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Architects honor Simmons Hall

Simmons Hall
Simmons Hall
Photo courtesy / MIT / The Evolving Campus

Simmons Hall has received the 2004 Harleston Parker Medal. Administered by the Boston Society of Architects, the Parker has been awarded since 1923 to the "most beautiful piece of architecture building, monument or structure" in the Boston area.

New York-based architect Stephen Holl designed Simmons, the striking 10-story MIT residence hall on Vassar Street that opened in September 2002. Holl's building is home to 350 undergraduates, faculty housemasters, visiting scholars and graduate assistants, and includes a computer cluster, a fitness center, music practice room, game room and street-level dining room with open-air seating.

In an article about the Parker Medal, Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell described Simmons as a "daring, serious, memorable building."

The Parker Medal jury of 10 included practitioners from architecture, development, campus planning, journalism and urban planning.

In their statement, the jurists declared their expectation that "appreciation will only grow and mature over time" for Simmons, and that the building provided an "exemplary paradigm in its daring and high aspiration" and a "gesture toward greatness consistent with MIT's philosophy of reaching out to the brightest."

Acknowledging the dramatic appearance of Simmons Hall in contrast to its surroundings, the panel also wrote, "MIT is an institution that supports innovation and change and, therefore, regardless of how far off the ordinary the project may appear to the outside world, it (Simmons) successfully fulfills its client's mission, physically, culturally, socially and intellectually."

Simmons is the second MIT project to win the prestigious award recently. The Rotch Library received a Parker Medal in 1993. Other Parker winners include the New England Holocaust Memorial (1997), the Davis Art and Cultural Center at Wellesley College (2000) and the renovation of the Boston Public Library (2001).

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 16, 2005 (download PDF).

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