Construction Abounds

Many Buildings See Expansions, Renovations

1790 construction
Construction on Mass. Ave., Mar. 21.
Omari Stephens—The Tech
1791 construction
On Feb. 14, W1 residents were given a tour of the almost finished NW35 dormitory that the Phoenix Group moved into in the fall.
MArtin Segado—The Tech

For anyone on campus over the past year, one thing that’s been visibly changing is the landscape. Over 2008, buildings were constantly being renovated — Here are some of the larger construction projects of 2008.


Although slated to open as an undergraduate residence in 2010, Building W1 instead finds its future in limbo with recent Institute budget cuts. The $90 million set aside for the project will instead be used for “financial aid and other essentials to keep the academic mission moving forward at MIT,” according to Dean for Student Life Chris Colombo. There is now no set date to open W1.

W1 would have housed 400 undergraduates, which would have resulted in an increase of the undergraduate class size. With the postponement of W1 renovations, however, this increase is also put on hold.

Renovations to the exterior of the building will continue due to a donation from an anonymous donor. It was decided that the funds would be used to repair the exterior since it is in more dire need of renovation. W1 is one of the oldest buildings on campus, opening in 1901 as the Riverbank Court Hotel. It has been a part of the MIT residence halls since the Institute purchased the building in the late 1930s.

The future of the Phoenix Group, the small group of undergraduates who would be the first to reside in W1, is uncertain. The group is currently housed in graduate dormitory NW35. W1, formerly the graduate residence hall Ashdown House, was rendered empty when NW35 opened in August 2008.

The Phoenix Group will continue to live in NW35 this year. If it appears that renovations of W1 will be put on hold for an extended period of time, the group may have to disband.

Media Lab

The Media Lab extension has been in progress for some time, originating in an initial design proposal in 1998 and an construction date of 2002. However, following a donor pullout in 2002, the extension was put on hold for five years. Now, after a decade of planning, the Media Lab extension is going full speed ahead and is set to be operating by spring 2009.

The Weisner Building, designed by architect I.M. Pei, has housed the Media Lab since its opening in 1985. The new extension is designed by architect Fumihiko Maki and his Tokyo-based firm Maki and Associates.

The extension will span over six floors for a total of 160,000 square feet. It will feature a 100-seat theater, a Charles River-overlooking café, seven research labs, and new conference and administrative rooms.

The Weisner Building and the new extension will be connected. As groups move from Weisner to the new building, several labs will be given to the Comparative Media Studies program. The new building will be shared amongst the Media Lab research groups, the Architecture and Planning program, and several other groups.

Construction on the exterior of the building is in the final stages, and internal construction, such as piping, wiring, and elevator installation, is underway.


Although it was set to reopen in October 2008, construction on the Alpha Tau Omega house still continues. The repairs were delayed due to insurance reasons, not because of structural complications, and ATO hopes to present its case for a housing license to the Cambridge Licensing Commission in March 2009.

The ATO house was closed over the summer following a pipe break in July, causing flooding in the house. The CLC suspended the building’s housing license after the burst, and the license was fully revoked in September 2008.

ATO members have since been living primarily in MacGregor House, with 24 of the 34 members housed in the dorm. ATO brothers reside in suite lounges in entries A, B, C and D. The other 10 members are housed in Baker House, Delta Kappa Epsilon, and Beta Theta Pi.

As a result of the delays, ATO will be vacating MacGregor and splintering into other living spaces for spring term.

ATO hopes to move back into its house in late March or early April, pending the housing license approval by the CLC.


Aimed for a winter 2010-2011 opening, construction on the new building for the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research continues. The groundbreaking took place on March 7, 2008.

The building is located across Main Street from the Whitehead and Broad Institutes. It sits on the same block as the Stata Center, the Koch Biology building, and the chemical and biological engineering buildings.

The new Institute will have 180,000 square feet of laboratory and work space over seven floors. Six of these will be laboratory floors, and the ground level will feature an exhibit on MIT’s role in life science.

The building is funded by a generous donation from David Koch ’62, who founded Koch Industries, a Wichita, KS-based corporation that owns companies with interests from chemical processing to finance. It is the nation’s largest privately owned company.

The Koch Institute labs and offices are currently scattered around campus. It has grown out of the MIT Center for Cancer Research, founded in 1974.


MIT’s Sloan School of Management’s new building on Main Street, aimed to serve as the central nexus of the Sloan campus, continued its construction in 2008. Building E56 was demolished in 2007 to make room for the new facility, as of yet unnamed but labeled as E62.

E62 will also provide 6 classrooms, 205 offices, over 30 study rooms, and other facilities such as lounges and outdoor spaces. Furthermore, over 400 parking spaces will be provided in an underground parking garage. The building aims to attain a LEED Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council, indicating an environmentally friendly and high-performance facility.

The garage was built back to ground level in the summer, and the topping off ceremony — where the final beam was placed on the top of the building — was held in October 2008. The extension has a projected completion date of summer 2010.


The transformation of the west side of Vassar Street into a scenic public way, begun in 2006, neared its completion in 2008. Sidewalks, lighting, and bike paths have been completed along the street. Furthermore, a crosswalk was installed outside of Simmons Hall.

Trees have been planted between the bike path and the road. Landscaping is expected to be complete in May 2009.

The Vassar Street West project is a continuation of the Vassar Street East redevelopment, which was completed in 2004. It is a joint project between MIT and the City of Cambridge and is funded by a gift from the family of Richard P. Simmons ’53.