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Four Decades of Change

O. Robert Simha, MIT’s planning director from 1960 to 2000, believes the design of MIT’s campus reflects its educational philosophy: the kilometers of corridors that link department to department and building to building facilitate the free-flowing, interdisciplinary exchange of ideas. “Buildings are the shelter for and the device by which the intellectual activity can get done,” Simha says.

Simha has chronicled 40 years of Institute building projects in MIT Campus Planning 19602000: An Annotated Chronology, recently published by the MIT Press. He describes each project as it relates to both campus and community. The Kendall Square subway station extension and renovation in the mid-1980s, for example, was deeply intertwined with MIT’s campus planning. Simha made sure the new station entrance opened toward the Health Services Center, creating a direct path into the heart of campus.

Simha hopes this book will be read by students and professors of planning, who can learn “pitfalls to avoid.” They can also learn from MIT’s successes. Simha believes MIT’s most significant planning success is flexibility: the ability to foresee changes in science and to build accordingly, but also to design buildings that can be reconfigured as needs (such as more lab space) arise. “You can accommodate new ideas if you don’t have to search for new buildings,” Simha says.

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