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A new look—and lights—for historic MIT Sloan building

MIT Sloan’s original building, E52, will re-open in January 2016 and will feature a light installation by artist Leo Villareal

October 17, 2014

Building E52 under construction in September

Building E52 under construction in September

Once renovations on Building E52 are complete, the familiar “50 Memorial Drive” etched in stone outside will remain the same at the Memorial Drive entrance, while the Shames Plaza entrance will be lit up with a sculpture created by artist Leo Villareal.

Villareal was recently awarded an MIT Percent-for-Art commission to create a light installation for the historic building. Building E52, known in the MIT tradition of numbering its buildings, has been undergoing major renovations for the past year and is expected to re-open in January 2016, said Cindy Hill, MIT Sloan’s director of capital projects.

Villareal last year created The Bay Lights on the San Francisco Bay Bridge West Span. For E52, he plans to craft a light sculpture in the north vestibule, which will feature a new, glass-enclosed entrance. The proposed work will feature 240 hanging LED rods arranged from the ceiling in rows. Each of these rods will measure approximately 9 feet tall, and will consist of 72 individual LEDs. Villareal will create a software code so that the LEDs will cycle through a randomly generated series of combinations.

The original MIT Sloan building—built in 1938 as the site of the Lever Brothers company headquarters— will not only feature the light sculpture, but will be radically updated on the inside, Hill said.

“We are renovating a historic building, and it was art déco in its original form,” Hill said. “I think we’ll have some of that look going on when it’s done.”

She said the building’s exterior will be preserved, albeit repaired, cleaned, and with the addition of new windows. Although there will be interior style changes, the two main staircases and the elevators will remain in the original locations, but the walls, floors, and ceilings will be new.

Building E62, featuring the Joan and William A. Porter Center for Management Education, already has a second-story bridge, which will connect to E52 once construction is done. “It will be wonderful to start using that,” Hill said. “It will be easy to get from classes in E51 to E62.”

Like the adjoining E62 and E60 buildings, the systems will be energy-efficient, and MIT Sloan will again be seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification, Hill said.

Many MIT Sloan administrative offices and the MIT Department of Economics, which were previously in E52, have been temporarily relocated to other campus locations during the construction. Some of these offices will move back once the building is ready. The former MIT Faculty Club space, which will be expanded and renovated as a campus conference center, will return to the sixth floor and will also encompass a seventh floor addition—a glass-encased rooftop. The center will be available to all members of the MIT community for meetings, events, banquets, and conferences. In total, nearly 20,000 square feet of space will be added to the 135,000 square foot building.