MIT Ray and Maria Stata Center
World renowned architect, Frank Gehry, is widely considered to be one of the world’s most significant and influential contributors to contemporary art and architecture. Frank Gehry’s mystifying use of forms, shapes, and building materials have succeeded in transforming commercial, residential, and educational buildings into an enticing wayfarer retreats. Built on the footprint of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's historic Building 20, the Ray and Maria Stata Center was designed to provide its occupants with an adaptable environment where students and teachers alike could modify their work space however they please. In addition to its adaptable environment, the Stata Center also consists of large collaborative spaces where people of different disciplines can interact and share their experiences. It's whimsical shapes and mind boggling building materials leave its passers-by in awe by the sheer perplexity of the design. The Stata Center was received rather well by the public eye, but during construction and several years after its grand opening the Stata Center received harsh criticism for its construction delays and its outrageous price tag. Despite its setbacks the adaptable environment and large collaborative spaces that make up the Ray and Maria Stata Center hope to become an international beacon for innovation, design and creativity.
The physical structures that make up the Stata Center are not only a cosmetic enhancement to MIT's campus. In fact, the Stata Center incorporates an extremely complex irrigation and ventilation system. For the irrigation system, rain is collected from the roof and plaza of the Stata Center in conjunction with surrounding buildings and walkways where it is piped to an onsite out-wash basin. The basin houses wetland plants and trees providing greenery to the stone and metallic landscape. The plants naturally filter the water and with the help of solar powered pumps the water is dispersed across the basin. The irrigation system is also connected to a central weather station that uses the provided data to control water flow and detect leaks if necessary. An advanced displacement ventilation system has also been designed into the interior of the building using raised floors. While displacement ventilation systems have been used industrially since the mid 1970s, applications in America have been uncommon. Ventilation systems of this kind operate by conditioning outdoor air and supplying it under the floor where it is then extracted through the ceiling. Advantages of this system include but are not limited to, greater air quality and lower energy consumption, adding to the Stata Center’s environmentally focused design. Even in the stages before the center was constructed the debris from the demolished parking garage was almost entirely recycled and the wood from the previous structure, Building 20, and was used as flooring throughout the Stata Center to save on landfill waste. The integration of these features into the Stata Center should stand as an example for future creative projects as it incorporates forward thinking visual and technological design.
In an architectural scope, the Stata Center is a great success. Although it had a turbulent unveiling, the building’s infrastructure now performs efficiently for everyday use. More importantly, the building fulfills the design intents for both architect Frank Gehry, as well as MIT’s design brief for an innovative and unique building that reflects their aspirations as an institute for higher education. In regards to architectural theory, Frank Gehry successfully integrates techniques of deconstructionist architecture in order to challenge mundane building typologies and create an evocative experience with the site, thereby creating a distinct sense of place at MIT. And with developers steadily renegotiating the urban landscape as globalization becomes a major issue of cultural purification, it was crucial for the Stata Center to serve as an homage to the innovation and advancement that MIT exemplifies.