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Symposium, museum events mark finished renovation of Baker House

On October 1 and 2, MIT will celebrate the completion of its major restoration and renovation of Baker House, the dormitory designed by world-renowned Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, with a two-day symposium, "Interpreting Aalto: Baker House and MIT."

The symposium, organized by Stanford Anderson, head of the Department of Architecture, will feature talks and papers by noted architects, historians and critics, as well as tours of Baker House and of postwar architecture in Boston and Cambridge.

Baker House, whose unique wave shape is a landmark along the Charles River, is one of the seminal modern buildings in North America and one of just two permanent structures by Aalto in the United States.

Designed in 1946-48 and completed in 1949, Baker House embodies both the architect's and the client's vision of social housing. At the time of the commission, MIT announced its intention to build "a physical atmosphere of order, peace and beauty" to support the activities of "the constructive mind."

The commission for the dormitory was a logical extension of Aalto's role as a teacher at MIT. He was first invited to campus in 1940 to introduce architecture students to the humanistic side of European modernism, represented in part by his own work on housing in Finland and Europe and his use of unique forms and natural materials.

In describing "Interpreting Aalto," Professor Anderson said, "Alvar Aalto is one of the most significant architects of the 20th century, and MIT's Aalto conference is the largest and most serious inquiry into his work ever in the United States -- and at least competes with such events in Europe.

"The noted Portuguese architect Alvaro Siza, winner of many prizes, including the Pritzker, Aalto and Mies van der Rohe prizes, will deliver the Pietro Belluschi Memorial Lecture, speaking not only of his own work but about his well-known respect for the work of Aalto.

"Juha Leivisk������, arguably the most significant Finnish architect of the generation following Aalto, will speak on the impact of Aalto. These two renowned architects will be joined by noted architects, historians and critics from England, Finland, Germany, Switzerland and the United States.

"Another set of voices, from the above countries and Australia and Austria, join in a series of sessions that extend interpretations of Aalto but also address issues of the preservation of modern monuments and the successful social life of the first 50 years of Baker House," Professor Anderson said.

The MIT Museum has scheduled exhibitions and lectures to coincide with the Aalto symposium on October 1-2, including a special weekend viewing of "MIT, Alvar Aalto, and the Design of Baker House," an exhibit in Compton Gallery. For more information on the MIT Museum, call x3-4444.

"Interpreting Aalto" is open to the public. For more information, call x3-1700 or register on line .

A version of this article appeared in the September 15, 1999 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 44, Number 5).

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