Rising nearly 300 feet from the ground, the Cecil and Ida Green Building, aka Building 54, stands out as not only the tallest building on MIT’s campus but also (until recently) the tallest building in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Yet it’s not obvious from the outside what actually goes on within this imposing 55-year-old structure designed by the late I.M. Pei ’40.
People on campus tours often hear about the annual pumpkin drop, or about instances when students have commandeered the Green Building’s LED-equipped windows to play giant games of Tetris. But not everyone learns about the groundbreaking work carried out inside — such as the development of chaos theory, seismic tomography, numerical weather prediction, climate modeling, and far-reaching NASA missions.
This is the headquarters of MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS), and plans are now underway to give Building 54 a major facelift, including a new LEED-certified addition that will offer a window into the important work taking place inside.
The $60 million upgrade will allow construction of an Earth and Environment Pavilion designed to be a vital center for environmental and climate research on MIT’s campus. With assistance from the Institute and generous private donors — including John H. Carlson; George Elbaum ’59, SM ’63, PhD ’67; Fred A. Middleton Jr. ’71; Neil Pappalardo ’64; and Shell — EAPS recently passed the midway point on its $30 million fundraising campaign for the new pavilion and other improvements to the Green Building, such as a renovated lecture hall (54-100) to be renamed the Shell Auditorium.
The project will yield about 12,000 square feet of additional space, providing new meeting places, classrooms, and study areas. The enlarged and revamped Green Building is expected to help EAPS attract and retain top faculty and students. But the more ambitious objective is to enhance the research undertaken within the department by co-locating EAPS and the MIT-Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Joint Program with the MIT Environmental Solutions Initiative, affording greater opportunities for interaction and the cross-pollination of ideas.
This article originally appeared in MIT Spectrum.