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MIT student blogger Sam M. '07

Building, building, building, building by Sam M. '07

This one goes out to the one I've left behind.

DID YOU KNOW? According to Wikipedia, “An article from The Onion appeared on the 2005 Advanced Placement English Language and Composition test, in which students were asked to write an essay analyzing its use of satire.”

Ling ’07 had two of her MIT friends over this weekend and we went to D√Љsseldorf this weekend, I forget why, but the thing that we were most excited about was seeing a building designed by Frank O. Gehry.


Ling: “Why are you taking a picture of this sign?”
Sam: “So I don’t forget that it’s a Frank O. Gehry building.”
Ling: “I don’t think that you’re going to forget that it’s a Frank O. Gehry building.”

I actually really liked this sign, and think that we should adopt the funky building thing as the “international symbol for Frank O. Gehry architecture.” This is what the actual building looks like.


…not entirely unlike the much-discussed Stata Center at MIT, also designed by Frank O. Gehry and completed just a few months into my freshman year.


Now prefrosh, they ask me, “My mom saw in the Princeton Review book that she bought that MIT has one of the 10 least attractive college campuses. Is it hard going to school there?”

Yes, MIT is infamous for accumulating a collection of unusual and (dare I say) controversial architecture, including the Stata Center, Simmons Hall, the Media Lab, and a bunch of really weird sculptures. But sometimes unusual can be beautiful. Like Santino from Project Runway.

And so I say, “Well, even if you don’t like all the architecture at MIT, at least you can say that it’s different.”

Myself? Well, I think the Stata Center is interesting, if not necessarily attractive, and I think the inside is vibrant, if not necessarily practical. I take pride in biking under the Great Sail on my way to class every morning, because I think it looks kind of neat, in addition to its engineering purpose of diminishing the wind tunnel under the Green Building. I think Kresge is great, and I’m not sure who came up with the idea of a windowless brick cylinder for a chapel, but it doesn’t look bad in the context of the buildings around it. Now, Simmons, I just don’t like–the industrial space waffle aesthetic on the outside doesn’t work for me, and the inside is so gray and full of holes that I think I’d have horrible nightmares if I had to live there. But I don’t have to live there. And even if I would have drawn it in the housing lottery, REX would have given me the chance to change my housing once I had discovered that the interior gives me THE SHIVERS.

And, hey, some people like Simmons.

Which is the cool thing about MIT architecture–everybody has something different to say about it, good or bad. Not like some other colleges, where people probably sit around asking “Do we really need this much ivy growing on the walls?”

13 responses to “Building, building, building, building”

  1. Monica says:

    I took the 2005 AP Language and Composition exam and wanted to get up and squeal when I saw that there was an article from “The Onion.” Lucky for me and the test administrators, I was able to restrain myself.

  2. Drew says:

    That was my favorite AP essay ever. Though it’s not hard to beat some of them…

  3. I actually _love_ the MIT architecture. Much of it is just ingenious and designed with an intent, in my opinion. The Great Sail, the 30-60-90, the 1/8-sphere Kresge, touching the ground at only three points, the windowless chapel with glass in the moat so when the sun is out the sunlight is filtered and reflected inside, creating a sort of halo effect, the Pei mini-amphitheatre by the Green building, the Green building itself (basically any other building, but on it’s side), etc.

    Longest run-on ever.

  4. thekeri says:

    That Onion article was a godsend on my AP Lang exam.

    I have nightmares that Simmons is going to eat all the people inside one day. It’s a terrifying-looking building, that’s all…

  5. JKim says:


    I like to think my Onion desk calendar was the reason I totally owned that AP test.

  6. Sam says:

    Haha, all this talk about AP tests makes me reminisce back to my own AP Literature test. But I really can’t remember what the essays were about… but the one question I do remember was something like “The sound that the owl in this poem makes probably rhymes with a) toot b) moo c) foul … ” It was maybe the dumbest question I have ever encountered in my academic career.

    Colin, I am all for selective use of semi-profanity, but if Marilee Jones finds out, she might rescind your admissions.

    thekeri, I’ve also thought about a transformers-like scenario where Simmons morphs into a gigantic killer death robot.

  7. Colin says:


    Whereas I have been an Onion fan for years, and would have heartily enjoyed that essay, and not had to endure months of agony thinking, “did I get a 5? I don’t know if I wrote enough about the flamingo.”


  8. Colin says:

    Oh, crap. Am I allowed to say “whores” on

  9. Kenny says:

    I LOVE Simmons..on the inside. Not so much on the outside, though even the outside looks cool at night… I must admit, though, that my first impression of the inside was “concrete prison.” ewwwwww.. Later, though, I sat in all of the different goofy chairs, took the time to compare wall textures, hung out a little in their ridiculous but spacious lounges, and saw their multipurpose room, which is GORGEOUS. It is very stupidly lit, and completely inflexible, yet beautiful and unique. It makes me a happy Kenny. Where else can you find a performance space that is 19 feet wide and 50ish feet deep (I say fifty-ish because the back wall is strangely angled, so that it ranges from 48 to 55 feet deep)? With wood panelling on one side and the back wall, diagonally oriented wood flooring, and one wall of solid concrete? Yes, it is quite odd, but rather fantastic at the same time.

    I’m still glad to have spent my four years in the vaguely ghetto atmosphere of Burton Conner, though. I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

  10. Ruth says:

    Vaguely ghetto indeed. I feel hardier having walked by a Far Side posted covered, person-sized hole for a semester.

  11. Anonymous says:

    [Do we really need this much ivy growing on the walls?]

    Bingo. Does college students need to feed on grass like horses


  12. Karen says:

    I, too, took the Onion AP. It was really easy – I had to make myself stop writing because there was just so much to write about.

    Am I mistake, or is THE SHIVERS an Owen Meany reference?

  13. Sam says:

    Kenny — I think your comment proves that there really are people who care about drama at MIT.

    Karen — Absolutely. That’s one of my favorite books! Garp is good too, but not quite as good, and the ending is just mean.