The University as Patron of Cutting Edge Architecture
(Part One)

05/08/2004 10:00 AM 26-100Charles Vest, President, MIT; Jame Farver, Director, MIT List Visual Arts Center ; ; James Ackerman, Arthur Kingsley Porter Professor of Fine Arts Emeritus at Harvard University Description: The opening of The Ray and Maria Stata Center, MIT's latest innovative building, inspires this panel's historical review of collegiate architecture projects. James Ackerman provides the longest lens, focusing first on the earliest, national trends, when buildings served as both residences and classrooms. In the 18th century, Thomas Jefferson housed different disciplines in different pavilions. The Gothic style came next, cloisters and all, to promote "monkish learning closed from the community." Signature buildings started popping up in the late 19th and 20th centuries, driven by "the patron demanding distinction rather than blending in." Kimberly Alexander notes that throughout MIT's history, its architecture has always embodied the institute's mission. On its original Boston campus, the Rogers Building housed the first instructional physics laboratory. Students of this land-grant college were treated to European teachers and their vision. When MIT landed in Cambridge, its classical buildings "embraced new technologies" such as poured concrete and factory sash windows. After World War 2, the campus welcomed projects by international stars Eero Saarinen, Alvar Aalto and I.M. Pei ('40 MIT) to embrace all aspects of community life. Charles Vest describes both the difficulties involved in completing the Stata Center, and the opportunity he saw "to create things of historical importance in the development of MIT"-- buildings that would somehow reflect not just academics and research, but the community itself.

About the Speaker(s):
Charles Vest is MIT's 15th President. He holds a B.S. degree from West Virginia University, and an M.S. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. Vest chaired the President's Advisory Committee on the Redesign of the Space Station, and served as a member of the President's Committee of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). He serves as a member of the Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Jane Farver was previously Director of Exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art, New York (1992-97); and director of the Lehman College Art Gallery, City University of New York in the Bronx, from (1989-92.) Her exhibition with catalogue, Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s, toured nationally, and she was one of six guest curators for the 2000 Whitney Biennial.
James Ackerman is the author of major works on Michelangelo's architecture, Palladio, and the villa. He is the winner of the Balzan Prize 2001 in the category of history of architecture, which includes town planning and landscape design presented by the International Balzan Foundation. Before his appointment at Harvard, he taught at the University of California, Berkeley.
Kimberly Alexander was the first Curator of Architecture at the MIT Museum, a post she held for 10 years. She organized exhibitions of MIT's great buildings, including Alvar Aalto's Baker House.

Stata Center Dedication Ceremony

Host(s): Office of the Provost, MIT List Visual Arts CenterTape #: T18674 and T18675.


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