MIT sues Frank Gehry over Stata Center

When I first saw the headline, I assumed it was from The Onion or (more likely) some local MIT humor publication. But no, it’s from the Associated Press.

32 Responses to “MIT sues Frank Gehry over Stata Center”

  1. anon Says:

    Those window boxes are especially bad because ice accumulates on top of them and then falls several stories onto whatever lies below them. I recall last winter seeing a large chunk of ice fall from a window box on the 8th floor down to that outside area near the G5 lounge, shattering some glass panes. I imagine maintenance costs for this building must be at least an order of magnitude above other buildings on campus because of some of the poor design aspects.

  2. Scott Says:

    I just feel lucky I got one of the relatively-few rectangular offices in the building.

  3. Andy Says:

    These ‘flaws’ are obviously a wry subversion of our outmoded notions of function and utility in architecture, which have been discredited at least since the work of Derrida in the late ’60s. We should be thanking Gehry for bringing us up to date.

  4. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    How is this for a headline:

    Rich University Sues Pet Store After Purchase of White Elephant

  5. Job Says:

    They did pay a ton of money for the building and got a b- product out of it, so they have the right to complain.

  6. anonymous Says:

    Its like buying a Ferrari and then bitching that you cant take kids to football games in it or that it spends every other week at the dealer.. duhh.. thats just why toyota makes cars.

  7. Not even right Says:

    Does it mean a creative design is not practical?

  8. mollishka Says:

    It’s not that it’s not practical or (generically), it’s that it’s been leaking since the first rainfall after it was built … A lot of the space that is designed to be useful isn’t because it’s got a freaking lake sitting on it.

    And, yes, this is going to be hilarious to watch. For once, MIT is the one doing the suing.

  9. Cheshire Cat Says:

    When I first saw the Stata Center, I assumed it was from The Onion or (more likely) some local architectural humor publication. But no, it’s from Reality.

  10. Blake Stacey Says:

    Ah, reality trumps satire. This will be fun to watch.

    These ‘flaws’ are obviously a wry subversion of our outmoded notions of function and utility in architecture, which have been discredited at least since the work of Derrida in the late ’60s.

    Of course: Gehry is a leading partisan of poststructuralist architecture!

  11. Andy Says:

    Gehry has got to be the most overrated architect ever. Not only has he rehashed the same thing for the last 20 years, his buildings aren’t functional and don’t take the local environment into account.

    Really though, it’s just indicative of our “solve it with over-engineering” mantra. Why design buildings to heat themselves from the sun’s energy when we can slap a bigger, more “efficient” heaters… and who needs passive cooling with ACs?

    Anyhow, the Davis Center here at Waterloo isn’t any better. The hallways are beautifully lit with natural light from massive windows, while the rooms that people actually use are pushed into the center of the building, without windows at all.

  12. milkshake Says:

    I think Chad Orzel mentioned the story with a very expensive central library – after the highrise building was completed and all the little libraries all over the campus were sending their collections there the new building buckled in the middle and the tiles started falling off the facade. Aparently the extra structural load was not calculated in the project… The company that designed the library was appaled: “You are, like, putting books on EVERY floor of that building?

  13. csrster Says:

    milkshake – I call “urban legend” on that one!

  14. Paul Beame Says:

    The huge Robarts Library at the University of Toronto may have been the inspiration for the urban legend. Only a fraction of the space of its massive floors can be filled with books because the loads were incorrectly calculated for their large central spans. Also, the building was built without a sprinkler system because its concrete design was made to be fireproof and the university was worried about ruining the books with accidental triggering of the system. The concrete structure does not permit a retrofit and the only insurance the university can get is through a hugely expensive policy through Lloyds of London. (Experience with a late 70’s fire in the building that housed the CS department and engineering library at U of T showed that the true risk to books from such water damage is minimal.)

  15. aravind Says:

    there is also this urban legend about my alma mater IIT Madras, which has a huge but apparently empty water-tower .. the legend is that the fact that water will be stored in it wasn’t figured into the center-of-gravity calculations .. :)

    aravind

  16. Alex Lopez-Ortiz Says:

    There is this presentation in which I discuss robot motion planning in theory and practice (e.g. roomba), and how the theoretical model is too adversarial (living rooms are not fractal, after all).

    “Architects are your friend”, says one slide. “Most of the time, anyhow…” says the next one together with a picture of the Stata center.

  17. Sanatan Rai Says:

    Erm, there’s a water tower on the IIT Kanpur campus as well with supposedly the same problem, and allegedly designed by a not-very-popular Professor in the Civil Engineering department.

  18. Joe Bruno Says:

    And the Millennium Bridge [footbridge] in London was opened in 2000 and closed 3 days later because it bounced when people walked over it.

    Apparently the creators of the revolutionary so-thin-it-isn’t-there design hadn’t thought that a footbridge might actually get used for crossing rivers on foot.

  19. Steve Demuth Says:

    The Millennium Bridge’s problem did in fact involve an unanticipated phenomenon: that people walking on the bridge would unconsciously time the natural sway of their walk with any lateral movement of the bridge, and thus introduce a resonance between the collective mass of the pedestrians and the bridge. One could argue that an engineer should have anticipated this, but it was in fact rather new in bridge building experience. I’d give them a pass on it, personally.

    On the other hand, no one can argue that rain and snow were unanticipated in Cambridge. At least if it was, then Gehry should forfeit his fee plus triple damages.

  20. Devin Smith Says:

    The millennium bridge solution was not, in fact, to make the thing /heavier/ per se, either. Mostly they damped the heck out of it, both to reduce vibrations should they be set up, but also to change the natural resonance frequency of the bridge from about the frequency of people walking.

  21. Chris W. Says:

    Off-topic: D-Wave and our host appear in a new story on CNet News.

  22. milkshake Says:

    I think the very existence of this lawsuit will do Gehry more long-term harm than some punitive damages.

  23. aravind Says:

    scott, it’s been a while (i.e., a couple of weeks) since your comments were of their usual number — i.e., the hundreds. so, can one of your next posts be on who you will root for for ’08, assuming they cross the primaries? :)

  24. anonymous Says:

    so, can one of your next posts be on who you will root for for ‘08, assuming they cross the primaries

    Given Scott’s known political leanings, the answer to that question would seem to be trivial.

    What would be interesting is who he is rooting for within the primaries.

  25. Johan Richter Says:

    “I think the very existence of this lawsuit will do Gehry more long-term harm than some punitive damages.

    I don’t think MIT will get any punitive damages. What there loooking for is probaly compensatory damages.

  26. Scott Says:

    What would be interesting is who he is rooting for within the primaries.

    Sorry, I really have nothing interesting to say about this. I support Hillary and Barack about equally, though if Gore were running I’d support him over both. I think Giuliani has forfeited any right to be taken seriously, though as we know from past experience that’s certainly not an obstacle to winning.

  27. harrison Says:

    I think Giuliani has forfeited any right to be taken seriously…

    Then I take it that at one point you did take him seriously? Or were considering taking him seriously? If so, that’s indeed pretty interesting.

  28. Scott Says:

    Yes. I’ll admit that, before he published a book called “Leadership” with his picture on the cover and was endorsed by Pat Robertson, I considered him at most 90% a joker.

  29. anonymous Says:

    What do you think of this theory of everything?

    http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=196498

  30. anonymous Says:

    More here:

    http://backreaction.blogspot.com/2007/11/theoretically-simple-exception-of.html

  31. Scott Says:

    anonymous: I have little to add to what Peter Woit says. I despise the term “theory of everything” — even in the best case that’s not what this is, since (among other things) there are still no testable predictions for phenomena beyond the Standard Model. As for whether there’s a useful idea about the E8 group, I’m not able to judge.

  32. Greg Kuperberg Says:

    This discussion has been dead for two weeks, but still: I don’t like the name “Theory of Everything” all that much either, but it refers to all the rules at the bottom of science. That sentiment isn’t so bad; the problem with the name is that people will read it as all the rules from the top to the bottom. (Which is a goal best left to people like Mandelbrot and Wolfram.) Even if there were no testable predictions beyond the Standard Model, which is not completely true, the Standard Model itself is in principle a test that can be postdicted.

    After all, if a chemist in 1900 had said that the periodic table explains everything seen so far and that we need new experiments to infer anything more, it would have been nonsense. It was true that new experiments revealed more still. But much of the impetus for quantum mechanics was just making sense of the periodic table that they already had. The Standard Model is almost as ad hoc as the periodic table. It begs for a more parsimonious explanation even without new experiments.