Last Friday, MIT opened the doors on it’s newest big budget building, a spacious complex for the MIT Media Lab. Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki Associates, with project architect Leers Weinzapfel Associates, it’s a departure from some of the bold experiments scattered around the campus, by starchitects such as Steven Holl or Frank Gehry. It’s a fairly straight-laced building, designed to inspire collaboration.
At six stories and 163,000 square feet, occupants shouldn’t be squeezed for space anytime soon. The labs–ranging from the Tangible Media group, which focuses in interaction design; to the City Car project, which is designing on-demand transit systems; to Lifelong Kindergarten, which designs educational technology–each get big, wide-open, two-story studios. The architect dubs these “atelier style” spaces–that is, something as airy as a factory floor, but a bit more human scaled.
But the design’s smartest features are quiet. The building is organized across a huge central atrium. But on either side of the atrium, the floors are offset. That simple detail means that denizens can look across the atrium, and see those from other labs, busy at work. The idea is that by making the community always visible, the architecture will be able to engender a cross-pollination of ideas. Here’s a picture that hints at the effect, via Dwell:
Meanwhile, the few splashes of color are reserved for the atrium’s staircases–and the specific color scheme is borrowed from Piet Mondrian. (It also nods to the colors in IM Pei’s original MIT Media Lab building, which is attached to the new one.)
Notice how the stairs are bowed out in the middle–they’re actually an infographic of sorts, showing the stress loads borne by each section of the span: