Karrie Jacobs


November 7, 2007

Pot Calling Kettle…


The Stata Center at MIT
I’d like to think that the sudden jump in traffic to my website was triggered by my return from House & Garden. But, in fact, most people arrived here to read an old post that mentions the Stata Center, the MIT computer lab building that is the center of a lawsuit: MIT vs. Frank Gehry. The building, no surprise, leaks. I say no surprise because the building, like many Gehry designs, is an absurdly complex assemblage of oddly shaped forms. Every connection between one quirky little volume and another is an opportunity for a seal to go wrong.
Or, as the architect noted in today’s New York Times:

“These things are complicated,” he said, “and they involved a lot of people, and you never quite know where they went wrong. A building goes together with seven billion pieces of connective tissue. The chances of it getting done ever without something colliding or some misstep are small.”

I went to the press opening of the building in 2004, but never wrote about it because I didn’t like it all that much. From the outside it looked like Cream of Gehry; a collection of gestures from all of his other buildings. On the other hand, I didn’t hate it. On the inside it seemed to accomplish what Gehry (and various officials from MIT) said was the goal, to make a building that offered researchers both privacy and opportunities to socialize. “I think of it like a cocktail party,” Gehry said at the time. “In this case, the robots got drunk.”

The contractors currently are denying responsibility, blaming the architect and the architect, no surprise, is blaming the contractors. Hard to know how this will play out if it ever gets to court. All I will say is this: a leak, by definition, is the product of a conspiracy between design and execution.

What I think is funny here is that MIT, that hothouse of technological knottiness, is, in effect, suing architect Gehry, master of the neo-Baroque, for being too damned complex.