PLAN 78: Article
SA+P Installations Animate MIT Campus

In Honor of MIT’s 150th Anniversary

As part of MIT’s Festival of Art + Science + Technology (FAST) – a continuing feature of the Institute’s sesquicentennial celebration – a series of architectural installations by faculty and students in the School of Architecture + Planning are cropping up here and there around campus throughout the spring semester.

Designed to celebrate the Institute’s culture of creativity and invention at the intersection of art, science and technology, the installations demonstrate how technology and fantasy can transform the physical environment in thought-provoking, breathtaking ways.

As people travel the campus this spring, they will come upon a large-scale, diaphanous origami lining the underside of a stairway; a vaulted passageway evoking Escher, Gaudi and Gothic cathedrals; a field of white plaster mounds running alongside Walker Memorial and a shimmering curtain of light in the archway below the Green Building, generating and consuming energy harvested from the wind.

Several of the installations will aid visitors in pathfinding. A cloud of vellum butterflies printed with text from books, sheet music and pages of MIT theses will be suspended in the corridor near the Hayden Library; when people approach, one of several pathways of butterflies will light in sequence ahead of them, creating a path through the cloud.

An installation of illuminated lanterns hung from trees near Main and Ames Street will lead people toward the main campus; when they approach, sound and color will be passed from one lantern to another, increasing in intensity along the way and lighting the path forward. Nearby, a diaphanous tunnel created from nylon threads will extend the Infinite Corridor from the Dreyfus Building bridge.

Some of the installations will invite people to play. One will allow them to ‘paint’ with a magnetic field, creating patterns in light. Another will light the facades of buildings with numbers that hold special significance at MIT while phrases projected around the plaza will hint at the meaning of the numbers, creating a visual puzzle. And a video installation will nest layers of the past into an image of the present so that when people step in front of the screen(s) they’ll see themselves descending into the past, joining previous viewers who have passed by.

The festival will also feature a stairwell transformed by a shimmering vortex of thin aluminum components and a wall of stacked blocks of ice, each block with flower seeds frozen inside so that as the wall melts, the seeds will be left behind to germinate and bloom.

The series of installations was curated by a team from the School of Architecture + Planning – including Dean Adèle Naudé Santos and Professors Meejin Yoon and Tod Machover – working with Leila Kinney, MIT’s Director of Arts Initiatives and producer Meg Rotzel from the Office of the Arts.

Under the overall direction of Tod Machover, the Festival of Art + Science + Technology will culminate on May 7 with an evening-long celebration featuring an extravaganza of still more installations that will illuminate the MIT campus and the riverfront, a fitting finale to MIT’s 150 days of celebration.

For more information about the festival, visit the FAST website: arts.mit.edu/fast.