seat theater, 3,500-square-foot multipurpose space for exhibitions, demos or meetings, a 3,500 sq ft reception and dining area and a catering kitchen. Further coffee areas are spread throughout the building.
The new building is just one part of the Media Lab’s brimming portfolio of building projects by MIT over the past decade, drawing on some of the greatest architectural talent to add over 1 million sq ft to the Cambridge campus, including Charles Correa, Frank Gehry, Steven Holl and Kevin Roche. Already lavished in praise by the Boston press, the press opening today will show the true metal of Maki's design.
Niki May Young