MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


The core program of the Department of Architecture, the professional architectural degree (Master of Architecture) enjoyed excellent studio production in the 1998—1999 academic year. Such production is fundamental in maintaining and enhancing our position as one of the most respected professional schools of architecture. Within and beyond the professional degree program, the department is engaged in the several domains of the discipline of architecture. By "discipline" we understand the full constituency of architecture to be much broader in scope than the profession; on a department level "discipline" refers not only to architectural design but also to the other distinctive domains of our program: visual arts, building technology, and history, theory, and criticism of art and architecture. We are committed to a leading role in each of these areas and in the exploration of new technologies and electronic communications in relation to our physical and social environments.

The discussion below is organized by discipline group, followed by individual topics that cross discipline areas.


The statement below was prepared for the accreditation of our professional architectural design degree, but also emphasizes the interconnecting roles of all discipline areas in the Department.

Our Goals in Architectural Education: It is a commonplace that new theories and new technologies are changing our conception of what architecture can do and how architects conceive their tasks and accomplish them. The unique position of the MIT Department of Architecture is that we survey the development of theory from a decades-old departmental commitment to viewing such developments through the long lens of the history of criticism. We also view technology within an Institute which for a half-century has profoundly shaped and investigated technology's role in society. So we are open to–indeed are enthusiastic about–new technologies and theories. But we also feel impelled to test the results of our designing against long-held social and environmental values. As we embrace new conceptions of architecture, we demand of ourselves that our designs have the qualities of space, light, air, tectonic soundness, and place that allow for appropriate, even poetic, inhabitation.

Beginning studios (undergraduate and graduate) build up modeling and drawing skills by focusing those skills on an expanding range of ideas that the students must synthesize in their design projects. The first semester of Level II extends the core studio sequence for graduates and qualified undergrads with a focus on tectonics–the making and the resultant expression of construction and architecture. Starting in 1999—2000 we will continue the core sequence into the spring term of level II with studios devoted to housing. During that same term, M.Arch. students develop a "concentration," a particular field of inquiry, which they continue to pursue through closely-focused design "workshops" and course-work in this and other departments.

Having "graduated" from the core sequence, M.Arch. students in Level III choose that combination of diverse studio offerings which best meets their individual needs and desires. The insights gained in these studios and the concentration culminate, in the final semester, with the M.Arch. students' theses.

Themes We Pursue to Accomplish Our Goals: A hallmark of studio education at MIT is that instructors propose to their students not merely a project but a process by which that design might be accomplished. Our faculty use a shared set of themes as vehicles for advancing their pedagogies. Here are those themes, not imposed by departmental fiat, but observed and endorsed by all of us in mutual consultation:

Tectonic Expression: We find among ourselves a poetic and pragmatic interest in how materiality, the manner of construction, and the means of managing natural forces (gravity, climate, airflow...) might be expressed.

Light and Inhabitation: We feel that attention must be paid to the capacity of light to transform and model space in ways appropriate to a range of human activities and emotions.

Building Community: We believe that respect must be accorded to the identity and social needs of inhabitants of places, both to establish private territories for them, and to enhance their abilities to participate in the public realm.

Cultural Heritage: We respect the value of cultural difference, and we seek strategies that preserve the legacy of artifacts and customs from the past while addressing the pressures and opportunities of the present.

Urbanism: We are acutely aware of architecture's ability to contribute spatially, symbolically, and functionally to the shared but divergent social and economic life of cities.

Engaging the Landscape: We understand the impact of buildings as material and experiential extensions of the land. We thus pay particular attention to the impacts that designed environments have on natural systems.

Sustainability: We feel a concern for the conservation of natural resources, not just in terms of the efficiency of the buildings we design and the practices our buildings foster among their inhabitants, but in terms of larger practices like settlement and transportation.

Virtual Environments: We are fascinated by the use of digital media to both research and represent physical spaces and phenomena. We are even more fascinated by the chance such media afford us to design sites, software, and protocols that might foster a sense of inhabitation, of place, in cyberspace.

In 1998—1999 we held weekly faculty meetings to discuss possible initiatives in teaching and research. The most significant part of these discussions included a three-day workshop on issues of sustainability conducted with researchers from the Technical University Munich led by Professor Thomas Herzog. Further inquiry on how these issues should be advanced within the department is underway in a summer seminar involving four of our most engaged faculty.

Our international urban design studios continued with work in Chandigarh, India (visiting professor Charles Correa and Julian Beinart), and Dresden (Michael Dennis and Mark Jarzombek). Plans are in place for a studio in Singapore in the fall of 1999. Another distinguished visiting professor was Frank Gehry, engaged in a studio with his colleague Jim Glymph and Dean William Mitchell. Many studios at the undergraduate and graduate levels showed excellent results, often improved over previous years.

The professional M.Arch. program had extraordinarily successful admissions results. For those students entering our 3 -1/2-year program, we continued a strong record in competition with our chief competitors, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia. The results for the 2-1/2 year advanced standing program were literally unbelievable: 9 of the top-ten ranked candidates; 10 of 13; 16 of 20. Such success has its downside in its draw on our financial aid resources and crowding in studios.

A search for an assistant professor of architectural design, with principal commitment to design studios, resulted in the appointment of Paul Lukez, an MIT alumnus with a local practice and teaching experience at several universities.

Bill Porter and visiting scholar Gabriela Goldschmidt organized a notably successful international symposium titled "Design Thinking Research Symposium: Design Representation."

A sample of research by faculty in Architectural Design includes sustainability (Andrew Scott), New American School Design Project (Roy Strickland), emerging urbanism (Ellen Dunham-Jones); visualization (Julie Dorsey), shape grammars (George Stiny, Terry Knight), space planning and organization (William Porter), computation and unbuilt architecture (William Mitchell, Takehiko Nagakura), design in developing countries (Jan Wampler, Reinhard Goethert), urban design (Michael Dennis, Julian Beinart), and the American landscape (William Hubbard).


Continuing research projects include:

Important new initiatives include:

Barry Webb and Carl Rosenberg teamed again to teach lighting and acoustics.

What most observers consider the most distinguished engineering firm world-wide, Ove Arup and Partners, headquartered in London, paid us the compliment of hiring Chris Luebkeman as director of their research and development activities, effective September 1999. While Luebkeman is on leave from us for one term, this will likely result in expanding our search for faculty in the areas of structures, construction, materials, and assembly systems.


This group suffered two losses at the end of the academic year: Sibel Bozdogan and Leila Kinney.

Nasser Rabbat was granted tenure and will now be appointed Aga Khan Professor. Together with a junior position that opens under the endowment of the Aga Khan, Rabbat's appointment promises a well-directed future for the Aga Khan Program at MIT.

Doctoral students entering their non-resident research stage won an unprecedented number of prestigious external research grants–more than we reported last year. Devoted faculty and staff deserve credit here as well as the winning students.

Faculty and students are well represented by publications and conference contributions in their fields. Research interests of the continuing faculty include architecture and urbanism of modern Europe and America, architecture and epistemology, historiography, architectural theory, urbanism in pre-modern Europe, late medieval and Renaissance architecture, American art, classical and medieval Islamic architecture and urbanism.


Dennis Adams is now established as the director of the Visual Arts Program (VAP), which continues to support the undergraduate education curriculum of the Institute and also conducts a small graduate program.

Distinguished performance artist Joan Jonas was appointed as a full professor and will join us in January 2000. Together with the existing notables, Adams, Krzysztof Wodiczko, and Ed Levine, MIT now has a focused and highly impressive faculty in the visual arts. In a small but selective mode, we are in a position to compete as one of the distinguished schools for contemporary artistic production.

A search for an assistant professor to play a leading role in the undergraduate program resulted in the appointment of Wendy Jacob, who already holds a strong record and is a proven teacher. We feel fortunate to have her join our faculty.

The VAP faculty were very productive with numerous installations and exhibitions this past year. VAP collaborates with the Graduate School of Design of Harvard in organizing lectures and seminars with internationally-known artists.

The undergraduate program has benefited from the clarification of its curriculum and now has in place a core group of committed and enthusiastic faculty advisors. Some faculty have volunteered to serve as mentors through the Freshman Seminars program.

Competition for exceptionally talented and motivated students remains high. Developing the means to offer competitive packages to students choosing architecture, a field with long degree programs and low professional salaries, is a high priority. We are grateful for the recognition of this difficulty by the Institute.

Although there was no further improvement this year, we trust that the goal of consolidating the department's teaching and support services will continue to be met phase by phase. Some studios and faculty offices, the Visual Arts Program, the wood and metal workshop, and the Indoor Air Quality Laboratory remain in N51/52. It is especially important to bring the studios and faculty into contiguity with their counterparts already in the main complex.

The Department continued its major public lecture program with speakers and themes from across the range of interests of the department. To celebrate this year's completion of the renovation of Baker House and to recognize its famed Finnish architect, Alvar Aalto, an international conference with many distinguished participants (including Alvaro Siza and Juha Leiviskä) titled "Interpreting Aalto: Baker House and MIT" has been organized for 1—2 October, 1999.

Stanford Anderson

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99