Stata Center

Coordinates: 42°21′42″N 71°05′25″W / 42.361640°N 71.090255°W / 42.361640; -71.090255

The Ray and Maria Stata Center (pronounced STAY-ta) or Building 32 is a 720,000-square-foot (67,000 m2) academic complex designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). The building opened for initial occupancy on March 16, 2004. It sits on the site of MIT's former Building 20, which housed the historic Radiation Laboratory, in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Major funding for the project was provided by Ray Stata (MIT class of 1957) and Maria Stata. Other major funders include Bill Gates, Alexander W. Dreyfoos, Jr. (MIT class of 1954), and Morris Chang of TSMC. Above the fourth floor, the building splits into two distinct structures: the Gates tower and the Dreyfoos tower.

Contained within the building are the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, the Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, as well as the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. Academic celebrities such as Noam Chomsky and Ron Rivest have offices there. World Wide Web Consortium founder Tim Berners-Lee and free software movement founder Richard Stallman also have offices within.

Several MIT classes, including many taught by the computer science and electrical engineering department (Course VI) are held inside. The Forbes Family Café is also located in the Stata Center, serving coffee and lunch to the public.

In contrast to the trend at MIT of referring to buildings by their numbers rather than their official names, the complex is usually referred to as "Stata", or "the Stata Center". The two towers are often called "G Tower" and "D tower".

Building 20

The Stata Center necessitated the removal of the much-beloved Building 20 in 1998. Building 20 was erected hastily during World War II as a temporary building that housed the historic Radiation Laboratory. Over the course of fifty-five years, its "temporary" nature allowed research groups to have more space, and to make more creative use of that space, than was possible in more respectable buildings (including providing permanent rooms for official Institute clubs and groups, most notably the Tech Model Railroad Club). Professor Jerome Y. Lettvin once quipped, "You might regard it as the womb of the Institute. It is kind of messy, but by God it is procreative!"

Critical response

Boston Globe architecture columnist Robert Campbell wrote a glowing appraisal of the building on April 25, 2004. According to Campbell, "the Stata is always going to look unfinished. It also looks as if it's about to collapse. Columns tilt at scary angles. Walls teeter, swerve, and collide in random curves and angles. Materials change wherever you look: brick, mirror-surface steel, brushed aluminum, brightly colored paint, corrugated metal. Everything looks improvised, as if thrown up at the last moment. That's the point. The Stata's appearance is a metaphor for the freedom, daring, and creativity of the research that's supposed to occur inside it." Campbell stated that the cost overruns and delays in completion of the Stata Center are of no more importance than similar problems associated with the building of St. Paul's Cathedral. The 2005 Kaplan/Newsweek guide "How to Get into College," which lists twenty-five universities its editors consider notable in some respect, recognizes MIT as having the "hottest architecture," placing most of its emphasis on the Stata Center.

Though there are many who praise this building, and in fact from the perspective of Gehry's other work it is considered by some as one of his best, there are certainly many who are less enamored of the structure. The use of glass for walls on the inside means that those who work in the building have to give up a sense of privacy. There is also one lecture room where, because of the slight lean of the wall panels, some people have been known to experience vertigo. Sound insulation is almost absent. The building has also been criticized as insensitive to the needs of its inhabitants, poorly designed for day-to-day use, and at an official cost $283.5 million, overpriced. Probably one of the more successful aspects of the building is the inner circulation system with niches for impromptu meetings and blackboards along the wall.

Mathematician and architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros has harshly criticized the Stata Center:

Former Boston University president John Silber said the building "really is a disaster." Architecture critic Robert Campbell praised Gehry for "break up the monotony of a street of concrete buildings" and being "a building like no other building." The style of the building has been likened to the German Expressionism of the 1920s.


On October 31, 2007, MIT sued architect Frank Gehry and the construction companies, Skanska USA Building Inc. and NER Construction Management, for "providing deficient design services and drawings" which caused leaks to spring, masonry to crack, mold to grow, drainage to back up, and falling ice and debris to block emergency exits. A Skanska spokesperson said that prior to construction Gehry ignored warnings from Skanska and a consulting company regarding flaws in his design of the amphitheater, and rejected a formal request from Skanska to modify the design.

In an interview, Mr. Gehry, whose firm was paid $15 million for the project, said construction problems were inevitable in the design of complex buildings. "These things are complicated," he said, "and they involved a lot of people, and you never quite know where they went wrong. A building goes together with seven billion pieces of connective tissue. The chances of it getting done ever without something colliding or some misstep are small." "I think the issues are fairly minor," he added. "M.I.T. is after our insurance." Mr. Gehry said value engineering—the process by which elements of a project are eliminated to cut costs—was largely responsible for the problems. "There are things that were left out of the design," he said. "The client chose not to put certain devices on the roofs, to save money." The lawsuit was reportedly settled in 2010 with most of the issues having been resolved.

  • Joyce, Nancy E. (2004). Building Stata: The Design and Construction of Frank O. Gehry's Stata Center at MIT. afterword by William J. Mitchell, photography by Richard Sobol. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0262600613. 
  • Mitchell, William J. (2007). Imagining MIT: Designing a Campus for the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press. ISBN 978-0-262-13479-8. 


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