Met warehouse to house SA+P and makerspace

Relocation will ‘make arts and culture more visible,’ SA+P Dean Sarkis writes

The Metropolitan Warehouse at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and Vassar Street will be renovated to house the School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) and a makerspace. The architecture firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R) will lead the redesign of the warehouse, according to an article by SA+P published on MIT News’s website.

SA+P includes the Department of Architecture, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning, the Media Lab, the Center for Real Estate, the Program in Art, Culture, and Technology, and the MIT Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism. (The Media Lab will not relocate.)

The school currently does not have a consolidated space of its own. Its operation “is actually sprinkled all over the campus and fragmented in a way that has negatively reflected on its culture and activities,” SA+P Dean Hashim Sarkis wrote in a cover letter given to the four finalist architecture firms in September 2018.

“We do not own the ground floor anywhere on campus except at the Media Lab. This makes us invisible to anyone navigating through MIT, and almost impossible to find,” Sarkis continued.

The Metropolitan Warehouse, which MIT owns, was built in 1895, according to MIT’s Capital Projects website. It is one of the oldest buildings in the neighborhood. The renovations will preserve the warehouse’s exterior and create 200,000 square feet of interior space, which will include classrooms, studios, workshops, galleries, and an auditorium. The building may also feature a new center of the arts, according to the website.

“Our relocation to the Met will make arts and culture more visible on campus and to the outside world, and closer to the students,” Sarkis wrote. “Paradoxically, the move away from the Main Group and across the street to the Met will provide us with the opportunity to connect better with the rest of campus, especially in terms of hosting collaborative programs and activities in the domains of urbanism, design, and art.”

The architect firm selection process began last year when members of the MIT community submitted 96 nominations for architects, according to an email sent by Professor Martin Culpepper, maker czar and director of Project Manus (an effort to upgrade campus makerspaces and foster maker communities), to the MIT Making community.

In June 2018, 16 nominees were selected by an advisory group that was appointed by senior leadership and the SA+P School Council. The advisory group was chaired by Jon Alvarez, director of the Office of Campus Planning, and Krystyn Van Vliet, associate provost and co-chair of the Committee for Renovation and Space Planning.

The selection criteria included proven experience in adaptive reuse with historic buildings, expertise in sustainable design, and meaningful community engagement.

The advisory group then selected four architecture firms in September 2018: Barkow Leibinger, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, Flores & Prats Arquitectes, and Snøhetta. The four firms visited campus Oct. 30 and Oct. 31 and gave three presentations: to members of the MIT community; to SA+P students, faculty, and staff; and to President L. Rafael Reif and his advisors, which included representatives from SA+P and the School of Engineering.

With input from students and the advisory group, Reif made the final selection of the architect firm.

DS+R — which designed the High Line in New York City and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston — will collaborate with SA+P, Project Manus, MIT Campus Construction, and advisors from other departments in a discovery and visioning process before beginning conceptual design work, the article by SA+P stated.