The Stata Center – Educational Brilliance or Urban Wreck?

The Stata Center – MIT’s most controvertial property

The Strata CenterArchitectural design has many different schools, all of which have very different purposes and visual dynamics – most of us living in the UK, for instance, will either live or work in or at least see a Brutalist building every day. It would be difficult to name an architectural school more controvertial, or more able to polarise opinion, that Deconstructivist architecture, which Massachusetts’ MIT science university chose for its Stata Center.

Robert Campbell’s article for BusinessWeek.com, written five years ago, is an equally weighted article discussing the fact that, while he personally likes the building, it does have its faults – importantly, the article reports that Noam Chomsky, the fantastically celebrated linguist, dislikes Stata and mostly works from home.

It would be presumptuous and dismissive to offer a personal opinion regarding the building’s functionality without having visited it, but from what can be read about the internal structure and design features of the Center, we can see why scientists in particular enjoy studying and working in the building. It’s disjointed, unfinished and highly interactive – a fertile place for those whose job it is to think in a non-linear and entirely new fashion. For Chomsky – whose world must be ordered, archived and very linear – it must be much harder.

The Stata Center

Deconstructivism, at its core, springs as a reaction against Modernist architecture, with Modernist ideals including “form following function” and “truth to materials”. To a layman, Deconstructivism could even be seen as a form of architectural punk – architects bored and tired of Modernism’s restrictive rules creating buildings with sudden, subconscious twists and changes. Ideal for scientists, perhaps – but possibly not what you’d look for in a holiday home (unless, of course, the Stata Center looks like exactly the kind of place you want to holiday in – vive la différence, after all). It could be argued that the Stata Center isn’t even Deconstructivism’s strangest looking building – that title is still up for grabs, with some truly out-there buildings across the globe.

The there’s the aesthetics of thing. There’s no doubt that it’ll confront you with it’s utterly unique style, but in the end, only you can make your own mind up as to whether it’s a genius funhouse of educational innovation or a building-site abomination. All we will say is this – the Stata Center’s architect, Frank Gehry, has created a true focal point for MIT with this building.

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