Gehry endeavored to give us the same sort of flexible space, which we will mold and change over time to suit our purposes. Some people are fantastically happy with everything just as it is. Surprisingly (at least to me), others who have made a career out of tearing down old ideas and replacing them with avant-garde new ones are a little shocked by a confrontation with a physical space that they don’t quite understand.
Faculty members are responding in a variety of ways. One has in his office the same desk he was first assigned at MIT as a freshman 40 years ago. Another put a beautiful hardwood floor atop his raised floor and outfitted his office in the Italian Liberty style.
Graduate students have been even more aggressive in their responses. Some immediately painted glass walls near them to gain privacy. Others reveled in the open space and moved their desks next to each other so they could work in teams. The many lounges scattered throughout the building all seem well used, and students have created new semiprivate lounges in the middle of research spaces. Couches to sleep on day and night have appeared throughout the building – some hidden, others visible from three floors away.
Many faculty and students view the building as a perfect engineering challenge. New touch screens, tastefully encased in plywood boxes to blend in, have rapidly appeared near elevators so that visitors can look up their hosts or identify what seminars are in which strangely shaped rooms. If you have one of the latest cell phones in your pocket, maps and location data get automatically downloaded as you walk past one of these kiosks.
Some researchers have dispatched robots to wander the corridors and build perfect three-dimensional maps of the building’s interior. I’ve warned them to be careful showing their results at conferences: their audiences may think the curved and sloped walls and complete lack of 90-degree angles reflect errors in their software.
While all of us perpetually relish the chance to confront hard problems, to gain exposure to new ideas, and most of all, to generate those new ideas, Frank has given us a disturbing new challenge. He has given us a mind-bending new spatial environment. I’m pretty confident that the next generation of MIT students will love this challenge, and that they will turn it into fresh new approaches to research.
And I can’t wait to see what they come up with.