Wasserman Contemporary Art Forum MIT 2004: The University as Patron of Cutting-Edge Architecture

Wasserman Contemporary Art Forum MIT 2004: The University as Patron of Cutting-Edge Architecture


[LOGO MUSIC] FARBER: Good morning. Hello. We were just waiting
for some people to come over from the
overflow simulcast, but I think we’ll
go ahead and begin. Good morning again. My name is Jane Farber. I’m the director of the List
Visual Arts Center here at MIT, and it’s my very great
pleasure to welcome you to the List Center’s
annual Max Wasserman Forum on Contemporary Art. As you know, this year’s topic
is “The University as Patron of Cutting-Edge Architecture.” Just a few words about
the forum– the annual Max Wasserman Forum on
Contemporary Art was established in memory
of Max Wasserman, who was an MIT class of 1935
and who was a founding member of the MIT
Council for the Arts. This public forum
addresses critical issues in contemporary art and culture
through the participation of renowned scholars, artists,
and arts professionals. We are extremely grateful
to Jeanne Wasserman for her continued generous
support of this project and for being such an
absolutely superb member of our advisory council. Thank you so much,
Jeanne, for everything. [APPLAUSE] And thank you to Peter
Wasserman too for all of your help with this year’s
forum and also to the members of the Wasserman
Forum Committee– Jennie [? Frucci, ?] Bill
Arning, Andrea Miller Keller, Jerry Friedman, Dorothy and
Roy Levine, Marjorie Jacobson, and special thanks also to
Allen Brody, Associate Provost for the Arts, here at MIT. I think I just changed
somebody’s screen. Sorry. Also I would like to especially
thank William Jay Mitchell, who is the Academic Head of
Media Arts and Sciences here at MIT for his generous
collaboration with us on this project. It wouldn’t have been
possible without him. And I must give my very,
very sincere thanks to the List Center’s staff. They’ve just done an
amazing job on this project, and I’d like to
recognize especially David Frylock, Bill Arning,
[INAUDIBLE] Kikuchi, Barbara Pine, and Camillo Alvarez, as
well as the many volunteers, all these nice people
in yellow t-shirts, who have given their time to
help this happen this morning. Before I introduce our
forum participants, I’d like to make just a few
brief more announcements. There will not be a reception
following this event, but at 4:00 PM today at
Simmons Hall on Vassar Street. There will be the
dedication of a new work by Dan Graham in
Simmons Hall, and we would like to
invite you all to be present for the dedication
of his Yin/Yang Pavilion. So a campus map is
included in your package. Whoops. It looks like this, and
Simmons is marked there with a red number 2,
so you can find it. And we hope you’ll use
this map in the interim to guide you around
campus, if you’d like to see some of the
other public art and projects on campus. And also on the back, there
is a list of restaurants, if you would like to
have lunch in the area. So we hope you’ll
find that helpful. And I’m sure many of you want
to take a tour of Frank Gehry’s Stata Center. And you can do this at
an open house on May 24. Please go to the web at
mit.edu/evolving/ for more information on that. And tours of Steven
Hall’s Simmons Hall can be arranged
through Simmons Hall, so you need to email
a request for a tour to [email protected] The people in the
yellow t-shirts can give you this
information if you missed it. And also we hope
you’ll have a chance to visit the List Center at 20
Ames Street, as there are two remarkable exhibitions currently
on there, Marjetica Potrc’s “Urgent Architecture,”
and the first US solo show of Warsaw-based
artist, [INAUDIBLE].. And on view and
in our Media Test Wall is Amy Globus’
video, electric sheep. This lecture is being
recorded for archival purposes and will be webcast on
the MIT world website. So if you missed
something today, you can revisit the forum at
the website in the future. We apologize to the
many whom we’re not able to accommodate
in this auditorium, and hello to those
of you watching the simulcast in 10-250. We appreciate your patience
and your understanding. And finally, we’re very lucky
that the remarkable individuals who are here today were able
to take time out of their very busy schedules to be with us. So they will need to leave
the auditorium immediately after the forum. So we regret that they
won’t be able to stay around and converse with you. We hope you’ll understand. Finally, I truly regret
to inform you that there’s a change in today’s forum. Steven Holl has back trouble
and will not be able to join us. We’re very, very disappointed. He had hoped he would
be able to come, but after an MRI and
the doctor’s advice, he wasn’t able to join us. So we wish him well and
hope he’s well soon, and we’re very sorry that
he can’t be here today. But we have wonderful
participants today. Our participants are architects
Frank Gehry and Robert Venturi, architectural historians and
theoreticians James Ackerman, Kimberly Alexander, and Kyong
Park, MIT President Charles Vest, Executive President John
Curry, and William Mitchell, who is head of the
program in Media and Arts and Sciences at MIT. He will be serving as moderator. If I can just give you some
brief biographical information about our panelists,
then we can begin. James Ackerman is an
architectural historian and the 2001 winner of the
prestigious Balzan Prize for History of Architecture. His work Palladio has
had immense influence due to its innovative way
of examining patronage and the role of the
works commissioner in creating cultural
significance for architecture. James Ackerman’s
talk will provide context for the
forum’s discussion of current university
buildings within a historical perspective. Kimberly Alexander is an
architectural historian who blends social history
perspective in her work with the built environment. She was the first curator
of architecture and design at MIT, a post that she held
for 10 years, during which she organized significant
exhibitions on MIT’s great buildings, such as Alvar
Aalto’s Baker House and William Welles Bosworth’s 1916
master MIT campus plan. She will discuss
MIT’s particular role as a patron of architecture. Frank Gehry, as I’m
sure you all know, is the designer of MIT’s new
Ray and Marie Stata Center as well as the
Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles,
the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, and many, many others. His buildings have received over
100 national and regional AIA awards, including the Pritzker
Architecture Prize in 1989, the premiere accolade
of the field, and many more too
numerous to mention. William J. Mitchell
is Academic Head of Media Arts and
Sciences and Professor of Architecture in Media Arts. And he was the former Dean
of Architecture at MIT. He also serves as
Architectural Advisor to the President of MIT. His recent publications
include Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Network
City, e-topia: Urban Life, Jim– But Not As We Know
It, and City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn. Robert Venturi’s extension
commissions, as well as his teaching, advising,
writing, and lectures, have received national and
international attention. His major campus
buildings include five at Princeton University,
three at Dartmouth, and five at the University
of Pennsylvania. Robert Venturi’s
numerous awards include the Republic of
Italy’s Commendatore of the Order of Merit. He’s gotten the Presidential
National Medal for the Arts, and he also was a recipient
of the prestigious Pritzker Architecture Prize. Charles Vest has been
president of MIT since 1990. He holds degrees from
West Virginia University, the University of Michigan. He chairs the US Department of
Energy Task Force on the Future of Science Programs. And he’s the Vice Chair of
the Council on Competitiveness and the past chair
of the Association of American Universities. And he’s now serving as a
member of the Commission of the Intelligence Capabilities
of the United States Regarding Weapons
of Mass Destruction. He’s also leaving
us, so we are truly sad about that,
because he’s been a fabulous, fabulous president. Respondents for today are MIT
Executive Vice President John Curry and artist, curator,
and architectural theoretician Kyong Park. John Curry, MIT
Executive Vice President, was formerly Vice President
for Business and Finance and Chief Financial
Officer at the California Institute of Technology. He was also administrative Vice
Chancellor and Chief Financial Officer of the University of
California in Los Angeles. He’s authored numerous
articles on academic finances and management,
and he’s a trustee of the National Association
of Colleges and University Business Officers and a trustee
and chair of the Finance Committee of the College Board. Kyong Park is my friend
and founder-director of the International Center
for Urban Ecology in Detroit and New York City. And he was the founding director
of the Storefront for Art and Architecture in New York. He was also commissioner for
the international section of the Kwangju Biennale
in Korea in 1997, where he organized a wonderful
architectural show called “Images of the Future:
The Architecture of a New Geography.” Finally, there will be
a 15-minute intermission following President
Vest’s presentation. So without further ado,
if you would join me in welcoming James
Ackerman, who will make our first presentation. [APPLAUSE] ACKERMAN: May I
remove the PowerPoint? Could I get the
PowerPoint out of the way, because I have to
put my notes down. I’d like somebody else to do it. Good morning. I’m honored to be initiating
this very promising colloquium, and I want to add to the
expressions of thanks that were delivered by the
director of the List Center my own warm feelings of
gratitude towards Jeanne Wasserman, who’s been
a colleague of mine over many years. My talk is divided
into two parts. The first part has to do with
the organization of university environments, and
the second address is the growth of the
phenomenon of what might be called the
signature building, which is the primary subject
of the discussion today. Here we see together an instance
of early campus organization in the late 17th and
early 18th century. We have William and Mary on the
left and Harvard on the right. Let me emphasize that these were
colleges with very limited aims at the beginning. It was characteristic in
early building of the kind to join together
residents with classrooms and other functions
of the college. And in both of these
cases, the project was conceived in a U form,
which was by no means generally characteristic. For example, at
Dartmouth College, in this print around
1850, all the building were strung out in
a line in a rise above the common of Hanover. And the same thing was
true of Yale University– Yale College at the time– which was on the New
Haven common ground just stretched out in a
line worked out by Trumbull, who was the university
advisor of the time. It was not very much later– that is, in the beginning
of the 19th century– that conceptions of the college
as an organized organism began to take place. On the right you
have Union College, which was designed by the
French-American architect Ramée in 1813 and conceived as you
see it here with a central focal building and others around it. Now, the focal building
of these days, I think, was different from the
kind that we’re going to be talking about today. It was an urbanistic
event, and in fact one of Jefferson’s Virginia on
the left was very much like Ramée’s conception. It was a round building
with a portico in front, a kind of Pantheon recollection. And the Ramée scheme is
interesting in that this very rigid French type of
organization was surrounded by a picturesque English garden. So there was always a kind of
eclecticism in the conception of the American campus. I don’t know whether the choice
of Ramée was due to a desire to suggest the kind of
Greco-Roman background. The ideology of campus planning
really developed later. Jefferson had a very clear idea
of what a university should be. He put the different disciplines
in different pavilions– as you can see on the right. The library is the
building on the far left, and these pavilions that
are joined by porticoes, the pavilions on either
side, were places where the discipline was– each discipline
had a professor who lived upstairs in the
pavilion, and the students were downstairs. This was partly to distinguish
the intellectual environment in this way and partly
for crowd control. The professor was supposed
to be able to take care of the students who were living
in the porticoes underneath and keep them from
rioting, which was a very characteristic thing
for students to do at the time. Now I can’t see my notes. Anyway, I think I know
what I’m going to say. So each of these pavilions had
a different architectural style, and it was Jefferson’s idea
that the style of the building would teach architectural
students about the history of architecture. It was rather a ditzy idea. One of them is taken out
of Palladio’s Four Books on Architecture. So that was interesting to me. Now, after the
classical start, we have a plan for the
Michigan University of 1838, which you see on the right by
Alexander Jackson Davis, who did universities a lot. He was perhaps the
first architect to be continuously hired by
universities, NYU among them, and could change styles at will. Here is the Gothic plan
for the university, which envisioned the single
building at the start where a whole environment
that could be developed later. That was not accepted, and
the actual Michigan campus looked the way it does on
the right here in 1850, which was the same thing as
Dartmouth and Yale, just a string of buildings. Now, the next stage was
in the later 19th century, and there’s a big
change at that time. For example, you
see here on the left the College of New Jersey,
which in 1896 became Princeton. And it followed the idea of
their most famous president, Woodrow Wilson, that it be
a place, quote, “to those who would learn and be
with their own thoughts.” And so it was isolated
from its environment with a cloistered system. Of the right, you
see a design in 1890 for the University of Chicago. And here the Gothic
dominates also. This is undoubtedly
because of the thought that the Gothic period was one
of contemplation and enrichment in the model of the
English university. Now, we’re in the
1890s, and at that time, these colleges increasingly
developed into universities. That meant a great deal
of physical diversity. The buildings had to
serve different purposes, and at the same time as
some of the establishments were being done in a very
highly organized way, others began to have
to build buildings that didn’t fit the plan
because they had new functions. Rockefeller was
behind the funding for the University of Chicago
which you see on the right. In the late 19th century,
the issue of styles became very important because
the style of the architecture was intended to express
a particular attitude towards learning. For example, Princeton
was bitten by anglophilia at this point,
and it was largely an Episcopalian organization. So the attachment to the
British college environment of cloisters was very strong,
imitating Oxford and Cambridge. The display is one
of monkish learning and closed from the community. I didn’t intend to find
such an unrevealing slide as the one on the left. But when I did, I
thought, that does show the relationship of the
university to the community. [LAUGHTER] Now, at the same time, Columbia
in the mid ’90s turned towards the classical, driven
by, on the one hand, the Beaux-Arts background
of leading architecture at the time– this was [INAUDIBLE] and
White and, on the other hand, by new attitudes
toward learning. This was the start of
the elective system, and there was an enlightenment
background rather than the cloister as the model. And the same, of course, was
true much later on at MIT, as I think you’ll hear shortly. And finally, the last
stage in the planning of the American campus– for reasons of time, I’m
leaving Stanford University out of the picture, because
it’s eccentric with relation to the respite– Illinois Institute of
Technology dates from 1939 and designed by
Mies van der Rohe. And the ideology
of modernism now supplants that of
historical association with an attempt to get
away from this attachment to particular
historical background. And his original
plan was continued in later construction. And I want you to note that the
organization of the buildings are quite different
from the style. The style is
absolutely modernist. The organization is
quite classical– The central axis, the
buildings that go off forever. It’s a kind of a
conception that’s very hard to add on to
in the casual way that occurred in other places. Now, the second part of
what I want to speak about is the the individual building. The beginning of turning
to architects because of an interest in their own
mode of expression, I would say, came with Seaver Hall
at Harvard in 1878. Harvard also has the
University Hall by Bulfinch, but that was a fit-in building. This is a fit-out building. These are increments which are
related to academic innovation. This is the first classroom– all-classroom
building of importance in the American tradition. So we’re getting one
building at a time now. And the new buildings are
either anonymous or seeking to blend into the background,
or they stand out because of architectural distinction. And the realization of this goal
required employing architects and willing to give
them substantial leeway in developing design. And now coming out to
more recent times I’m sure you all can recall a
number of instances of what might be
called signature buildings in different
university settings– on the left, what they call
The Whale in Yale University, a hockey rink designed by
Eero Saarinen on the right. Richards Laboratory at the
University of Pennsylvania, 1958, which you see
here by Louis Kahn. The Saarinen building
is, I think, 1953. The same is true
of the dormitory by Aalto at MIT, although
that does fit better than most of these, and the
Carpenter Center at Harvard, which fits less
than most of these. Now, finally, there’s a
very interesting phenomenon that when Illinois
Tech had to grow and a new architect of
repute came into the picture, the original conception
was so strong there that even a very far-out
architect like Rem Koolhaas fit into it in part of his
conception and out of it in another part. But this building which I
haven’t seen in the flesh seems to be representative
of the tension that I’ve been speaking about. So let’s ask the
questions which I’m sure will be discussed
in the panel about what’s behind the signature building. First of all, fundraising is an
important element, the patron demanding distinction
rather than blending in. And there’s commonly,
really since the beginning of this century, an
abandonment of a link between a philosophy
of education and its embodiment
in a historic style. So the style then becomes
independent of the theory. A signature building
is a feather in the cap of the university. Striking buildings attract
attention and publicity and give a desirable impact
on potential applicants to the university,
and seems to express up-to-dateness and modernity. And finally, in earlier
times, while skilled purveyors of Gothic and
classical styles that might have been the
same people were often the most qualified for the
job, today the most qualified bring with them bold,
though often exceedingly costly and sometimes unworkable,
individualized proposals. Last of all,
architects’ reputations are based on his
or her singularity. The university purchases a
distinctive style as much as the skill and executive
ability of the designer. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] ALEXANDER: That’s not
the way I want to start. Great. Thank you. Good morning, everybody. I knew as soon as I saw the
laptop go off the podium, it’s going to be a rough start. Good morning. Architecture may be
called the prose, as sculpture and painting
are the poetry of art. Its first principles are
truthfulness, good sense, perspicuity, considerations of
method, order, form, clearness, precision, and sobriety, are
what make a good working style, both in writing and in building. So said William Robert
Ware, the founder of MIT’s Department of
Architecture to William Barton Rogers in 1865 as he stood
on the brink of inaugurating their new program. In a constructive place,
as artists and scholars as diverse as Eudora
Welty to Simon Schama, even to William
Ware have observed, exerts both the most mundane
and the most powerful influences on our sense of experience,
of memory, and of myth. The power of place
and the ability to create a sense of
place through identity is what gives the study of
architecture its driving force. Today I’d like to
offer some thoughts about the particular
opportunities that the building of MIT provided, both the
challenges and the things that fostered a shared sense of place
throughout American culture at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. The architecture that
has defined MIT’s campus through a century
and a half has been the embodiment of the vision
of its founders of 1861. These builders of
structures and institutions were cognizant of the
educational design on which they embarked, and
that was itself an experiment. They were sensitive to the ways
in which their efforts would be recognized and scrutinized
in the public sphere. Through war and peace,
prosperity and depression, achievement and crisis,
conquest and calamity, this architecture
has been designed to represent a progressive,
innovative, and yet eminently practical vision of what
an institute could be. The philosophy
and mission of MIT have been reflected in
an unparalleled melding of architecture and pedagogy,
and despite occasional lapses and nuances, this vision
and its representation, whether it be in built
architecture and curriculum, has been remarkable for
a constancy of thought. MIT’s campus architecture is
a progressive and innovative embodiment of the
goals, principles, and vision of the Institute,
although these goals and objectives have changed
and evolved over the years, as they continue to do today. William Barton Rogers
and the founders in 1861 were extremely aware of
this experiment at hand. And I show you here
two views of the Rogers Building in Boston’s Back Bay. The building in the
foreground was the building of the natural history
on the top screen, and on the far portion
of the upper screen was the MIT building,
the tech building. The first physical
manifestation of MIT, an expression of its
informing principles, may be seen in this building. This represented
what was considered the high style of the
day at mid 19th century, with its French academic
character, detail, and flourish. Whoops. Significantly for
its contribution to the public sphere,
MIT’s founders were able to cite their
inaugural edifice boldly within the cusp of a much
larger experiment which was the shape of shaping
a public space, which was the creation of
Boston’s Back Bay. Allying themselves with the
Society for Natural History, the founders had petitioned
the Massachusetts legislature for a grant of land, a
request which the legislature eventually conceded. Furthermore, not
only the physical act of filling the Back Bay was
an important achievement, but also following
the grand scheme loosely that Baron von
Haussmann had evolved for Paris. Elegant public buildings,
wide boulevards, mandated height and
building setbacks signaled Bostonians’ aspirations
to be ranked among the community
of civilized nations. Even the drawings for
the Rogers Building were sent home from Paris, where
the architect William Gibbons Preston was studying
at that time. Transcending its
elegant appointment, the Rogers Building
was consonant with the very practical
needs of the Institute and was highly functional–
classrooms, libraries, laboratories, museums,
offices, and so on. In short, it was an ideal
building in an ideal location to carry out ambitious,
post-Civil War educational goals in the initial
departments of chemistry, physics, engineering,
mathematics, and architecture. It’s interesting in terms of the
design of the Rogers Building that it was so based on
French prototypes that was prophetic in
terms of the teaching in the department
for many years. In 1872, MIT brought in
the first French professor to teach architecture in
the person of Eugene Letang. And this French influence of
the École des Beaux-Arts would continue into the 1920s and
’30s, all the way up through Jacques Carlu, and to a lesser
extent, Lawrence B. Anderson. I’m showing you here
Frenchman Désiré Despradelle– who has one of the most
interesting monikers when you read it as an American, of
constant desire, Despradelle– quite an interesting character
who inspired his students in very new ways. In his building right
across from what was the Technology Building,
the Berkeley Building. The role that the
Architecture Department also played in the shaping
of core values is one I will touch on
today for their times throughout the history
of the Institute when the faculty and
students in the department play significant
roles in shaping the campus in its ideology. That Rogers envisioned
architecture as one of the
original departments is clear in his
original scope and plan. He brought in the
young dedicated William Robert Ware, who I
show you here, left, in a toga at a party of George
Post House in 1885, and one of his buildings in
the Back Bay, the First Church. Ware would go on to found the
Department of Architecture at Columbia as well. While Ware turned to the École
des Beaux-Arts for a well-honed time-honored system
of instruction, he visited numerous
practitioners throughout Europe and spent a particularly
productive time in England, bringing back drawings
of models and photographs for the fledgling Architectural
Museum, another first. I show you here images
that Ware collected abroad from English
practitioners on the top, and down below one of
the drafting rooms. The idea here was that the
instruction was practical but also visual and
very, very tactile, and by being surrounded by these
objects and artifacts, that would become a way
for you to learn. There was also a very strong
sense in Ware’s pedagogy that it was a way of
elevating public taste and public education. Many of the students– this
was a land grant college, if you’ll recall– he felt would never get
to travel to Europe. So instead he tried to
bring the whole of Europe back to his students. So the Rogers Building,
then, was a paradigm of progress and new vision. It was a school of
technology and science, as opposed to a
school of agriculture. The location of the building
also signaled a new vision– it was the latest design
being sent from Paris. There was numerous firsts
associated with it. It was young, it
was progressive, the faculty was well
trained and well educated. There was a focus on physical
as well as mental rigor, and of course, what we
hear so many times at MIT, learn by doing. By the late 1880s and
1890s, it was very clear that this experiment
had been a success. And MIT had long outgrown its
original campus buildings. There wasn’t a campus there. There was no more
room for expansion. The Back Bay had
become very crowded. And the Institute began
looking for a new home. This time, the
Institute chose an area that was not currently
under major development and moved to the
riverside in Cambridge. The chance for
the new technology to fulfill the vision of
Rogers and the founders was seen as inextricably linked
with this particular site. I’m showing you here a view,
again by Désiré Despradelle, the Frenchman, because
there were certain things and qualities in this initial
design that carried through many subsequent designs. This was complete about 1912,
just before Despradelle died. But I’d like you
to see, obviously, the strong axial plan,
the Beaux-Arts symmetry. But one interesting thing
that follows through with Despradelle is
the connected aspect of the buildings,
and that’s something that we’ll see happening
over and over and over again. A sub-theme that could
have been developed today also in terms of patronage
were the various squabbles that continued throughout
the various buildings. As late as the 1920s
and ’30s, we still have architects who came up
with designs and engineers who felt that they were not
rewarded for their efforts on behalf of the Institute. And the letters in the Institute
Archives speak well to that. So if you think of Cambridge
and the new technology as a fulfillment of Rogers’
and others’ vision– and now, of course,
the Institute is headed by Richard McLaren– you get a sense– I’d like to take a
little shift here– a sense of the public
palpable excitement over the new building,
or the new buildings. In 1920– I took a scan through
about five different tour guides and tourist brochures
that were completed. And there was such a palpable
sense of pride and excitement over the new technology. And you see it everywhere. Everyone was using, everyone
was talking about it. And as one of the guides
quite simply states, the Tech is simply
the best in its field. This is 60 years after
founding, which I think is an impressive amount– impressive thing to accomplish
in such a short time. Not bad for a small, modest
land grant college at its start. For its next venture,
the Institute selected one of its own,
William Welles Bosworth. Bosworth was an alarm. He’d studied in Paris. And I think that’s
another theme that carries the early
years of the Institute is that the architects
were either faculty or former students. And so the Institute had a
pattern of going to its own to help it further its vision. So there’s this very
strong intertwining of the teaching system coming
back and then influencing the architecture. Now, I think at first
glance you might feel that there is a bit
of a pedestrian quality to the classicism of
Bosworth’s scheme. But it ended up being a very,
very influential design. We’ve already seen some
elements of classicism. This is a return to classicism. I think in some
ways you can think of it as a return to normalcy
after the horrors of World War I, something that MIT was
thinking more and more about and would continue to think
more about as we reached into the World War II period. Also, it embraced a number
of new technologies. Some of my favorite
visions of this building are where you have railroad– and I should say
of Killian Court– where you have
railroad cars, spurs bringing in supplies,
right next to horse and donkeys with carts. So there’s this sort of
changeover going in terms of transition and technology. Ultimately on Mass
Ave, Building 7, had poured in place
concrete, factory sash metal windows, so that
you have, again, sort of a tension between
the actual architecture and the creation of that. The Great Court and Rotunda
was dedicated in 1916, with additions made
through the 1930s when 77 Mass Ave finally opened. In another aside, the
Architecture Department was actually the last one
to move to the Mass Ave address, remaining holed
up in the old Rogers building with their
French Beaux-Arts drawings and medieval sculpture,
something which made the Institute
realize it was high time to get them into Cambridge. The first building to break
with the Bosworth axial plan– again, we turn to student and
faculty member Lawrence B. Anderson, working with
Herbert Beckwith in 1929 with a swimming pool. And I’m showing you two views. For those of you
who are familiar with the swimming pool
and you see the new Stata Center behind the
pool, you’ll notice how much the disposition of this
building has, in fact, changed. But it was quite, again, a
very important moment for MIT, not only in terms of breaking
with the original master plan, but also because of what it
said about the importance of physical and athleticism
to the student body this time. There were great many thoughts
going on about how do we keep not only the mind healthy
but the body healthy, and the swimming pool
was one of those. If the new technology was
fulfillment of vision, the post-World War II campus
questioned that vision tremendously. I’m sure many of you know
this image as Building 20, which was certainly
eminently adaptable to scores and scores of uses and
dearly loved by many students and professors. What I’d like to do is talk
about the post-World War II vision as embodied
by Baker House and what that meant
for the Institute. It represents a tremendous
shift in thinking at MIT following the
upheavals of World War II, and it caused MIT to begin
thinking about offerings for its students. There were a number of
things that happened, including the Lewis Committee. The Lewis Report
was issued in 1949, which had far-reaching
curricular recommendations. And among those
recommendations was the formation of a new school of
humanities and social science. I think that’s something
that a lot of people aren’t aware of in
terms of how long the connection with humanities
existed at this institution. It was of considerable
importance to MIT this time as well
because MIT was still largely a commuter
school, and the idea of having a residential
life component was seen as very, very
important in terms of creating a humanitarian
vision for the students. One of the singular events
leading up to this was in 1949, MIT hosted the
Mid-Century Convocation. And the convocation actually
began with Winston Churchill’s speech in the Boston Garden. And as his backdrop was
this view of Baker House. Baker House was the future,
and MIT was the future. They were inextricably linked. Bringing Alvar Aalto to
MIT, for that we need to thank William Worcester. And I think Worcester is
someone who frequently does not get the attention for the role
that he played here at MIT. You can get a sense
of his excitement when Worcester says,
“Aalto flew here. So comes fresh from the
problems of reconstruction of destroyed towns
in Finland, I would say that possibly the greatest
contribution is adding richness to the stream of teaching
in the school which gives zest to each
problem for each student. Professor Aalto is not to
conduct a studio for a few, but rather to meet with each
group and each individual during his term.” So here again, we have a link
between teaching and building ideology. Here I show you an anterior
view shortly after completion. Aalto said about Baker House
in a letter to his wife, “I’ve improved almost
every part of the building. Now it is really
going to be good. It always happens that
the real inspiration comes and the exact forms appear only
after construction has started. As for the additional
rooms, well, it went exactly the way
you thought it was best. Keeping the basic form of the
building with some improvements but increasing the number of
rooms with a stepped extension on one end turned out best. As always, your
instinct was right.” Now, you can sense
how excited he was. But of course, a number
of these expansions were cut due to
budget restraints. So– After the influential
Lewis Report, the Institute moved forward into
the second century campaign. And that generated a series of
other very important buildings. And I show you here on the
far screen the Kresge Chapel and Kresge Auditorium,
again by Saarinen. And on the opposite
screen, the Student Center by Eduardo Catalano. With the second
century campaign, the focus was again on providing
facilities for the students and, again, returning to those
earlier visions and goals and founding principles about
student activity, student life, and a well-rounded environment. The Wiesner Building again shows
MIT going back to its students. I show you here a photograph
of the Wiesner Building. And in the upper
corner is actually a student drawing,
a thesis drawing, by the architect IM Pei. IM Pei was a
student here in 1940 and completed some very,
very interesting work at that time as a student. He was brought to MIT also
in the 1960s for the Green Building, and then made a return
appearance here with Wiesner. This was a building that,
again, had a very long gestation period based on– actually going
back to 1960, ’61– based on what were the needs
of the students at this time. How do we bring creative
activities and art into the lives of our students? So again, you have the
Institute turning to its own and coming up with
something that fits– is a good fit for its student
body up to this point. In conclusion, I’d
like to just go back to Alvar Aalto, one of– I think a telling
quote for this, in which he says, “True
architecture, the real thing, is only where man
stands in the center.” Aalto’s remarks remain
as compelling today as they were when they were
spoken over 50 years ago. Is one’s perspective, where
one stands in relation to the center or the
place architecture occupies in one’s
worldview may shift, but as we can see in the vision
of the founders, faculty, and students, we always
return to the same principles. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] VEST: well, being the one
true technologist here, I’m only using
notes this morning. I get very nervous
whenever I’m asked to speak to groups of
artists and architects and musicians and such
people because I don’t know very much about the subject. But I always hearken back to
one of Victor Borge’s comments he used to make, which is–
he would introduce himself as the music critic for
Mechanics Illustrated. So just kind of think of that. So with all this in mind, I
said to Bill Mitchell yesterday, Bill, what should
I say tomorrow? This is a very important
forum, and there’s nothing worse than somebody
who actually doesn’t know about architecture learning
a little bit of the phrases and all that stuff and
standing up and pretending to know something. So Bill said, Chuck, your
job tomorrow should be just to tell the truth
about what it takes to get something like what we
have accomplished here done. And I said, Bill,
tell the truth? You’re not serious. And he said, well, tell a
little bit of the truth anyway. So that’s what I’m
going to try to do today is speak a little bit of
the truth of what we have been through in this really last
decade when it comes right down to it, because it has
been a remarkable adventure. And I want to begin
saying that I suppose if we sat down and made a list
we could probably identify 1,000 people who one way or
another have had something significant to do with the
transformation of the campus that is now well underway. And there would obviously be
1,000 different realities. So I am only going to
give you a bit of mine. And let me start with a
couple of observations, and I will apologize in
advance for some of them. When I had the great
privilege of coming here to MIT as president
in 1990, two things happened that were short
of traumatic experiences. One is that I took my first
drive down Vassar Street. And as you know, I came to MIT
literally from the outside, with a great sense
of reverence and awe for what went on at
this Institution. And I could not
somehow in my mind put together what I
saw on Vassar Street with what I knew was the
reality of the Institution. And the second sort
of weird epiphany was during the
interview process, they put me up in the suite on
the top of the Marriott looking down over the campus. By the way, it was the
last time they put me up in anything of that expense. And I remember standing
out there looking down on top of the campus from
that height and distance and sort of seeing all these
rectilinear lines with two big flagpoles. And for some reason, the image
that kept coming into my head was a Naval base. But then there’s the
other side of the campus. After I came here, every
morning it’s my habit– including this morning,
at about 6:30– to get up and go for a jog. That’s how I get my mind
in order for the day. And I absolutely fell
in love and in awe of the sight I would see
every morning running along the banks of
the Charles River and looking into the Killian
Court and the Bosworth Buildings and cutting
back behind the dorms and going by Baker House and
so forth, different every day, different quality of life,
different this, that, the other. And so we had this kind of
juxtaposition of something awful and something
really quite wonderful. And yet some level,
none of these seemed to reflect the
wonderful extraordinary reality and excitement electricity
of what goes on inside all of those buildings. So with this in
my mind, I formed a grand well-organized
vision of what I believe this campus needed to
be for the next 30 or 50 years, started a capital campaign
to raise the funds, knew the right
architects to hire, and got the job done so it will
stand as my personal vision and legacy. [LAUGHTER] [APPLAUSE] Now, of course, none
of that is true. None of that is true, except for
the first three observations. And just to tell you
how untrue it is, I was remembering the other
day– we have something here called a campus visit, where
we have friends and alumni and donors and so forth in
to meet faculty and students, see what’s going on. They always come to dinner
at the president’s house at the end of the session. And I always answer
a few questions. And I remember the first
year, somebody asked me the question, what’s the
situation with deferred maintenance on
campus, and do you anticipate building a new
building for something or other, and so forth. And I distinctly remember
that my answer was, understanding MIT’s
budgetary situation and as best we could
project, I did not believe that we would build
a building during my tenure. Well, as it turns out, when
I stepped down next fall, recognizing that a lot of the
space I’m going to refer to is in housing
system and so forth, we will actually
have constructed about 25% of everything
on the MIT campus. So much for vision. My good buddy and
hero Gerhard Casper, who was president of Stanford
during much of my tenure, called up one morning in
his third year as president. And he said, Chuck, I just
got to unload on somebody that if one more person asks
me what my vision for Stanford University is, I’m
quitting, because I don’t have a vision for
Stanford University. And I really understand
what all that is about. But having said
that, let me make a few serious observations. We are, as has been said much
more eloquently than I can say, really in the midst of a
very profound transformation of our campus that I think of
as an effort to better reflect and support and inspire what
the extraordinary people of this institution do. That, to me, is what
it is all about. And while I don’t know much
literally about architecture, I do know a lot
about universities. And I have sort
of a basic theorem about how universities– great ones, at least– evolve. And when I say evolve, I mean
intellectually and socially as well as physically. It kind of happens
roughly by 50%, by planning and strategy,
and at least 50% by serendipity and opportunism. And I use opportunism in a
positive sense of that word. It means faculty recognizing
exciting new intellectual or other opportunities. It’s not like an orchestra
with a conductor, despite the fact lots of people
like to write about themselves or others as conductors. It’s more– at least
here, it’s more of a jam session among a lot
of very talented musicians who start kind of
listening to each other and get into the flow, and
people like the provost and executive vice president
you’ll meet in a moment and myself try to kind
of keep all that going, see if we can get
the right musicians and listen to the pieces
and so forth and so on. That’s more to me the
way things happen. The second serious observation– which being MIT I even
did as a plot one time of all the square feet on
this campus coming in and out over the period since we moved
across the river from Boston– the opportunity for
campus development, the kind of thing we’re
going through now, it simply comes in waves, with a
period of about 20 or 30 years. And there are obviously
good reasons for that. It’s driven by two things
primarily, I would say. First and foremost, to
be honest, the economy. Economy gets better, you
could do some things. Economy gets worse,
you have to pull back. But juxtaposed on
this are a couple of things which are the
intellectual trends, what faculty are doing, especially in
a place that’s focused largely on science and technology,
as we are here. And secondly some of
the kinds of thinking that both of the
previous speakers referred to as kind of views
of what the life on a campus should be, how our
students should be, what’s the humanistic
role, and so forth. That also creates opportunities
as we move forward. So I think as we headed into
this sort of pivotal moment in roughly 1997, ’98,
through those two years, MIT, and to a lesser
extent I, had what in the sciences we often like to
refer to as the prepared mind. There really was not
a well-formed vision, but there was a lot
of thinking about what is going on in the world,
what’s going on here, that I think put us in a good
position when the moment came. And when I say “the
moment,” it means that literally in that sort of
two-year period of ’97, ’98, it became crystal clear
that we had an opportunity to create some things
of historical import in the development of MIT. And I say of MIT
because I’m not just talking about
physical facilities. What were some of the
inputs to all of this? First of all, while
people were churning out books about the end of
science and things like this, the fact is, we
were entering what I believe is the most
exciting period in science and technology in human history. And so these enormous
new opportunities out there in terms of
the melding of the life sciences with the physical
sciences and the information sciences, and we
started hearing more about neuroscience and
biology and nanoscale science and technology,
and on the larger scale, environmental
issues, computational, systems biology– all these wonderful,
rapidly, rapidly evolving new areas in which
people were coming together across all kinds of
disciplinary boundaries, to work a very,
very yeasty time. And we’re still very much
in the midst of that. Secondly, there was a
very important report that was finalized in
’98 by a group that, together with Ros
Williams, who at that time was our dean for education,
that I had commissioned in ’96 as a task force on
student life and learning. It really was to be sort of
the next version of the Lewis Report that was referred to
earlier, to think through what it was that we owed to
these remarkable students here in terms of their
education and their experience. And that group came back
somewhat unexpectedly not focusing with a lot of detail
on what the intellectual content should be but saying,
we’ve worked for two years, we’ve listened, we’ve looked,
we’ve talked to everybody. And we think that
MIT needs to stop thinking about itself as resting
on two pillars of teaching and research and start thinking
about itself as sitting on three columns, which they
called academics, research, and community– a feeling that we had created
a separateness of our students and the way in which they
were housed and lived from their learning
environment in the classrooms and laboratories
and that we really needed to become a better
integrated academic community. That report, we
all swore, was not going to gather dust on
a shelf, and it in fact drove a lot of our budget. It drove the way we
restructured the administration. And a lot of it is
reflected in the things that are beginning to happen now
architecturally on the campus. There were, as also was alluded
to, rapidly changing forces, especially for MIT, in
what it took to compete for the very best students. And underlying all of this– and
it’s a whole lecture in itself, so I will just mention it– was a dramatic and
relatively rapid restructuring of our
finances, as we moved out of an era in which
we were driven to a very unnatural extent by
federally sponsored research to a future in which we
were going to have a more balanced set of
resources, drawing much more on the private sector
in the form of both industry and private philanthropy. So this kind of moment
arrived, and I sort of knew what had to be
done, and we began building a great team of people
around the administration. It kind of gave me a little
bit of a rejuvenation as I moved into kind of a
second phase of my presidency. And in ’98, I
published the closest thing that anybody could
claim was an actual vision. It was a document called
“The Path to Our Future.” And that document was not
just personal thought. It was a reflection of what
I was hearing and learning from all kinds of different
directions in the Institution. But it did kind of guide
our pathway forward. But if you look back
at that document, it’s about core function. It’s about what does it
take to attract and enable great faculty and
great students to do what they think is
important, and to continue to be an institution that
does not look inward but looks outward and always likes to
take on big, bold challenges and influence the
world around it. In many ways, the adventure
of this campus transformation, as it properly should
be, is all about people. And it’s about trying to
seek out the right balance of continuity and change. And we certainly have built
on the years of dedicated work of people like Bob
Simha, our campus planner for many, many
years, and Bill Dixon, who was our Senior Vice
President when I came here, and there’s a lot to allude back
to and to be grateful to them. And as we began to go
about this transformation, there was one person who
played a singular role. And to those people
who do not like what is going on
on the campus, I will refer to Bill
Mitchell as Rasputin. To those who like what’s
going on in the campus, and I certainly am
among those, I’d like to say it’s been an
extraordinary privilege to have Bill serve literally
as the Architectural Advisor to the President, and
his wisdom and his balance in not pushing things
but showing opportunity and how to think about certain
things has meant a lot to me personally and certainly
means an enormous amount to the campus. Well, kind of to move a little
bit toward closure here, I want to just comment
on one thing, which is sort of emblematic of much
of what has gone on here, was the process by
which we decided to ask Frank Gehry to
design the Stata Center. And I’m sure this goes back
into the 1,000 people, 1,000 realities, but this
one’s the real reality. With the help of Bill
Mitchell and Vicky Sirianni and so many other
wonderful people, we had put together a
very formal process. And we had selected
20-some architects to do what we knew was an
enormously important project, to bid on it. And I believe every
one of them responded. And then a process was
set up that would end up with six finalists. Two, if you’ll
forgive me, I will classify as looking for two
world-class architects, two really good architects, and
two young up-and-comers. That was kind of the goal. And there was a
committee with which I was not really
even terribly deeply involved of faculty
and administrators who had gone through all
this, narrowed it down to six, and then ultimately
narrowed it down to two. And we sat around
the conference table, and they were ready
with their report. And I asked each
person to tell me who they thought we
should select and why. And lo and behold,
literally 50-50 split between two architects. Now, as I implied at the
beginning of these remarks, the president of
a university may claim to sit around the office
and make lots of decisions, but the fact is, you don’t
really do it very often. But here we had one. And so I went down, I sat in my
office around the coffee table with that wonderful
gentleman, Bill Dixon, who had led Construction here I
think since he was a freshman, and who had a lot of wisdom. And I knew in my heart that I
wanted to go with Frank Gehry, because I knew we
had to do something big and bold and
exciting and different. And I figured, if I
could convince Bill that this was the thing
to do, I would know that it was the right decision. So we chatted while. And I tried to tell
Bill my thinking. And in the way only he could
do, he thought a minute and he said, well, let
me tell you something. He said, back when the Kresge
Auditorium was designed, it was– I’m sorry, not Kresge
Auditorium, the Chapel. When the Chapel was designed,
it was considered so radical that the foundation pulled
their funding from it. And look at how we
think about it today. So I said, sounds like
we know who we need. He said, right, let’s go. I said, you make the call. Now, at that time, what
was the risk in my view? The risk was not
whether Frank Gehry would produce a remarkable
and wonderful facility for us. The risk was would
he know how to listen to the clients in the right way? Because I come back
to the main point– I’m not interested in
having signature architects for the sake of having
signature architects. And I don’t want something
looking big and exciting just to be big and exciting. It’s got to reflect what
we are and what we do, and above all, it’s got to be a
place for faculty and students to live and work. So after Bill had called
him, I called Frank up, and we talked for
about 25 minutes. And about 24 of those
minutes was Frank telling me stories about Richard Feynman. Now, if any of you know
enough about physics to understand
Richard Feynman, you would know that that was
signaling something to me about what this guy
really understands. And he clearly knew what
the importance of replacing Building 20 was and so forth. And so I finally entered
into that particular phase of things with great
confidence that we would get what we really wanted. Now, a couple of
beliefs on my part. Again, reflecting
back to my early years here, basically
during my first year, I sat down one day and
had an interesting talk with a wonderful man
named Peter Reich. Peter Reich headed the
psychiatric service in the MIT Medical Department. And he said to me
one day, you know, MIT is the best place in the
world to be a psychiatrist. So I said, what are
you talking about? And he said, well, I’ve
worked on several university campuses and other venues. And he said, most places, if
you’re a shrink, people come in and they come to see you,
and they sort of turn up the collar of their overcoat
and they look at their shoes and they slouch down, and
it takes two or three visits before they even get
around to saying what it is that’s bothering them. But he said, ever
since I’ve been at MIT, people just kind of stride in my
office and they look in my eye and they think, well, this is
a professional just like I am. And I’ll bet he’s as good
at being a psychiatrist as I am at being a
computer scientist. So they just tell me what the
trouble is, and we go to work. So with kind of that
in mind, I came up with a theory of how you should
do campus development, which I’m going to term faith-based
campus development. And what that means is
you get the right people for the right reason, and
you let them do their job. You have to have faith in them. So all of this to me is about
function, not about monuments. It’s about enabling and
inspiring and respecting and reflecting but also
about raising our sights. And I deeply believe
that the things that have happened on this
campus with Simmons Hall and the Zesiger Center
and the Stata Center and what you’re about to
see evolving in the Brain and Cognitive Science
project and hopefully in a couple of others that are
still on the drawing boards, it is going to raise our sights
as well as reflect and enable what we do. And it does in my mind– and this is one part I will
be very serious about– it is all intended to reflect
a great boldness and confidence in our future. But I want to tell you– and
I think this is the truth part that Bill wanted me
to come out with– it’s been hard. It is not an easy task. I transformed myself into what I
think of as a snapping turtle– namely, once we got moving
to accomplish these things, I had to sort of just grab on to
people and things by the ankle and not let go
until we got done. There are so many
constituencies, as you can imagine. Faculty, students,
trustees, alumni, donors, the federal government–
they all come into play. And there are enormous forces. And the two forces that
I think cause the deepest angst and biggest problem
with accomplishing something wonderful and extraordinary,
as is happening today, are first, the economy. That is clear. We started into
this, we were enabled to become bold
and do some things in a relatively
short period of time, because the economy
was going up. But lo and behold, just about
the time we got well into it, the economy went down. And you can imagine the
things that that creates. You have to really persevere. Secondly, something I read a
long time ago, in all places, in a chapter in Henry
Kissinger’s autobiography, he used a term,
debilitating nostalgia. And I kept wondering for
years, what does that mean? Because quite frankly,
I’m a nostalgic person in the way I think about
my life and so forth. But in the years, both
at Michigan and here, as an academic
administrator, I came to understand what I think
that term really meant. And there is this
weird balance you have to find between looking
backward in the right way to understand your heritage
and where your strength comes from as an institution and what
needs to have some continuity, and not getting
so caught up in it that you don’t do the really
exciting forward-looking things. And I’ve been debating since
I sat down this morning to put these notes together
whether to say the following or not, but I think
I am going to say it. About two years ago,
maybe a little more, as our building program
was getting underway, we took the Academic Council
and a few other friends around to visit everything
under construction. And as I was leaving, one
of my colleagues said to me, this must really make you
happy to see all this going on. And I looked at him
and I said, the truth is, this has been so hard
and so painful to keep going that I don’t feel
very happy right now. But having said
that, yesterday– yesterday, we wandered
around in the sunshine with faculty and
students and donors on some of these marvelous
outdoor spaces on Frank’s Stata Center, and I can tell you,
it has all been worthwhile. And I’m feeling just great. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] MITCHELL: Well, welcome back. And thanks to the
speakers this morning who really set up this
discussion in a terrific way. I have an interesting
nametag here. On the front, it says
William Mitchell. On the back, it says Rasputin. Let me just jump in with
a couple of quick words that might be useful to
set up the discussion, and then I’m going to ask,
well, two of the architects I admire most in the
whole world to say what they’re here to say today. And I think we’ll get some
interesting discussion going. As I was listening to Chuck
describing the process that we’ve gone through
over the last few years, one thing kept
coming back to me was that MIT is an enormously
critical place. And nothing around here
gets taken for granted. Nothing goes
unquestioned, and that’s the beauty and the
quality of the place and the thing that attracts so
many of us into this community, I think. And something that’s
been consistent right through the process
of rethinking the campus and doing the
individual buildings has been a constant desire
to take each opportunity that came along as a moment
for critically rethinking, to critically rethink
what a laboratory can be, to critically rethink
what housing can be in the 21st century,
housing for students, to try to understand how
the world is changing, how this campus is changing,
and how one might respond in some new and important ways. And that attitude of not
taking anything for granted and rethinking each
project, rethinking the premises of each project
from the beginning, has been, I think, fundamental
to what we’ve done. And there’s been an attitude
that all the way through we are conducting a
series of experiments. And as all of the scientists
and engineers here know, you only really learn something
from bold experiments. You don’t learn all that
much from experiments that don’t really
put something out on the table, that can be argued
about, that can be debated, that potentially is contentious. So what we’ve gone
through is a set, I think, of very bold urbanistic
and architectural experiments, where we’ve tried to lay
out some visions of what the future can be. And what it’s generated,
much to my gratification, has been a huge
amount of debate. Each project we’ve
done has done that. So what we really need to– what
I expect we’ll do this morning is continue that debate. And so I’m going to ask
Frank to jump in and say some words about how he sees
the process of campus building and what we’ve done
here and what’s happened to the particular project. Then I’m going to ask Bob,
who promises to be grouchy, and I have no doubt that
he’ll deliver on his promise. And then we’ll see where it
goes and take it from there. So then I’ll ask– we have a couple of very
interesting respondents who I’ll ask at a
certain point to come in. Then we will leave some time
for questions from the audience. So, Frank. GEHRY: Well, I’m
with Chuck Vest. I’m sort of a
faith-based practitioner. And I assume that if I
ask enough questions when I’m engaged with a project and
I’m dealing with people that are thinking about their
environment and what they want, what they need, that I will
come away with a road map or a path to which to respond. Now, I don’t come to the
table with a preconception. If I knew– I’ve said this a
million times, but if I knew exactly what I was
going to do I wouldn’t do it, because I’d already thought it
through and seen the results and decided whether it’s good
or bad and then I go forward. So in the case of this project,
the excitement for me was– and the reason I guess I brought
up Feynman in talking to Chuck was that Richard
Feynman represented that kind of curiosity
and the “cat playing with the ball of twine” attitude
that that you would just sort of take things as
they are given to you, respond and work
on them, and assume that there was some kind of– you could participate in
some way with the knowledge that you bring to the table. I suppose– I was raised
on Talmudic discussions with my grandfather. And if you’ve gotten
into to any of that, it’s all about
questioning and why, and then you make a statement. And then he makes a counter
statement, and then you go– but it’s a constant
inquiry and constant– it seems totally relevant
while you’re doing it, but it sort of
hones your thinking. And sooner or later, you
come up with an essence. In the case of the
Talmud, the final essence is the Golden Rule, and
everything comes back to that in some way. I believe that I’m doing
that with my buildings, following that
Golden Rule, that I want to be a good neighbor, that
I respect the other architects whose works surround me– some of it I like, some
of it I don’t like. And there is a growing model
of urbanism in America, I guess in the world,
and I optimistically believe it has something
to do with democracy, that there is a pluralist
notion and that there is a collision of ideas,
which again is Talmudic, and that the collision of ideas
is the process by which you come to conclusions yourself,
you make a statement, and you hope that it
has positive effects. The collage of parts at the
Stata Center, I can take– I should probably do this,
just go around Cambridge and take pictures,
showing you that there’s an extraordinary precedent
for everything I’ve done, and that we just don’t
think of it that way. You think of buildings
as individual buildings. And if you look around, you’ll
see that they are really pieces of buildings collaged
on each other– you don’t see the
whole buildings– and that they create
a kind of an urbanism, and that I was just
continuing with that. The Stata Center is
a huge, huge building compared to others on campus. And I was trying to break down
its scale and humanize it. I made many studies
of what it would be, just as a simple block,
which would have fit more into the campus as it was. That wasn’t why I
was brought here. And as we responded, breaking
down the mass of that, the user group seemed
to respond positively. The interiors of
this building are not finished, finite interiors. They are a very
open-ended system. The idea is that the
rugged individualists who are inhabiting it
are going to intervene. They’re going to
bring their stuff in. They already have. And over time, this building
will change and become theirs. I believe it’s strong enough
to survive that, but we’ll see. I don’t think everybody’s
going to like it. I think at the beginning– the
complaints I’ve heard so far are all fixable. They all mostly relate to– they don’t have the
privacy that they want. Everybody would want a
private office with a view and close to the
bathroom or something. That wasn’t possible. But I think over time, it
could be completely enclosed into private offices, if
they decide to go that way. You know, a lot of positive
feeling in the meetings yesterday, but we’ll see over
time whether it really works. And I hope it does. And you can’t use your
cell phones in there, and I suppose I’m going
to get blamed for that. But we’ve created a Faraday– MITCHELL: Faraday cage. GEHRY: Faraday cage. MITCHELL: We can fix that. We can fix that. GEHRY: Okay. MITCHELL: That’s no problem. GEHRY: I didn’t want to
create a Faraday cage. Okay, Bob. Go for it. VENTURI: Okay. It was explained
that we were to be– each of us was to be a
member of a discussion group and not to give a lecture. But what I want to say is so
complex and contradictory, I guess, that I’ve
written it down as notes. And I’m afraid it is going to be
kind of like a sermon for about five minutes. I hope you’ll forgive me. And as I have pointed out,
I’m going to be a bit grouchy. And it’s going to be a little
embarrassing what I’m going to be saying in some ways. And so those of you who
want to boo afterwards, you are invited to do that. But I– also I was
just mentioning that our son Jim is a great
fan and friend of Frank, and I want to make sure
that any friend here doesn’t mention
to Jim that I have said a few negative
things about him. And also don’t mention to my
wife and partner that I’m using notes, because she says you
should speak spontaneously. But I want to get a
lot in real quickly. So here I will go being grouchy. There’s no question that
there is a great commitment to the idea of cutting edge– at MIT especially, but to
any academic institution in general. But I would think
it is important for an academic institution
to employ cutting edge as a product and not so much
an image, a cutting edge that engages work and is not
necessarily a place. Also it is where the
campus is a community, as the president has mentioned. And if I may be mean– and this
is happening a lot elsewhere– where the campus is
a community and not a stage set, which cutting
edge can connect with; where cutting edge
can happen in context, but should not necessarily
be as context– it should not be all over;
where cutting edge derives by vital action
and not necessarily via architectural
form; where it happens within the uses of the building
and not sort of has happened; where creativity derives from
communication, on one hand, or let’s say where
community derives from and creativity– let’s say
creativity– derives from, communication on one hand
within the community, on the other hand,
very much on focus. It’s like the users who want to
not be in open offices perhaps. And there is this
inevitable kind of wonderful kind of
contradiction and conflict– that is, a community
for communication, but also there must be focus
and they must be accommodated. And therefore there
should be a setting which is not distractive, which
is not intrusive via very often cutting-edge architecture. It should be recessive. And a lot of
architecture today is this in general– let’s call
it a dramatique abstract and also kind of
industrial symbolically. That’s kind of an
irony in this era. But abstract expressionism
involving very often what I call industrial [INAUDIBLE]. God, I’m getting
pretty bad here, huh? In a setting where dynamic
change happens rather than is expressed
therefore, because I think there really is a danger
in making a background that is intrusive, as I said. Also via an architecture
accommodates flexibility. That is extremely important. It is a place for functions
naturally and accommodation to variations in functions
over time– spatial, mechanical, electronic. And therefore you could say,
not where form follows function but where forms accommodate
functions, in the plural. Therefore an architecture
often in the case can work that’s, in the
tradition of the vernacular, loft building. And I think this is something
we’ve tended to forget, where there is certain precedent
and tradition naturally. Especially in New
England, there’s the wonderful industrial
mill building. There is the academic loft. There is a long tradition,
as was pointed out by Jim Ackerman, of going
way back to William and Mary, to Nassau Hall, Princeton,
to Harvard Hall at Harvard, where the buildings were
made as lofts in a sense to accommodate varying
uses over time. And the buildings still have
iconic quality on the outside, but also are
accommodating inside. There is also another
kind of building of that sort, which is the
Italian Palazzo, over 300 or 400 years, from the
Renaissance through Baroque. It’s essentially the
same kind of building, with the cortile in the middle,
that could over time evolve from the residence
of a dynastic family to a library, an embassy,
a museum over time. So I think someone
therefore could say– I remember the Richards Tower
that also was on the screen up here. And I remember that
when we did our first– many decades ago at
Princeton, our first building, our first laboratory building,
I was very aware of the Richards Tower as being not
a building that was appreciated by the users. It again had this sort
of dramatic quality, with articulations,
formal articulations, that did not allow for flexibility. And I mentioned
this approach that I would like to use to the head
of the Department of Molecular Biology, who would be
occupying the building. And he said, oh, I very
much agree with you. That building went up when I
was a graduate student at Penn, and I was one of the
vigorous antagonists who used that building and
held up signs against it. Anyway, I don’t want
to say something, again, mean about Louis Kahn. But I think it is significant
that the loft building does have validity. So you can say, down
with architecture as boring originality. I heard someone say
that the other day– boring originality. And I think you could
say, in your presence, Michelangelo and Palladio were
good rather than original. Michelangelo’s dome
had really been established by Brunelleschi,
you could say, a century before that. It was not signature. It was not egocentric. It was good. You can say also down
with the old romantic idea of the artist as original
in order to be good. You can also say, therefore,
viva convention and vernacular architecture as
convention, where the architect in a
mannerist way works to tweak convention rather
to invent new conventions. Viva architecture
that acknowledges the technology of today. It is an irony that much of the
architecture that goes up today sort of engages a vocabulary, an
architectural vocabulary, that is essentially based on an
industrial vocabulary, which is passe. It also reuses– not
yours, by any means, but reuses the architecture
of modernism of 50 years ago. And the revival of modernism
50 years ago is a little like– just as historical as
reviving the Renaissance of 500 years ago, whatever. So architecture that
acknowledges the technology of today– electronics,
not passe industrial, in the post-industrial age. How about sustainability
rather than style or structure? And this is, again, electronics,
very appropriate for the– I’m almost to the end– for the electronic age. So abba old-fashioned,
modernist, abstract, articulated form. Viva, perhaps,
iconographic surface. Iconic imagery and
architecture is important to create
identity, and even the Nassau Hall type of
building has iconic quality to create identity. But yes, it should not– the iconic quality should
not dominate and therefore be distracting, as I said. So identity via
dynamic iconography perhaps, rather than
sculptural form, valid shelter, rather
than arty sculpture. I’m talking about a
lot of the architecture currently of today, which
we are reacting against. Then there’s also the issue
of respecting the budget. I think that should
be considered as extremely significant,
a fundamental of that. And I think an institution
should do that, respect the budget, because
the budget also has to go to other important
aspects of the institution. So respect the budget, and make
it not at the mercy of vision. I wrote a book a while back
that had an essay in it called– this is awful– “The Vision Thing:
Why It Sucks.” But I can mention it here
because the MIT Press published it. And I said, if you want to
change that and make that more correct, you can do that. He said, no. The guy said, no, don’t do that. One last little ending
I want to put here is my particular love for
the original MIT building. And you can say, oh,
well, that’s what you’ve been arguing against, isn’t it? I mean, blah, blah, blah. But in a way I call it– the great Complex,
the original building. We’re doing some
interior work in that. In a sense, what you can
say, it is a building on the outside which is very
much an iconic, grandiose kind of gesture, if you will. And on the inside,
it’s just amazingly down to earth, vernacular,
kind of industrial space of that period,
which can accommodate non-distracting environment and
flexibility over time for uses and changes that can happen
spatially and mechanically and later electronically. I loved referring to it when
we were being interviewed for the job– and
I thought, oh god, we’re not going to get the job– as a transvestite
kind of building, which is on the
outside wearing clothes that are different
from the body inside. But very, very appropriate. And then I also
bow, whatever I say, refer to Alvar
Aalto’s Baker Hall. You have a precedent here
which I think is very good. So excuse my being
kind of nasty. Excuse my being a bit preachy. But I will end on with kind of– viva pragmatism. Okay. [APPLAUSE] MITCHELL: Frank,
you. want to jump in? I saw you take some notes there. GEHRY: Oh, well, I– VENTURI: God. GEHRY: We do this all the time. When he rags on me,
his son finds out and makes him call
me and apologize. What happened to
“less is a bore”? VENTURI: Yeah, less is a bore. Well, you evolve. You evolve. And as work and
institutions should evolve, architects evolve. And they evolve
also as a result– I loved your emphasis on–
you didn’t use the word, but you might have– of
“dialogue,” of working with a client in that way. We very much enjoy that. We say we get some
of our best idea– we get our best ideas
from our clients. And also, I love the
idea of layering. I’m not always in agreement
with your kind of layering, but I think the idea of
layering is very important. Le Corbusier did it beautifully
in a building I adore, Villa Savoye, where you
have the exterior, and then inside you have all
sorts of different things happening, [INAUDIBLE]. My mother’s house
does that somewhat. It’s appropriate and can
be used in different ways. But this isn’t really
the subject, is it? GEHRY: Well, our work is
very different, as you know. But today you sounded
like you’re fitting well into the resurgence
of fundamentalism. VENTURI: Oh, my god. You think I should
vote for Bush? GEHRY: I think– you know, I’m
not an evangelist for anything. And I don’t really believe– I don’t want people to
copy me or do what I do or any of that stuff. And I’m really not
interested in creating a school, school of Gehryisms. Strangely enough,
there’s been kind of a nice response from people
to some of my buildings, like in Bilbao– which by the way,
respected the budget, listened to the clients,
and paid for itself in the first eight
months of its existence. Those were all– I didn’t expect that to
happen, but those are all very positive things. And when I go to Bilbao,
little old ladies come up and touch me. [LAUGHTER] The younger ones don’t. I don’t know. [LAUGHTER] But there has been a very
positive response to it. You know, if the
marketplace does– and that’s something that you
talked about in your writings for years, that it behooves
us to somehow connect with the world around us. And I think some
of my buildings do. Not all of them. I’m not sure about
this one here, but the response has been
overwhelmingly positive in some cases. And I look at them, and
I’m not sure what they’re liking about it usually. But I think I do represent some
kind of a humanist attitude that I try to connect
with, the scale of people, and I respond to the time
and place that I’m in. And so I get nervous
when I feel like you’re apologizing for talent in some
way, that you’re demeaning it. And I don’t think
you mean to do that. But maybe you do. VENTURI: No, I just think talent
does not involve originality. You can also be
somewhat involved in evolution rather
than revolution. I think very much in this period
we’re owed to be cutting edge, cutting edge
[INAUDIBLE],, I guess. But there’s an awful lot of
appropriate evolutionary, but evolution is
also appropriate. GEHRY: But who decides what’s
appropriate and what’s not? I mean, if you take every– VENTURI: It varies. [INAUDIBLE] GEHRY: –every building– I can only speak for myself. I probably hate most of
the buildings you hate. VENTURI: Probably. Yeah. GEHRY: We probably agree on– VENTURI: It’s so easy. GEHRY: And I think Borromini
was an egomaniac of some kind, wasn’t he? AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]. GEHRY: So ego plays a role. It’s just that it’s
tempered so much by– you know, you get
budget, you got client, you got building department,
you got processes, you got what’s available in
building, you have context, you have– there are so many constraints
on any ego trip somebody may embark on that
the amount of freedom to express in any architectural
project isn’t that great. So I don’t think even– you know, if I make 10 more
buildings like this one, it’s not going to destroy
the fabric of America. So it’s not dangerous,
and it might be positive. I don’t know. MITCHELL: So let me raise
something else here. We’ve made a pretty good
start on picking apart one part of the title
of this forum, which was “cutting edge.” So we– GEHRY: Well, I hate that term. And I hate signature architects. And I hate the Bilbao effect. And I hate all that stuff. MITCHELL: So we did that. Now, the other part of
the title was “patron,” and that’s an interesting word. And Jim Ackerman can say a great
deal about the idea of patron. But of course, it’s
a very rough metaphor for what goes on in universities
these days, because it’s really engagement of a community. There may have been a time– there was a time when
university presidents played the kind of role of
popes and princes of the past. I think Chuck can confirm
for us that this is not what university
presidents do these days. And the process of
making architecture is very much a
process of engaging an incredibly
complicated community, as Frank just alluded to. And there’s many facets
and full of contradictions and different goals and
different ways of articulating what’s important to them. And then there’s a distinction
between the community as it exists now, that
can express itself, and you can respond to. But of course, you’re
making buildings for a community that’s going
to be here 20 years hence, 100 years hence, and
so somehow buildings have to respond in some
way to some sense of what the future may hold. Sometimes we’re seen
that’s very successful. So as Bob has pointed out,
the old main complex here, the Welles Bosworth
buildings, have gone through extraordinary
transformations of function over the years, and
they’ve been robust enough to live and transform
and still remain extremely successful buildings. But I’d love to hear some
comments, your thoughts from both of you, on this
issue of the nature of a client these days, the
nature of a community, and what kind of process
one can successfully go through in engaging them. VENTURI: Well, I think Frank
did mention the complexity that clients now are– multiple clients,
not, as you said, the duke or the
pope or whatever– they’re very important, the
idea of client and patron. Architects cannot
exist without that, because a painter can paint. Maybe he or she is starving
while they’re painting, but at least they can do it. We can’t get our
buildings built without– we can’t get our art
accomplished without the patron and the client. And the difficulties today are
the complexity of the client. Very often the
client is a committee or is several committees,
and there’s arguments within the committees. And then there are, of course,
the government agencies and so forth that you
have to connect with. It’s a kind of
Byzantine complexity. I’m hoping we’re not
in a Byzantine era, just before the fall of
the Byzantine Empire, corresponding to that. But the complexity is enormous. And that is very,
very difficult. Not actually having
an individual client can be difficult too. But the most wonderful thing
is to have a client or a client group that you can connect with. And I won’t say much
more except that it is a very difficult relationship
because, on one hand, the client is paying you. You are, in a sense, a
servant of the client. On the other hand, your name
is to be on the building. You are to be identified
with what is built, so you can’t do something
that you disagree with. So there’s a sort of a
built-in extreme difficulty there at the same time. We had a very difficult
client in England. And as a matter of
fact, in that same book, there was another
essay where I described the difficulties of
that particular building that we were having. And I said particularly
we had great difficulty with the lord– it happened
to be a lord in England. And then I had written
in there “the lord and the great difficulty,”
and then I wrote, “thank god we won the
Revolutionary War.” And then I removed it
when it was being edited. But I noticed it was
back in the book. And I think, again, the
MIT Press went and said, oh, let’s leave that in. But about two weeks ago, I
met this character again. And he was so friendly,
and oh, the building is such a masterpiece,
and blah, blah, blah. [INAUDIBLE] So these things
are very complex. But there is just an
inevitable complexity there where you are
working for somebody that you have to accommodate. Just lastly, I
think, there really has to be a kind of
feeling of trust. It is so important– mutual
trust, mutual understanding. We don’t agree, but
we trust each other. I remember one job, it
got to a certain point where I could say,
oh, in these meetings now, I don’t have to
worry about coming out with some stupid
idea in the meeting and that they will
lose faith in me, because sometimes free,
stupid ideas can lead to good ideas in the dialogue. In the dialogue, you
have to be just open and try out all different
things when you’re talking. So this is a very
complex answer, again, to a very complex question. But we all of us
need the equivalent of a Lorenzo de Medici. GEHRY: You want me to go? I don’t believe that the
sound of one hand clapping makes a building. You need the interaction
with the client. And for me, the process
of working with the client is the most exciting part
of what I do, even better than the end product. And I discovered that
I wasn’t kidding myself when I thought that or
thinking that, because there are three buildings I can tell
you about that I worked on that I’m very proud
of that I’ve never been to see because in each case
the client and I, the people I worked with, disappeared. It wasn’t my fault
that they disappeared. They got fired or something. But in the case of
the Iowa Laser Lab building, which I worked
with a laser scientist, and a new president
came in and fired him. So I never went to the opening. I still have never seen the
building, only in photos. Same thing happened with
a big industrial thing I did in Sacramento
for Herman Miller. And they had– the building
was under construction. They had a total shift in
management and everything, and I just never went. I’ve seen photographs of it. I think it’s been
torn down already. But there are a few
cases where I’ve worked with clients, where
the client, the main person disappeared, and you’re
left with their surrogate. And then, six months later,
the big cheese comes back. And since they haven’t been
involved in the evolution of your designs and the
back-and-forth between setting the priorities– and they look at it and they
think, god, that’s strange, I don’t like that,
and [CHOPPING NOISE].. So I insist– I won’t take a project
unless I always ask, is so-and-so going
to be able to come into the room at some point
and evaluate what we’ve done? And when they say
yes, I say, well, if that person isn’t in on
at least 50% of the process, so that I get to meet them on
a regular basis as the project evolves, then I’m not going
to accept this commission. In the case of MIT, I had
access to the president. He was available. I didn’t bother him, but
I knew that at some point he had to say yes
or no, and I didn’t want him to be sandbagged. I wanted him to
understand what we were doing, why
we were doing it, what the priorities
were, what we chose as a priority over what we
dismissed as not a priority, and that this evaluation
process has been serious, and so he knew that it
wasn’t a trivial or a nothing kind of an
idiosyncratic ego thing that I was imposing
with no rationale. In the case of the
Stata Center, we had, I think, close to 700 clients. It became clear to
me in the beginning that we had all the faculty,
senior faculty, junior faculty, we had the administration
led by Chuck, we had the advisory
group led by Bill, and we had 400-plus students. And MIT students are
rugged individualists. They come here to
what they believe is an open society where they’re
going to be free thinkers, and they express themselves
right from the beginning. And so we created a website
and put all of our work on the website, all
of our thinking as we went along continuously
on the website. And the first six
months, I got hate mail, including a lot of suspicion
from the senior faculty, thinking that we don’t
really need an architect. We just want our
office exactly the way it is, and don’t bother me
with this architecture stuff. And the suspicion
that my ego trip was going to use up the
budget and sacrifice the things that they hold
near and dear to them. And I think we went through
quite a bath of fire from them as to– and testing constantly to make
sure we weren’t doing that, to the point where we got
close to the final conclusion. And these very people
started saying, well, have we prevented
any great ideas? Have we stopped you from being– have you had enough freedom? You know, that kind of stuff. So we knew that there
was a pretty good balance by the time we got there. And I don’t think it’s
a perfect building. They aren’t perfect,
and I’m not perfect. But what I treasure
most is that client relationship and
the friends I’ve made in working on the project. And it’s like I’m going
to have postpartum blues, I’m sure, which I always do. VENTURI: Well, you’re so
right that when there’s a change in administration
half through the job, it can be a disaster, because
the new administration tends to say, our
predecessors were jerks and their architects were jerks. And it’s a very sad
situation that does happen. And it’s, again, part
of the complexity. MITCHELL: Yeah. The big part of the
complexity that I’ve certainly seen from the inside
over the last decade is the way that institutional
dynamics evolved in very complicated ways. Chuck talked about
this– the way the economy evolves and the
way other things develop makes it extremely difficult
to keep clarity and consistency and sticktoitiveness
about the things that are really important. And we, I have to say, owe
an enormous debt of gratitude to Chuck, who
really has just been determined through this
building program to do it right. And this is one of the roles
that’s absolutely critical in big institutions–
as, of course, a university is a
big institution– these days, there has to be
somebody in the process who is prepared to stand up
when the going gets really, really tough, as it
does in these processes. And so we made a commitment
to do this right. There’s an important
principle here, and we’re going to
follow through on it. So it’s a crucial thing. GEHRY: There’s one
thing, a little anecdote about our building. The people that
inhabit our building are some of the most creative
scientists alive on earth. And they create robotics
and artificial intelligence. So Rod Brooks, the leader
of that group, when I met with him, was
one day telling me about his fantasy
for his office. He said, I’m going to walk in
and say, call Professor Smith, and on the wall there would
be a picture immediately of Professor Smith, and they
could discuss each other. And Professor Smith would
have a picture of him, and he could tell his room
the temperature is too low. And it could do everything
without touching anything. He could do it all
by voice activation. And then another one gave me
all the sound gadgetry and all the interconnective gadgetry
and things that he or she had, and I went through this. And then we got
to the finale when we had a meeting with all
of these people talking about the light switches and
the thermostats and things in their office. And I presumed that I was going
to get a bunch of this stuff. And they all wanted
the same old light switches and the ordinary– it was amazing. MITCHELL: They know enough
about the technology to know what plain old
light switches can do. GEHRY: No
voice-activated nothing. He didn’t want anything. MITCHELL: Let me try to open up
another issue here that I think has been very interesting
in the process that we’ve gone through. And this is the whole process
of construction and engagement of the contractors, the
construction workers, the crafts of construction. One of the most moving things
over the last few weeks, as this project
has come together, as Frank’s project, as
Stata has come together, has been the number of– we
all have anecdotes like this, construction workers who’ve just
buttonholed us as we’ve gone around the site
and said, you know, we’re so proud of
what we’ve done here. We came from other jobs
to work on this project. We felt we were part of an
enterprise that was really making something special
in the community. And this is very different, of
course, from Palladio’s days, as Jim Ackerman can
explain in great detail. And Palladio was a mason. He went out on horseback and
supervised construction signs in the most direct kind of way. Now we have amazing
contractual complexities. We have extraordinary
supply chains to organize. We have thousands
of people involved and division into
different crafts and knowledge about how
to make things distributed geographically across the world. So it’s a tremendously
complicated thing to engage. And what’s particularly
complicated, I think, is to get the spirit of
pride and construction and the sheer joy
of making things and the knowledge that
resides in the heads of people who actually do make
things into the process. And one of the things
that’s been important about this particular
project, I think, has been a lot of innovation in
how you think about doing this. And I’d be very interested
in the comments both of you might have on, how do
you think about that and how do we go about,
as we go forward, making more buildings– get that spirit
into the process? VENTURI: Well, there
was just a question about the growing complexity. And you look at– someone gave me once a set of– a reproduction of the–
what’s the word I want? Part of the contract of Sir
Edmund [INAUDIBLE] house. They had written part– specifications is
the word I want– the specifications
for a great mansion that he built. And the
specifications were about five pages. And today any building could
have specifications that much in maybe several volumes. And so the complexity
is enormous. But I think even worse than that
is the fact that you cannot do what Palladio did, which
is to go out to the site, partly because the site maybe
is in another continent. But you cannot get
there and say, oh, that is a little too big. Let’s change it. It has to be absolutely
established on the drawings. And no matter how good
you are as an architect, you can’t anticipate everything,
seeing the thing in real scale in three dimensions. And what an opportunity
that we have lost when the architect
no longer could be a– he’s sort of a lawyer, sort
of making specifications in the drawings– where the
architect cannot be a worker, so to speak, on the site and
to make some modifications and changes as it evolves. And that is a real shame. And a lot of that has
to do with details. The form of the building
you can pretty much establish in your mind
by models and drawings. But the actual
quality of the details and the scale of the details
is the hardest thing to do. And you cannot go on
the site and change it. Once in a while you can. On one building we
did many years ago, I said, oh my god, this
was a real mistake. And it actually involved,
I think, $9 million. It was a big job, $9 million– I told the client that if
he would do that, I would– it happened to be on
Trafalgar Square– I would three times cross
Trafalgar Square on my knees in a– what did they wear? What kind of coats did they wear
in those days, when you were– [INAUDIBLE] to do that. And he very nicely said,
you don’t have to do that. We’ll pay for it. But that seldom can happen. And that, again, is a
question of a detail that you did not anticipate. And so it’s the
complexity and not being able to be Palladio and
go on the site and change it. I bet you don’t
have that trouble. I bet you know the
details right away. You don’t have to change it. GEHRY: I know everything
down to the finest bit. Well, we’ve been using
software for the aircraft industry, CATIA, and for
quite a number of years. And we bumped into it kind of
accidentally because I started using curves, and curves
were hard to represent to the construction industry
so that you could demystify it so that they could be
built and so you could bid on it in a rational way. And that process of
doing that has taught me that our profession, our
architectural profession, has been infantilized by
overprotection, by the– and it’s logical. I joined the AIA years ago,
and I joined it for protection, because there was an in-place
culture and legal process that the courts recognized. And so you could work
and feel kind of safe from financial ruin because of
some mistake you might make. And that process has led
to the architects being– everybody’s had this experience
where the building always comes in over by something,
although sometimes we’ve come in under. But the contractor
will say to the owner, if you straighten that curve,
I’ll save you $1 million. And the owner, who doesn’t
have the spare million, has to accede to that. And so the architect becomes
marginalized in a split second. And everybody’s
experienced that. And the client doesn’t want
you to be marginalized, because they want you to
deliver what you have. But they don’t know how to
make you deliver what you– that’s an intangible to them. The computer does
change the game and creates such a precise
definition of the parts and pieces that the
contractor, I’ve found, when they’re confronted
with this barrage of precision, are quite happy. They really want to have that,
and they feel much safer. And so instead of
looking at something that doesn’t look like
anything they’ve done and doubling the bid,
they take it seriously and they spend time
in the early stages, and develop a fairly
precise cost response. So it leads to
better cost control, and it leads to
the architect being able to take more
responsibility, which makes them a better
partner with the client, because the client wants you
to be parental, not infantile. And the more you can become
that, the more likely you’re going to
achieve the goals of your own and the client. And I think that’s what was
different when we refer back to Palladio and to the– they were the master builders. They had control of the
whole construction site and were respected and
were treated parentally as the parent, unlike
what’s happened today. So I think we, as
architects, should really see where this technology
can take us and use it. And I think that’s
something– well, Bill and I have been working on stuff
like this for some years now. MITCHELL: Yeah. It’s about a 20-year
conversation. GEHRY: Yeah. MITCHELL: Let me– we’ve
had two respondents who’ve been taking notes
and I think probably have some interesting
things to say at this point. So let me invite up to the
podium Kyong Park and John Curry. And I don’t– Kyong, would you
to jump in first, and then we’ll ask John
to say a few words. And then I want to leave– I’m sure there are questions
bubbling up in the audience. So after the remarks
from the respondents, we have to take a few questions. CURRY: Can we find
another chair? Oh, it’s coming. It’s coming. All is well. MITCHELL: All is well? PARK: So, is there an
order to this respondent? MITCHELL: Why don’t you begin? PARK: I’m glad to be here
to have a chance to speak, and I have taken
some notes down. And as a respondent,
my task was to respond to what I’ve been hearing
here today this morning. I have taken some
notes, but mostly I think it’s kind of an extension
from what has been accomplished here at MIT, and I understand
about five years of campaigning to reshape the future of MIT. Of course there is a discussion
about signature buildings and so forth. And I think that it’s– I hope that the
Stata Building will be able to help
recoup the investment in the same amount
of time as you were able to do it in Spain. And what that really means,
that the building was not only a signature building but
it was a sign of some sort. And this could kind
of take the learning from Las Vegas to
learning from Mr. Frank Gehry about building as a sign. And unlike Bilbao, where
the investment comes back into forms of tourism
and financial investment into what was a relatively
deprived city at the time, I think in the MIT
situation that it would come to some form of
enrollments and philanthropy, as was suggested by
Mr. Ackerman before. What that kind of
leads me to my thinking about as a respondent is
that what this building and these new buildings,
and what a new image building of MIT would
have in relation to outside of these
buildings at MIT into the larger
part of the world. And that would be generally
my thought about responding and also to
architecture in general. I feel like I would
like to just kind of say something about movement in
architecture, because there is also– apparent that there was a
movement in architecture through the history
of MIT campus development and buildings. And as I was yesterday touring
the new buildings with Jane, I started looking at new
buildings a little bit closely. And one thing I realized
was that buildings are often completed– I mean, they’re open the
public, even the occupancy to use of the building, before
it’s actually completed. That happens a lot. And then there is also– buildings also fall apart before
they’re actually completed. And then there’s always a
kind of a tendency among some of us and the general
public that the architecture or building looks
better when it’s under construction– or in
my case of my experience, under destruction. And then it would be followed
by renovations and modifications and adaptations. Obviously that is
part of architecture. But that brings the question
about whether the building would ever be complete. And this idea or notion
of whether completeness is an illusion or reality– is complete now obsolete, or
even may have never existed in history at all? Then I look back, I extend from
here to campuses of the city. If the campus is a
small version of city, then I am interested
in thinking about, what is the contemporary
issues of urbanism today? And that would help me
to understand the campus as a city. I forget to start
timing my clock. I have 15 minutes, but
I have 10 minutes now. So as far as I know
right now, in my basis, the most popular issues
of urbanism today, really, two things,
the most popular they seem to be talking about,
one is shrinking cities. And this is the condition
that is developing among– it’s almost like a diploma
for a developed nation once it achieved
the economic level that it started to accumulate
shrinking cities, meaning cities that depopulate in a
significant way economically, otherwise. Actually, the United States
is the number one contributor to shrinking cities. 50% of contemporary shrinking
cities exist in the US. Of course, most of them is the
Northeast and the Middle West, and the majority
of the rest of it existed in Western Europe and– I’m sorry, yeah, Western Europe. These come from declining
of birth birthrate as well as the aging of
the population, which in some extent is
US are exempted from that through vast amount
of immigration policies. But countries like Germany are
currently almost 80 million will be down to 56
million at the year 2050, Italy, 57 million will be
down to about 26 million. This causes a
situation where cities aren’t able to sustain
itself economically, its infrastructure and services. In fact, now that
the German government is recognizing
that it’s not just about the issue of
shrinking cities. It’s really about
a shrinking nation. And I think that we would have
to be equally prepared for that as well. Then there is another
urban issue, which is called informal cities. And I really think
that everybody should see a great and very
important exhibition, at least, a center right now, [INAUDIBLE],,
whose work has developed as an artist aspects of informal
cities throughout the world, particularly in Latin
America and Eastern Europe. These talk about the movement
of basically mobility of capital and labor in which the
architecture in the city is a significant part
of that, oftentimes the victims of that situation. In America, for instance,
not even 20 years ago, the center of population moves
approximately about something like 50 inches to the
south and 28 inches to the west every day. And this explains a very
interesting situation about architecture and the
city as basically a form of moving element– in other words,
cities are moving, and architecture has to be
prepared to move as well. Then, what’s next? I have taken too
many notes here. MITCHELL: We should
move on fairly quickly. PARK: Really? Okay, okay. Then I would like to maybe
make one more thing about this, is that there is another
movement about architecture that I have come to recognize,
is architecture as politics. In the ’80s, architecture
was rather pretty symbolic to the idea of hope and
optimism in the future, such as buildings like the AT&T
Building, Battery Park City, Canary Wharf, Television City– they were on the
magazines and news media as somewhat very positive,
new, brilliant, and coherent. But in the ’90s,
these have changed. Architecture no longer
exists in that way. We have seen buildings through
Waco, Sarajevo, Oklahoma City, Chechnya, Kabul
twice, Baghdad twice, American embassies in
most part of the world, and of course you know
about New York City. And what has become
is that architecture is a new political effigy
for social and political economic discontent
against basically the authority from the
dominant sector of the globe. And so the buildings are being
shot, exploded and burned, and collapsed. This is a kind of a new
situation for architecture, and it leads to the
question of the future. And as Mr. President Vest has
explained, path to the future is the way that this
program was developed. And I was just kind
of wondering whether– if there was a path
to future, then there must be a future to get to. But then I also know
about another world, words that are famous perhaps
from places like here, which is called, “the future is now.” And I look at that as kind
of a different way, which is I feel like
that is in a sense a kind of a sense of a
total command of future by the present and
the absence that would lead to an absence
of future, which we may have used up now already– meaning that we have
depleted future like we would deplete fuel,
petroleum-based fuel. So I feel sometimes
that future is obsolete, which is a very, very
negative attitude, I realize. And I hope that
like, for instance, with the WTC rebuilding, I
was more interested, instead of rebuilding it with what
we already know and can do, I was interested if someone
would discover a new life that was born there that did not
exist before the collapse, whether it is an
organism or a matter, but maybe there was something
that came to new life that never existed in the
world from that event, and that this would
be a way of building and bringing back to a
new kind of a future. So I hope that architecture
can be part of bringing back to the future the idea of
regaining hope and will, even the mere possibility
to exist further, even for a year, a day,
or a second from now. So that’s my response. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] CURRY: Good morning. I want to thank Kyong for
putting a little bit of space between me and that very
vigorous conversation between Bob Venturi
and Frank Gehry. I was worried for a moment. I was listening in
the audience carefully from the viewpoint
of someone who participates in the thinking
about the campus as a whole, even as we think about
individual buildings and individual
designers, as someone who is responsible in working
with our president and provost and many staff
members of the campus to actually oversee the
management of the construction, the design and construction
of these projects. And so I thought
of several titles for what I would say as I
heard the conversations that preceded me. Since I think about the whole
campus, I thought of the title, “Putting Cutting-Edge
Architecture in its Place.” Then I thought of something
slightly different, which was “Creating
a Composition One Building at a Time, or a Few
Buildings Per Generation.” What’s one’s responsibility
for that composition because we’re in one today. Then as I thought of how
buildings evolve and how our campus evolves and Chuck
Vest’s faith-based development theory, I thought about
titles such as this– “Getting it Right While
Making it Up As You Go.” Then as I listened to Frank and
Bob, I thought, “Making Sense and Taking Action in the
Face of Opposing Viewpoints.” Then finally I thought
something like this– “How to Preserve Your
Career While Responding to Your Boss, His Advisor,
and Two Architects that We Are Working
With As We Speak.” So with that in
mind, you can see whether the next one page of
notes that I offer you actually live up to those titles or not. When you’re in the
management role in a college or university, or for
that matter almost any other organization, and you
know you don’t know everything and you know no one
really does, but you have to get something done,
you rely on good processes and serendipity. And so I think one of the most
important things universities can do in thinking about
themselves– because they do create long-lived
things, they do create intellectual
cities that persist over long
periods of time, as our viewpoint was
influenced by Jim Ackerman this morning in looking back
to the 16th and 17th centuries, for example. So these processes involve
everyone from administrators to architectural advisors
to especially the faculty who may live in the
buildings to the students who may live in the buildings. And so the process of organized
engagement, the structuring of chaos, the management
of organized anarchies, which universities are,
becomes a challenge and a test of our abilities. And if we have good
processes in which we can manage key dialectics, I
think good things can happen. And I think over the
last many years at MIT, but in particular during those
that I’ve experienced up close, many good things have happened. So let’s think of the dialectics
for a moment, the commons versus the cloisters. We saw very different
views of the world evolve over the centuries that
were presented to us earlier today. There are times when
surely the cloisters dominate over the commons– as, for example,
over many years MIT consumed much of what
was its common space and turned them into cloisters
of laboratories and offices. There are periods
where the commons, such as Great Courts and great
hallways, take precedence. So there is a constant
dialectic between the commons and the cloisters. I might give you a
couple of examples of two of our recent
buildings that engage the commons in the
cloisters in different ways. If you look at Simmons Hall,
over half of that building I would characterize
as the commons. There are great
dining facilities, there is a
multi-purpose room that looks like an
interior amphitheater, there are several common
clusters of computers, there are breakout areas
along every floor where one can either seek
solitude and in small spaces or seek friends over a microwave
oven and a refrigerator, and I might add that
that building has brought back to MIT some of the
earlier ideas of the commons within a single building. The residential colleges of
the European universities, especially the Oxford
and Cambridge models, saw residence halls as
residential colleges, in which one engaged in a
common activity round dining. There was not a lot of common
activity around dining, but I might add that the way
we’ve approached it in Simmons, in the interest of the building
and the activities that go on in it other than just students
living in their rooms, have brought dining back to MIT. We are migrating from
refueling to eating to dining over a generation. On the other hand, there
are very different kinds of commons. If you look at Stata, you
will see them as small lounges that you’d find when you
walk out of your cloisters look down a spiral staircase,
and see inviting areas where people have their laptops
on or talking with each other or writing on grease boards. You will see the commons
in particular for the kind of engagement of random
encounters in the great student street in that building,
a kind of huge shunt line of the Infinite
Corridor, leading students from one end of the
campus to the other on a diagonal in this case,
in such a way that we hope they will meet, enjoy,
spend time, come together in common interest,
but perhaps uncommon intellectual encounters. There is another dialogue
that we have to negotiate, because money does matter. And in some cases,
unique buildings do cost more than, in a
sense, knock-off buildings or buildings that have
been built before. It is also the case that you
have average buildings, really good buildings, perhaps
original buildings– there’s a constant
dialectic between the good and the original. There’s the dialectic between
sustainability and style. I’m picking up on some of
the words of our commentators this morning. Sustainability is a
hugely important issue at a university. If we imagine that we’re here
forever, then in some sense we might imagine that our
buildings are here forever. But how do we make them
sustainable from the standpoint of the quality of their
original structure to the adaptability to
new ideas, new science, new technology, new
inhabitants over many years. There is a sense in which Frank,
I think, and Bob this morning agreed on the issue
of sustainability. The notion of the adaptability
of a loft building, the adaptability of the main
group, as it was conceived by Bosworth, and
the adaptability of the interior spaces
of the Stata Center all fit that idea
very, very clearly. Finally, we are challenged
always in budget matters with what I would call the
cheap versus the durable. And I want to speak a
little bit about that. In much of the
commercial world, there is a sense that buildings
have relatively short lives. Those lives are essentially
the depreciation period that the accountants
put the buildings on, and that’s any place
from 25 to 30 years. You would also
note in most cases developers, even
long-term developers, leave their projects
within 25 to 30 years, some much earlier than that. There is not the expectation
of longevity in these buildings as we would have here. And then I want to talk to you
a little bit about the concept of durable in universities. Perhaps Bosworth’s building
are our greatest examples. They are the originals. They’re enormously durable. Even as some predicted
in the early days that they would
sink on their piles into the Charles River
Basin, they have not. They still live on wood piles
and are in great shape today, enormously durable in their
presence to the world, enormously adaptable
in their interior. So I want to give you a notion
about buildings at universities that’s somewhat
analogous to how we think of are financial assets. When I’m not thinking
about our physical assets, I’m supposed to think
about our financial assets because I function
with our treasurer as a financial officer
of the Institute. When we ask someone
for an endowment, they know what that means. They will give us
the principal, we will invest it
wisely in such a way that the gift lives
on in perpetuity. We are to use only the
earnings on the gift to support activities
on the campus. Thus if the gift is to endow
a chair for a faculty member, we should be able to
demonstrate to the donor several hundred years after
she has left money with us that the chair is still filled
by an active faculty member and supported in the way she
imagined many centuries ago. If you think of our
physical assets that way, as an endowment, where a patron
to a university, a donor, gives us a resource, and we
act as a patron in the sense that we then ask good
designers, good architects, to create with us something
which could live in perpetuity, then I think we have
a sense of what we are trying to do in universities. I was reminded of something
about the sense of longevity from another sector of the
world in a conversation that I was having with Buzz
Yudell from Los Angeles. Buzz is at the firm of
Moore, Ruble, and Yudell, has done some work with us on
the campus, did a lot of work with me on the West Coast,
at both UCLA and Caltech. He was in conversation
with Rafael Moneo, who designed the new Catholic
Cathedral on Bunker Hill in Los Angeles, who’s
client, of course, was the Catholic Church
and Cardinal Mahony. He reports the conversation
that Cardinal Mahony was having with the
architect and the engineers. The Cardinal was
very concerned about whether the building would
last through earthquakes. After all, the reason
for its being constructed was that the last
earthquake in Los Angeles of significant size,
the Northridge quake, had permanently
damaged St. Bibiana’s, the old, old cathedral
in downtown Los Angeles. It was beyond
repair, beyond rehab, and the Church was to
build a new cathedral. So when he asked,
what would be the best way to construct a
building of the height and shape and size imagined,
the report came back, as anyone in Los
Angeles would know, reinforced concrete is
the strongest building in that kind of environment. So then Cardinal
Mahony asked, well, what are the downsides of
this kind of construction? And the architect
and the engineers observed that over many, many
years, concrete sometimes leaks, water gets
inside, the rebar rusts, the structural
integrity could begin to erode. This can happen 50, 60
years down the road, sort of like no problem. And Buzz Yudell reports
that the Cardinal looked very troubled and very
puzzled, and he said, I’m not comfortable with that. And the question
went back, well, how long do you expect
this building to last? And his response,
without blinking an eye, was a minimum of 500 years. So it is reported that
the rebar in that building is of extremely high-grade
stainless steel. And as Buzz Yudell said, when
the big one hits Los Angeles, the cathedral may not
be in the same place, but it will be in one piece. And so perhaps we
should take a lead from Cardinal
Mahony about how we think of the longevity
of our buildings and how we act as not only
solicitors of the patronage of great donors who help
us but act on their behalf and on behalf of
future generations to work with great
architects and designers to create something
that has a life well beyond our generation. So those are my thoughts
based on the conversation we’ve had today, and I thank
you for the opportunity to speak with you. [APPLAUSE] MITCHELL: Well, this
always happens to me, that I can’t keep people
in control on these panels. So we’re pretty much
running out of time. And on that note of back
to faith-based development in a different
sense, let me thank everybody who’s participated
in the program today. I think we’ve had an absolutely
terrific set of presentations that’s given some insight into
the way this campus is evolving and the way it will
evolve in the future. And let me conclude by
saying, onward and upward. We still have a
couple more buildings to do in this process, and
we’re determined to do them. So that’s the next
thing we’ll do. [APPLAUSE] But let me call on Jane Farber
to close the proceedings. FARBER: Thank you. I apologize that we didn’t
have time for questions, and thank you again
to Jeanne Wasserman. And come back next
year, when we’ll– last time we did rock
and roll, then sex, then instead of drugs we
did architecture, which is sort of the same thing. But anyway, so come next year. Thank you. [APPLAUSE]

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