Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA
A transformative renewal improves house-wide community, accessibility, sustainability, and comfort in a much-loved residence hall
Designed by Josep Lluís Sert and built in 1975, New House is home to nine distinct affinity communities. It has remained a highly sought-after living choice since its inception, but the 43-year-old structure was due for a renewal.
Rather than demolish and replace the aging structure, MIT chose to invest in New House, taking advantage of its lovely riverfront site and the physical form of the building that supported its diverse community. That decision meant addressing the exterior envelope issues (window and cavity-wall failures and related energy concerns), solving accessibility concerns (there were no elevators in this five-story building, and only a small part of the building was universally accessible), and renewing HVAC systems within a highly constrained 8’-3” floor-to-floor dimension. Design was completed in six months, and construction occurred over 15 months in two phases while the building remained one-third occupied to minimize the time that beds were offline and the community was disrupted.
Perhaps the most transformative aspects of the project are changes to the building’s layout that better support the affinity communities of New House while preserving its distinct culture. These include:
- Relocating kitchens and dining to upper floors to embed that important part of communal life into the heart of each community
- Introducing a “commons corridor” that runs across the entire ground floor. Lined with social spaces, this space serves the whole residence to create a greater sense of shared identity in the building
- Opening ground-level spaces onto courtyards facing the Charles River in order to capitalize on the building’s remarkable site