Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Arts and Sciences Building | The Plan
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Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Arts and Sciences Building

Fumihiko Maki & Associates

Fumihiko Maki is a disarmingly subtle architect. His buildings have the genial knack of always looking good in photographs; his lectures are cogent rationalizations without seeming radical or revolutionary. Yet reality, the haptic experience of his often diaphanous buildings, raises the game – again and again, one is presented with, and surrounded by, a remarkable spatial construct. At its best, Maki’s architecture appears to freeze its multiple components at just the right moment, exactly when they achieve some ideal inter-relationship. I am tempted to liken the architect’s skill to an imaginary art form: Zen juggling. It is of course crass of foreigners to make sweeping generalizations of classic Japanese culture. And it may be foolhardy to compare ancient sensibilities with the strategies and objectives of Japanese design today. Maki, however, whilst undeniably Japanese, is also a global figure who spent many formative years in the United States. In fact Maki’s first solo project was Steinberg Hall at Washington University in St Louis (1960), a campus he returned to for his adjacent Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts completed in 2006. Of several projects envisaged for the U.S. and Canada, his most distinguished to-date may well be the Media Arts and Sciences Building recently inaugurated at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Media Arts and Sciences Building is an established Maki type: the multipart cubic lantern. Maki’s Spiral Building in Tokyo’s Minato district, his nearby and exquisite Tepia Science Pavilion, and his National Museum of Modern Art close to Kyoto’s historic Heian Shrine are each an assembly of solids and voids, sleek surfaces and artifacts of structure caught amid pools of light. The latest addition to MIT is another orthogonal composition in which glazing details, the refinement of grids, and the superimposition of layers all contribute to an alluring whole. Exposed and glowing on three of its four sides, the Media...

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