Kresge Auditorium
Kresge Auditorium is an auditorium building for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, located at 48 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was designed by the noted architect Eero Saarinen, with ground-breaking in 1953 and dedication in 1955. It was designed together with the MIT Chapel, the two buildings separated by a "green," referred to by students as the "Kresge Oval." The ensemble is recognized as one of the best examples of mid-Century modern architecture in the US. Though unassuming by today's standards, the buildings were part of an attempt to define MIT's social cohesion. The Auditorium was where MIT students and faculty could gather for formal events, the chapel was intended for marriages and memorial; the green that stretches between the two buildings, in the tradition of early-American urban planning, was to serve as the setting for civic events. Though the campus has grown around the buildings, the essential features of this idea are still easily legible. The building was named for its principal funder, Sebastian S. Kresge, founder of Kresge Stores (corporate predecessor of K-Mart) and the Kresge Foundation. The auditorium is defined by an elegant thin-shell structure, one-eighth of a sphere rising to a height of 50 feet, and sliced away by sheer glass walls so that it comes to earth on only three points. Thin shelled concrete technology was innovative for the times. The dome weighs only 1200 tons and is clad with copper. Sitting on a circular brick platform, the dome contains a concert hall (with seating for 1226 people), with a lower level that houses a small theater (seating 204), two rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, offices, bathrooms, and lounges. The concert hall also contains a Holtkamp organ. The opening ceremony in 1955, that featured the organ, included a piece of music that was commissioned for the event, Aaron Copland's "Canticle of Freedom." Every seat in concert hall has an unobstructed view since there are no interior supports for the overarching dome. Working with renowned acoustical architects Bolt, Beranek and Newman, Saarinen employed free-hanging acoustic "clouds" that absorb and direct sound, instead of a traditional plaster ceiling. These clouds also contained lights, loudspeakers, and ventilation. While standing on either side of the entry lobby, one can distinctly hear people on the other side speaking in as low a voice as a whisper. The first professional recording at the Kresge Auditorium was a performance by soloist James Stagliano on the French Horn, playing Mozart's 4 Concerti for Horn, accompanied by the Zimbler Sinfonietta. The recording was made using a single Telefunken microphone, positioned 10 feet from the concert platform. The performance was recorded on an Ampex tape recorder, and released on LP under the 'Boston Records' Label.