Green Building, MIT Center for Earth Sciences

Green Building, MIT

I. M. Pei and Partners, 1962–1964

Landscape: Sasaki, Dawson, DeMay

Harleston Parker Medal, 1965

I. M. Pei prepared the master plan for this section of the campus and then designed three of its most prominent buildings. He continues MIT’s array of courtyards defined by classically inspired beige buildings but with contemporary updates: the spaces are more open, the buildings are more object-like, and cast-in-place sandblasted concrete is used instead of the more traditional limestone.

The most prominent of these is the Green Building, a highly sculptural 21-story tower that is a landmark on campus and from across the river. Its verticality is an effective compositional counterpoint to the lower buildings around it, while providing a suitably elevated location for the spherical radar apparatus on top.

Pei exploits the power of repetitive but elegantly detailed windows played off of areas of solid concrete to give the tower a memorable identity. An open entry arcade continues the outdoor space inside, although the wind tunnel the tower helps sponsor made the original doors difficult to open . They were subsequently replaced by revolving doors. Alexander Calder’s monumental black steel sculpture, The Big Sail (1965), provides a bit of shelter and visual interest on the plaza.

MIT students have found the Green Building a prime location for campus "hacks," turning the pixel-like filigree of windows into a real-time VU meter for the Boston Pops July 4th concert, a giant Oscar statue promoting the MIT-themed movie "Good Will Hunting" on Academy Awards night, and a giant interactive Tetris game across the entire façade: