As part of this spring’s Festival of Art + Science + Technology (FAST) — an ongoing feature of MIT’s 150th anniversary celebration — a series of provocative architectural installations will be cropping up here and there around campus in the coming months.
Designed to celebrate the Institute’s culture of creativity and invention at the intersection of art, science and technology, the installations will demonstrate how technology and fantasy can transform the physical environment in thought-provoking, breathtaking ways.
Among the installations soon to be popping up around campus: a large-scale, diaphanous origami lining the underside of a stairway; a vaulted passageway evoking Escher, Gaudi and Gothic cathedrals; a field of white plaster mounds running alongside Walker Memorial and a shimmering curtain of light in the archway below the Green Building, generating and consuming energy harvested from the wind.
Several of the installations will also aid in pathfinding. A cloud of vellum butterflies printed with text from books, sheet music and pages of MIT theses will be suspended in the corridor near the Hayden Library; when you approach, one of several pathways of butterflies will light in sequence ahead of you, creating a path through the cloud.
An installation of illuminated lanterns hung from trees near the Kendall Square MBTA station will lead you toward the Infinite Corridor; when you approach, sound and color will be passed from one lantern to another, illuminating the path to the Medical Center. Just beyond that, two diaphanous tunnels created from nylon threads will lead you through the Wiesner Building arch and under the Dreyfus Building bridge.
Some of the installations will invite you to play. One will allow you to "paint" with a magnetic field, creating patterns in light. Another will light the facades of buildings with numbers that hold special significance at MIT while phrases projected around the plaza will hint at the meaning of the numbers, creating a visual puzzle. And a video installation will nest layers of the past into an image of the present so that when you step in front of the screen(s) you’ll see yourself descending into the past, joining previous viewers who have passed by.
The festival will also feature a stairwell transformed by a shimmering vortex of thin aluminum components and a wall of stacked blocks of ice, each block with flower seeds frozen inside so that as the wall melts, the seeds will be left behind to germinate and bloom.
The series of installations was curated by a team from the School of Architecture and Planning — including Dean Adèle Naudé Santos and professors Meejin Yoon and Tod Machover — who worked with Leila Kinney, MIT’s director of arts initiatives, and producer Meg Rotzel from the Office of the Arts.
Under the overall direction of Tod Machover, FAST will culminate on May 7 with an evening-long celebration featuring an extravaganza of still more installations that will illuminate the MIT campus and the riverfront, a fitting finale to MIT’s 150 days of celebration.
For more information about the festival, visit the FAST web site.
To get updates about installation construction updates, visit the MIT Facilities web site