PLAN 80: Article
The Keller Gallery

A Vest Pocket Space for Special Exhibits

As part of the continuing development of common spaces for the Department of Architecture, a new gallery opened this fall on the fourth floor of Building 7, close to the architecture design studios, the school’s new fabrication lab, the Steam Café and the Long Room, where all the department’s lecture series are held.

Given the historical diaspora of the department, this concentration of common space is of particular importance to the cultural life of the school and has been purposefully developed by a series of deans and department heads including, most recently, department head Nader Tehrani.

A vest-pocket space at about 200 square feet, the Keller Gallery will show a steady stream of faculty, student and experimental work, including work from alumni and friends. At the moment, the gallery is programmed to show about three exhibits per semester, but because the space isn’t subject to the protocols and logistics of the larger MIT galleries, it will be able to respond to opportunities as they arise by mounting quick ‘flash exhibits’ in the gaps between scheduled shows.

The redesign of the space – it had been a fabrication lab – was carried out with a generous donation of materials and labor in kind from Shawn Keller, principal with C.W. Keller & Associates, an architectural millwork, furniture and design firm that also builds complex forms for use in shaping other materials. An example of their skill with formwork is the molding of concrete roof canopies for the Boston Harbor Park Pavilion, the geometry for which was developed by SA+P’s Joel Lamere; the pavilion won the Grand Honor Award from the Associated General Contractors to recognize collaborative excellence.

The first exhibit at the gallery, Trans Trash, presented a range of approaches to the problems of waste management at both the local and national level in an attempt to enable more personal social awareness and responsibility. Running from September 30 through October 23, the show was a collaborative effort by MArch candidate Nancy Kim, PhD candidate Dietmar Offenhuber, Visiting Scientist Pablo Rey and Libby McDonald, an associate of the Green Hub Global Program at the Community Innovators Lab.

The second exhibit, Research in Lightweight Concrete, focused on the invention of a cellular cement that minimizes raw material consumption and energy in production while maximizing lifecycle performance. On display in early November, the show was created by SMArchS candidate Timothy Cooke and Associate Professor John Fernández and reflected their research into lowering concrete’s thermal conductivity, increasing its overall strength and toughness and providing greater durability.

Ensuing shows included an installation from Khoury Levit Fong, a Toronto firm – Rodolphe el-Khoury was a visiting critic last year in the MArch program – and coincided with a lecture by the firm’s Robert Levit, hopefully the first of many coordinated events. Following that will be a show of work by alumnus Ali Tayar (MArch’86) including furniture, drawings, sketchbooks and fabrication prototypes. A student curatorial committee is working on programming for the spring.

Coordinator of the Keller Gallery is Sarah Margaret Hirschman (MArch’11), who is also editor of the recently released Testing to Failure: Design and Research in MIT’s Department of Architecture, a survey of work done at the school from 2009 to 2011. (Available at Amazon.com and select architectural bookstores, and in person at SA+P’s architecture department headquarters.)

The Keller Gallery, Room 7-408, is open Monday through Saturday from 9AM to 6PM. Development of the space benefited greatly from the efforts of Jim Harrington, SA+P’s Facilities Manager.