Alumni Celebrate 150th in NYC

Nearly 150 alumni gathered at the New Museum for Contemporary Art in New York on June 22, 2018 to celebrate 150 years of architectural education at MIT; Fall 2018 marks 150 years since the first class of architecture students. The event, jointly organized by the Department of Architecture and the Architecture Alumni Affinity Group (MITArchA), coincided with the American Institute of Architects Convention and brought together alumni with current faculty and recent graduates. As part of a broader program to mark the 150th anniversary, the evening was an opportunity to hear stories about MIT Architecture’s past, present, and plans for its future.

The Department and MITArchA recognized four alumni for their work in advancing the field of architecture through practice:

-       I.M. Pei, FAIA, RIBA, BArch ’40, was awarded the MIT Architecture Lifetime Achievement Award.

-       Bill Pedersen, FAIA, FAAR, MArch ’64, was awarded the MIT Architecture Alumni Global Leadership Award.

-       Richard Dattner, FAIA, BArch ’60, was awarded the MIT Architecture Alumni Civic Design Award

-       Nico Kienzl, SMBT ’00, was awarded the MIT Architecture Alumni Award for Environmental Design.

In addition, MIT faculty spoke about current student activities, pedagogy, and research in the Department while alumni reflected upon their time at MIT, influential faculty, and the surprising longevity of an architecture education.

Current faculty J. Meejin Yoon, Professor and Department Head; Ana Miljacki, Associate Professor; Mark Jarzombek, PhD ’86, Professor of History and Theory of Architecture; and Skylar Tibbits, SM ‘10, Assistant Professor shared current department initiatives and updates on the undergraduate and graduate programs. Alumni Kenneth Namkung. MArch ’03, Vice President of the MIT Club of New York and Jacob Kain, MArch ’00, MITArchA President, who organized the event with the Department on behalf of MITArchA, noted their excitement for the alumni coming together.

Alumni Marcel Botha, SM ’06, Elliot Felix MArch ’06, Mimi Hoang, BS ’93, Andrea Lamberti BS ’91, and Scott Lawin, BS ’93 reflected on the impact and quality of the education as well as the continuity of the relationships formed at MIT. Botha remarked that the education “prepared [him] to tackle any challenge.” Lawin, who transferred from designing nuclear reactors to architecture at MIT, remarked that he leaned on his architectural education more frequently than he imagined in his current work in the financial sector. “Architecture teaches you to work within a set of constraints and these skills are highly transferrable. The recognition of the value of these skills has only continued to increase,” he remarked.

Hoang reflected on the spaces of studio in N51 and Building 7 as both introspective and open to all the influences of the Institute. For inspiration, she stated that she looked to the current faculty at MIT who insist on bringing design into every aspect of life, insert a role for design in technology, and advocate for the agency of architects. Hoang is hopeful for the field: “I can’t wait to see the fruits of that labor in the work of the coming generation,” she remarked.

Fall 2018 marks the official launch of a year-long program of events to mark the 150th Anniversary, including: Experiments in Pedagogy in Fall 2018 testing new ideas for architectural education; an exhibition in partnership with the MIT Museum, opening in February 2019; and a symposium to project futures for architectural education in April 2019. Additional alumni receptions will take place throughout the year.

The 150th anniversary provides an opportunity to celebrate one of the oldest and longest-running architecture programs in the United States and the students, faculty, and alumni that have helped to build that history. As the Department looks back at its own history of pedagogy, alumni, and institutional changes, the alumni events bring the community together to remember and learn from one another as we collectively work to address the challenges of our time. As Richard Dattner, BArch ’60, reminded us all: “MIT was all about the work,” and for the 54 years Dattner has practiced: “Every morning I get up and try to do the work.”