Building an Affinity with Architecture

When some 45 MIT alumni and friends met April 2 for a private tour of the newly renovated East Wing of the National Gallery in Washington, they were doing more than celebrating the 100th birthday of I.M. Pei. ’40. True, Pei remains one of the world’s most influential architects and the building is one of his  masterpieces. But the tour, led by Mina Marefat PhD ’88, was also a perq of participation in MITArchA, a two-year old affinity group dedicated to sharing common interests of School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) alumni, faculty, and students, as well as all MIT alumni and friends.

Marfat, who teaches at Georgetown University and is the principal of Design Research based in Washington DC, was a perfect guide for the behind-the-scenes tour of the building’s Center for Advanced Study since she was a fellow there. She commented on Pei’s groundbreaking design that accommodated the galleries and public spaces for the museum as well as its administrative, curatorial, educational and scholarly needs.

The National Gallery East Wing tour was one of several MITArchA gatherings this spring. On April 28, the Alumni Association group will join with the Department of Architecture to host a casual gathering at the AIA convention in Orlando, Florida. On May 18 in San Francisco, Jeffrey Heller ’64, MArch ’68 will receive the Inaugural MITArchA Alumni Achievement Award. On June 6, MITArchA members will be invited to a talk in New York City by Marcel Botha, SM ‘06.  Learn more about the events.

“MITArchA was founded in 2015 to represent the more than 5,000 MIT architecture alumni world-wide by a group of course IV alumni,” says Jacob Kain SM ’00, the group’s president and a project architect at Elkus Manfredi Architects in Boston. “It was time to organize our alumni community in order to develop a greater awareness of one another and to connect to each other, the School of Architecture and Planning, and the Institute. Our events offer opportunities for our alumni to share their work with the MIT community, often by collaborating with established regional MIT alumni clubs. In our short history, we have held events from coast to coast and as far away as Hong Kong.”

The group also celebrates MIT’s role as the first professional school of architecture.

“The first woman to graduate with a degree in architecture was from MIT and the first professionally credentialed African American architect was an MIT alum,” says Marefat, communications vice president of the group. “MIT invited cutting-edge architects like Alvar Aalto, Eero Saarinen, and I.M. Pei to build modern buildings on campus, a trend that has continued well into the 21st century with a campus that represents a physical history of our profession. All this to say that as we face unprecedented challenges today, bringing together MIT architecture alumni helps remind us of the privilege we all share and the responsibility we all bear toward the well being of our planet and its inhabitants.”

Learn more about MITArchA and its activities.

Story originally published by Nancy DuVergne Smith on April 20, 2017 for Slice of MIT.