Campus Life

“Bars of Color”

Building 6’s artwork is a serene sanctuary.

3429 fresh
Sol LeWitt’s “Bars of Color within Squares” is a place of contemplation for a freshman.
Sam Range—The Tech File Photo

It was the middle of September 2010, and I was still the wandering freshman beguiled at everything MIT presented — from the snake–y tunnels to the TEAL classes and even to the problematic problem sets!

On such a day, my dear friend Vedha and I were looking for a quiet place to discuss physics (yes, we were crazy nerds back then). Suddenly Vedha said, “I know exactly the place we’re looking for!” and took me to our “Room of Requirement.”

At once the room brightened my mood with its rainbow tiles and the glass ceiling through which sunlight was abundantly streaming. I also wondered why the room was empty and even if we were allowed to be there. But I was so attracted to the room that my head replied with vengeance, “Who cares?”

The “colored place” became our usual room to study or idle away time (though that does not happen very often) between classes.

On Halloween, I found that the “colored place” was also adored by hackers when I followed a line of tiny spiders to discover a huge arachnid hanging from the ceiling. It was only then that I learned that our dear old “colored place” is officially named “Bars of Color within Squares” with its amazing terrazzo floor.

This “Bars of Color within Squares” is a 5,500 square-foot piece of public art commissioned with MIT Percent-for-Art Funds for the Physics, Department of Material Science and Engineering and the Spectroscopy Lab Infrastructure Project.

The idea hatched from eighteen variations of designs including geometric figures and happy, bright colors by Sol LeWitt, often referred as a founding father of Conceptual Art. Later fifteen of them were used to create the polychrome terrazzo floor that now greets the visitors who enter the atrium space between MIT’s new Green Center (Building 6C) and the older Buildings 4, 6 and 8. To art critics like Andrea Miller-Keller, it is “a carnival of color, light and movement.”

To me, it is simply my contemplating place. It gives me the serene environment that I need to figure out DNA sequences and the joyous mood that I need to go through colorless texts. Whenever I turn over a page, I look at the floor to see the radiant colors and bold geometric shapes shifting merrily.

No matter what its real name is, to me it will always be my “colored place.”