The new residence hall in Cambridge campus is part of a porous strip of potential new MIT Buildings forming the Vassar Street edge along the Briggs Athletic Field. It offers a new type of undergraduate living. Instead of a brick urban wall we envision this strip as a porous membrane made up of four or five different buildings. The light, materiality, transparency of these buildings are particularly important as they have a position free of the normal city fabric on both sides. In a sense they are a “Living Front” for the residential district to be built to the north of them. As a “front” they must attempt not to block views. They should be “permeable”.
The 350 bed residence is envisioned as a vertical slice of a city ten stories tall and 330’ long. The Urban Concept provides amenities to students within the dormitory such as a 125 seat theatre, a night cafè, a house dining on street level and a street front restaurant with a special awning and outdoor tables. The corridors connecting the rooms are like streets (11’ wide) which happen upon urban experiences. As in Aalto’s Baker House, the hallway can be more like a public place, a lounge.
The Sponge concept transforms a porous building morphology via a series of programmatic and bio-technical functions. The overall building mass has five large scale openings. These roughly correspond to main entrances, view corridors, and the main outdoor activity terraces of the dormitory connected to programs such as gymnasium.
In this sense porosity as a massing concept would have programmatic potentials. The dormitory residence as a special housing type is not quite transient and not quite permanent. Social spaces must be planned to bring people together: provoking interaction, friendship and dialogue. On the other hand in the case of a residence hall, individuation of the student’s room, individual character of the cluster or collective portion, and individuation of the overall residential buildings can contribute to the vitality and identity of the residents. The urban planning of the residential dormitories should support their maximum potential as inspirational places to live and study. That’s why while the collective areas aim to provoke interaction and exchange, individual souls are given consideration over mass population, so that each room would be an individual “house” with a particular identity.
Vertical porosity is created in the block with a ruled surface system freely connected to sponge prints, plan to section. These large, dynamic openings are the lungs of the building bringing natural light down and moving air up through the section.
The “PerfCon” structure is a unique design allowing for maximum flexibility and interaction. The 18” depth of the wall naturally shades out the summer sun, while allowing the low angled winter sun in to help heat the building. Each of the dormitory’s single rooms has nine operable windows over 2’ x 2’ in size, which allow students option for ventilation, views and privacy. The night light from the 9-windows rooms will be magical and exciting. Opening high and low windows takes advantage of the natural rise of warm air with the high ceiling room.
In the deep setting of the numerous windows color is applied to the head and jamb creating identity for each of the ten “houses” within the overall building. Based upon a structural diagram used to coordinate the size of reinforcing steel in the PerfCon panels, the colored jambs express the anticipated maximum stresses in the structure. The colors reveal the size of the reinforcing steel cast within the PerfCon Panels ( Blue = #5, Green = #6, Yellow = #7, Orange = #8, Red = #9 and #10, uncolored areas are #5 or smaller). Computer generated structural models of the PerfCon structure showed areas that were critically overstressed due to long spans and bent spans over open corners. Selected windows in these areas were filled in to resolve the overstressed conditions.
With bedrock too deep to reach and soil too unstable to support friction piles, the building was designed to “float” like a boat in water. A volume of soil, equal to the weight of the building above, was excavated. Once complete, the pressure exerted by the building equal the pressure from the soil that had been removed. A 4’ thick solid concrete matt foundation evenly distributes the building load to the soil below.
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