Brad Feld

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Frank Gehry’s Painful MIT Experience

Nov 14, 2007

I spent seven years at MIT and managed to pick up two degrees before they kicked me out.  I describe the place using the 10/40/50 rule.  10% of the people there are off the chart brilliant and nothing phases them.  40% of the people are extremely smart, figure out the system, and make it through with moderate but not life threatening scars.  50% of the people are extremely smart, but never figure out the system and their experience at MIT is a "daily assault on their self esteem."  Fortunately, I was in the 40%.

Stata CenterIn 2004, Frank Gehry’s amazingly designed Stata Center (home of the MIT Computer Science AI Lab) opened to much fanfare.  It’s as fascinating inside as it is outside. Lots of really interesting people have offices there and wandering around in the place is like living inside a Dr. Seuss book (while looking at it is like staring at a Dr. Seuss world.)

The first time I actually saw the building (in the winter of 2004), my first thought was something like "man – this thing is going to be trouble."  I love architecture (I’m an architect in a parallel universe), but I lived in Boston for 12 years and all I could think about was stuff like "so – what happens when the ice falls off the roof and breaks through a window." 

Apparently that question is currently being addressed.  On 10/31/07, MIT sued Frank Gehry (and Skanska USA – the construction firm) claiming negligence and a breach of contractual obligations.  I’m not big on lawsuits, but I loved Joanne Wilson’s post on it titled M.I.T. and GehryIf you’ve ever done a big construction project, I’ll bet you can identify with what Joanne said.

At the same time, I also loved John Maeda’s post on it titled Leaks Are To Be ForgivenMaeda’s office is in the I.M. Pei designed Media Lab, the "bathtub building" that was built while I was in school there but that has nicely stood the test of time and is now being expanded by via a design from Fumihiko Maki.

It appears Frank Gehry is having his "MIT 50% experience."