Monday, June 29, 2009

Simmons Hall (MIT), Cambridge, US

Simmons Hall, located at 229 Vassar Street, was completed in 2002 at the cost of $78.5 million.

It is 382 feet long and 10 stories tall, housing 350 undergraduates, faculty housemasters, visiting scholars, and graduate assistants. The structure is concrete block perforated with approximately 5,500 square windows each measuring two feet (0.60 meters) on a side, and additional larger and irregularly-shaped windows. An 18" (0.46 meters) wall depth is designed to provide shade in summer while allowing the winter sun to help heat the building, without air conditioning. Unfortunately, the efficacy of such a design is yet to be proven and temperature problems plague parts of the building throughout the year. The students complain that the very small metal window frames and screens create a faraday cage which make it difficult to receive wireless telephone signals. An average single room has nine windows, each with its own small curtain.

The building has been nicknamed the "sponge", but opinions on the aesthetics of the building remain strongly divided. On one hand, Simmons Hall won the 2003 American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Architecture, and the 2004 Harleston Parker Medal, administered by the Boston Society of Architects and awarded to the "most beautiful piece of architecture building, monument or structure" in the Boston area. On the other hand, the building has been criticized as being ugly, a sentiment echoed in James Kunstler's "Eyesore of the Month" catalog.

Architect : Steven Holl

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