MIT announced today that it will break ground in spring 2007 for a new Media Lab designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki. The expansion marks a new era of innovation for the Media Lab, which has become legendary for inventions that have ignited the digital revolution, are redefining the potential for creative expression, and, in the future, will push the boundaries of human augmentation.
This milestone signals MIT's commitment to expanding the highly interdisciplinary, often unconventional research that has become the Media Lab's trademark. The 163,000-square-foot, six-story building will feature an open, atelier-style, adaptable architecture specifically designed to provide the flexibility to respond to emerging research priorities. High levels of transparency throughout the building's interior will make ongoing research visible, encouraging connections and collaboration among researchers.
Together with the existing Wiesner Building, designed by MIT alumnus I. M. Pei (1940 B.Arch.), the expanded facility will also house the List Visual Arts Center, the School of Architecture and Planning's Design Lab and Center for Advanced Visual Studies, the Department of Architecture's Visual Arts Program, and MIT's Program in Comparative Media Studies. Another key component of the building will be the Okawa Center for Future Children, established at the Media Lab in 1998 through a $27 million donation from Isao Okawa, the late chairman of CSK Corp. and SEGA Enterprises, Ltd.
Frank Moss, director of the Media Lab, hails the Maki-designed building as an exceptional environment for advancing the lab's unique brand of creativity and research. "An essential ingredient in the lab's distinctive approach to 'open innovation' has been its exploitation of open physical spaces," says Moss. "The abundance of such spaces in the new building will be a perfect setting for expanding our research agenda into exciting new realms such as robots that learn from people, and bionics, for taking ideas beyond the demo stage to working prototypes, and finally for strengthening our ties with corporate sponsors."
"I am thrilled to see a signature Maki building going up on the MIT campus, and especially pleased that it will be associated with our school," says AdÌ¬le NaudÌ© Santos, dean of MIT's School of Architecture and Planning, which includes the Media Lab. "Fumihiko Maki is known for spatially inventive, beautifully proportioned buildings where every detail is carefully designed. His work has a timeless elegance and durability that will be very appropriate for this campus. The sequence of spatially connected labs and atria will foster the synergetic, collective research and teaching activities that are redefining the relationship between design and technology to improve the quality of human lives and the societies in which we live."
Susan Hockfield, president of MIT, sees the new building as an important addition to the Institute, and one that will foster interdisciplinary collaboration across campus. "We believe that the work under way at the Media Lab is integral to MIT's mission, and closely ties in with our focus on energy, health sciences and technological innovation," says Hockfield. "This magnificent building will also create an inviting, open space that will help to solidify our campus as a community while fostering social and intellectual interaction."
The executive architectural firm for the project is Leers Weinzapfel Associates.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 27, 2006 (download PDF).