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Building 7 dome restoration

April 27, 2021
Kevin K. Pho

The Building 7 dome, designed by William Welles Bosworth to give MIT a suitably grand entrance on Mass Ave, was completed in 1939. In 2019, an 80-year checkup seemed warranted, and a study initiated by the Facilities Department found deterioration of the building exterior and waterproofing. Restoration of the Little Dome began in July 2020; it includes masonry, metal flashing, and skylight repairs as well as replacement of the upper roof of Building 7 and repairs to the water-damaged Lobby 7 ceiling. 

A mason at work on the construction of the Little Dome, which was completed in 1939.

Throughout the project, slated to wrap up this spring, the dome has been protected by a Hakitec building enclosure and scaffolding system. Two brothers who’d designed a stump puller in their father’s blacksmith shop in Sweden adapted that technology around 1950 to pull sheathing panels through channels mounted to a roof truss, creating a weatherproof enclosure that can resist winds of up to 100 miles per hour.

While that might seem unnecessary, the wood formwork used to construct the original concrete dome was in place on September 21, 1938, when the worst hurricane ever to hit New England struck—and blew it all away, recalled Carl Peterson, a former director of MIT’s physical plant. As William Dickerson ’56, who later served as physical plant director, recounted, “He said you could find pieces of the framed dome all over the city of Cambridge by the time the storm was over, but you could find none of the dome framing on site at the Institute.”





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