Arthur Kaledin <email@example.com>
Identify the values you would like to see embedded in the new residential system; and for each value, identify indicators which tell us we are 'walking the talk.'
I'm tempted to respond to ALL of your questions, but I'll do just #2,
and briefly. What follows will be too compact - I could elaborate each
point at length but you don't have time for that. The "values" I'd like to
see expressed by the new residential system may seem impossibly ideal, but
one really has to start with that, remembering that "2001" above all is to
be a place for undergraduates. I'd like to see the new student residence
(or complex as you put it) somehow embody the following values (not in any
How would one know if you weren't "walking the walk," as you put it? A purely functional, stylishly modern or post-modern, characterless structure that seemed designed mainly to "warehouse" the young, and conveyed no cultural messages, would make that clear. But how might the above "values" be embodied?
I'd need more time to mull this over, and to doodle sketches, but here are a few thoughts. I am assuming that "2001" is not going to be an "economy" structure (our students, who really are the future, deserve more than that), and that in the long run an expensive investment will reap important dividends.
I would at all costs avoid the institutional single-rooms-off-the-long-common- corridor kind of thing. I'd look for single rooms, and a few doubles, arranged in suites with a common room and a common bath. Maybe that's standard these days. The resident faculty person or family should have a generous apartment with a small suite (BR, study, B) for visiting distinguished scholars, artists or just generally interesting people, like e.g. jazz musicians, explorers, etc.
No doubt it will shock the financiers but I would also have a number of spacious apartments for faculty people, some of whom (let us say perhaps two) would agree to live permanently at 2001, and some of whom (perhaps 1 or 2) would be willing to live there for a year, assuming that they all would spend time with the students. This would be IN ADDITION TO the House Master. (Yes, these would have to be reasonably well insulated to protect older ears from noise.) I would want to see more than just a token number of resident graduate students/tutors. (Have I been fired yet?)
There should be two quite comfortable common rooms (full of portraits of accomplished scientists, artists, writers (m & f of course) to be used for meetings or for quiet study. I would want to see a small library with corners and tables (not bare but with lamps) for study, and with a small collection (ask the faculty to contribute books to it) of fiction, poetry, biographies and autobiographies and memoirs (not just of scientists), history, the eternally great classics, great adventure literature, etc. And in some places in 2001, nooks, corners, recesses, window seats. In other words, there should be places of retreat and quiet, for individuals and for twos. When I was an undergraduate (elsewhere), a place of major importance for many reasons, was the dining hall, where undergraduates, resident tutors, and a stream of visitors ate and talked and taught one another about everything. Such a place doesn't seem to be in the cards. Too bad. How about a small cabaret for music, dancing and appropriate drinks? A small, equipped work-out room for m & f. (I'd want "2001" to be half m and half f, with the whole rainbow of cultures and ethnicities visible. Of course that's not an architectural problem, but a planning issue.)
Some of the above values might be expressed physically, in architectural motifs that echo the immediate built environment. Boston is still in many ways an undulating "bricky" city, despite its post 50s skyscraper skyline. There might be a garden (an atrium?). MIT has plenty of design features that might be picked up, subtly. Fountains are civilizing, soothing, and great fun. It's a wild idea, but I'd have a deck on top, for benches and a small telescope. (Philip Morrison says that the next half century will be astounding years in astronomy, and who should know better?)
There's so much to keep in mind in the planning and design of this structure that I should imagine the architects would be jumping for joy.
As for your Capstone question, I'm afraid my response will not be a popular one, but I am a grizzled member of the generation of the 50s. Though I certainly would consult as many students as possible (including Graduate students) and have them comment on various drafts of "2001" as it begins to take shape on paper, I do believe that it is primarily the responsibility of the faculty - the heart of this institution as it is of any University - and to a lesser degree that of the staff, to "create, implement and assess" the new residential system now taking shape. Obviously a great deal of dialogue, or "community talk," has got to go on; but it seems to me that since the new residential system is to be integrated into the students' "educational experience," it is the faculty that is primarily responsible for creating, implementing and assessing the new-model educational experience that "2001" is supposed to be for MIT's 21st century students - for the faculty is fundamentally (not solely) responsible for that educational experience. That's an old-fashioned view, but so be it. Of course, educationb at MIT, as elsewhere, depends on the judgment, ideas and passions of everyone in the community, so the broadest possible collaboration is possible. Perhaps students won't like my view of this. I've given my life to teaching, and I have always regarded my students as a great treasure - but their experience, and their perspective - despite their fabulous imaginations - is limited. Ultimately, however, it's the good judgment of the committed community that has to prevail.