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Quiet places

Finding some alone time on a busy campus

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DuPont Court outside Buildng 1.
Alexander C. Bost—The Tech
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The Hayden Memorial Library courtyard.
Alexander C. Bost—The Tech
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Map of quiet spots on campus.
Illustration by Hayoon Chung

There are times when I’m on the MIT campus and I want some quiet. I enjoy being around people, but in the bustle of campus activities, sometimes you need some thinking space. Here are some of my favorite places to stay when I want a relaxing environment to work, chomp on food, or sleep.


MIT’s libraries are calming. There are, altogether, five libraries: Barker, Dewey, Hayden, Lewis, and Rotch. Each contains unique features. Barker, in Building 10, is situated directly underneath the big dome. Any sound bounces off the spheroid dome, which explains why Barker is the quietest of the libraries. For fun, try snapping your fingers, unzipping your backpack, or dropping a pen on your desk. Other perks of Barker include rolling chairs, dividers on the desks, and soft couches arranged in circles side by side for restful napping.

Dewey, in E53, is the farthest one from campus and contains a lot of windows through which sunlight passes. It’s quite spacious and spread out. It is the largest of the libraries and houses the references for the Department of Economics and the Sloan School of Management. Dewey contains the highest number of study rooms and is located conveniently next to Kendall Square (a source of food).

Hayden, in E14, features three levels. The entry and lower levels contain the science journals and references. The level above is the humanities section, with rare and interesting novels, stories, manga, comics, etc. If you want a break from STEM and want to kick back with some Spiderman, Batman, or Ironman comics, or Black Jack, Full Metal Alchemist, or Rurouni Kenshin mangas, Hayden is the place for you.

Lewis, also in E14, contains a piano, the most comfortable armchairs that you can simply sink into, and a beautiful view of the courtyard between the libraries. Lewis is the exclusive music library, so if you need scores for a piece, you should definitely visit. It’s wonderful when the librarians play soothing piano music or when someone practices on the piano. The sound flows through the library well because it is the smallest of the libraries.

Rotch, in Building 7, is the architecture library and contains references about urban planning and the geoscience lab center. There are toy plastic sculptures in toy vending machines that you can decorate your room with. Unlike the other libraries, the staircase leading to the second floor in Rotch is made of polished wood and spirals up to the second floor. It provides a comprehensive view of the entire library. There’s a secluded corner on the second floor with colorful pipes and marble benches laid out in a modernist, or perhaps completely random, style.

Courts and Courtyards

Notable courtyards include the courtyards sandwiched between Buildings 6, 4, and 2, between Buildings 10, 11, and 13, and between the four sections of Building 14. The first one, the Atomic Courtyard, is only accessible through the tunnels. The second one features benches and numerous overhanging trees. The third one, the Lipchitz Courtyard, features three sculptures, umbrellas, and greenery.

There are also the Lowell Court, tucked into the region around Building 2; the duPont Court tucked in the opposite direction around Building 1; the iconic Killian Court, which branches into both of those courts from Building 10; Eastman Court, situated between Buildings 8, 16, and 18; and the McDermott Court, located between Buildings 18, 54, and 62. It’s important to enjoy the view outdoors before the weather drops from comfortable to freezing, which should occur in the next few weeks.

Random Places

In addition to all the spaces named above, there are some random places around campus that are quite relaxing. The corridor along E25, adjacent to MIT Medical, is a relaxing place. There are benches to sit on and a beautiful view of the greenery outside. There are tables and chairs on the higher floors (6-10) of Building 32 which provide a soothing atmosphere for working. The eighth floor of the Stata building in the Dreyfoos tower provides an excellent view of the oddly shaped buildings designed by Frank Gehry, and the sky, whether it is cloudy or sunny.

The hidden library tucked neatly into the third floor of Building 8 provides soft chairs to recline back in when studying. It almost feels like a tree house because towering shelves of books surround you. The Center for Theoretical Physics in Building 6 features a blackboard, armchairs, and absolute silence perfect for when you have to practice your presentations. The corridor along Buildings 8, 6, and 2 contains a side entrance into a room where Sol LeWitt’s “Bars of Colors within Squares” is put into the floor. The Media Lab, across Ames Street, is also a breathtaking work of architecture and warrants exploration.

Of course there are more places, but I won’t tell you where they are because you should head out and discover them, and find a place that resonates with you.