MIT Baker House Dormitory

Aalto exhumed a great level of detail in his architecture and each building was considered a complete work of art. Aalto’s career exhibits an expression of an enriched use of organic forms, natural materials and functionalism with an overall expression of human behavior within the discretion of spaces which is demonstrated in the extraordinary Baker House dormitory. Alvar Alto was a world renown Finnish architect who during his time as a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology constructed Baker House dormitory. The dormitory was one of the first pieces of architecture that he created in the US. His architecture changed in style as he moved overseas from classicism to a functionalism form which yielded a highly modern style yet he never lost his display of materials and use of geometry. MIT was looking to increase its student body after the second world war and asked for proposals to create residential living on campus. Aalto took the lead on the project and created the first manifestation of architecture on MIT campus after their postwar policy. His unique style in geometry and material led to very interesting architecture that is crucial for any new architect to study. Alvar Aalto’s Baker Dormitory is a reconceptualization of residential life that is fabricated into the urban campus of MIT that involves a fluid form of space and materiality to understand the human experience in architecture.

Alvar Aalto uses architecture as a form to resolve contextual issues while allowing the constraints whether they be in physical or philosophical to enhance human feeling and interaction to the site. Aalto kept in mind the activities and daily routes of campus life and how he could enhance the overall appeal while keeping a logical and simple figure that would create a considerable expression along the urban landscape. “At the Baker House dormitory…. the design forms a poetic and purposeful response to the Charles River, the MIT campus and its students…” (Charrington, 324). Aalto used the constraints of the river in his favor to express the fluidity of the water and render views to roughly 90 percent of the dormitories. His attention to detail allowed for the spaces with in to be told through there exterior characteristic in materiality. Three materials wrap the exterior facades of the dormitory and allow for an abstract acknowledgment of the interior function and social interaction. “The dormitory slab is clad in a rough, waterstruck New England brick…”(Fixler, 4). To symbolize a high level of social interaction Alto used dark red brick which had a drastic rough texture to wrap the serpentine curvature of the building and did not smooth the corners but allowed them to have an identity on the façade through there hard lines and gaps. “In contrast, the pavilions are articulated in stone, natural wood, glass, and steel material that impart a collective monumental identity to these spaces” (4). The pavilion has a sense of calmness and relaxation that would render a meditative state. While the “dining commons, a two- story terraced pavilion clad in limestone, with wood framed ribbon windows and a bank of Aalto’s signature circular skylights, embodies the communal essence of the building” (4). The dining commons is a smooth textured stone that embodies a state of disconnecting yourself from the chaotic dorms and lends itself to be a calm and organized space. Stitched into the bank of the Charles River is the Baker House Dormitory that encapsulates a poetic form that is a sinuous curve of human experience and perspective in architecture.



77 Massachusetts Ave, Cambridge MA 02139