Labs and Research

Research Areas


Aerogel Insulation Through the DuPont MIT Alliance (DMA), an interdisciplinary team led by Profs. Leon Glicksman (PI), Lorna Gibson and Gang Chen is developing high-performance thermal insulation panels based on a formulation of silica aerogels developed at MIT. The aerogel samples perform better than commercially available products while requiring less material; meanwhile, the innovative panel design provides great structural support with minimal impact to the conductivity. This research may lead to a new high-performance thermal insulation product. 

Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture The Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT (AKPIA@MIT) conducts a broad program of research on architectural history, landscape, water, hazards, and university campus design in the Islamic world. Research projects include collaborative initiatives with the: · Aga Khan Development Network (architecture, landscape, hazards, heritage, water, design). · National academies of science and environmental design (water, environment, hazards, design). · MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), TATA Fellows Program (water, environment, energy, food,design). 

Architecture Representation and Computation
Principal researcher: Takehiko Nagakura
Founded in 1996, the Architecture Representation and Computation Group sponsors a wide range of education and research activities to students and visiting scholars at MIT's Department of Architecture. The group's challenge is innovative use of computation for solving problems stemmed in contexts of architectural design practice. Current projects encompass software and hardware development, computer graphics content creation, and design work for architectural competitions and building projects.

Composite Architectures 
Prof. Mark Goulthorpe is looking to combine digital design and fabrication logics with composite material processing to bring forwards a highly automated and lightweight base-building methodology. This looks to radically streamlining current building-procurement logic via a highly automated and unitary fabrication process, and to attain very environmentally benign yet highly resilient building envelopes and structures. This work is being carried out by a network of academic and industry partners, looking to validate performance (structural design and testing by Mark Bishop, fire engineering and testing by Prof Nick Dempsey at WPI, environmental assessment by Prof Mike Lepech at Stanford). The goal is to prove-up such new base-building technology via prototypes and pilot projects, and then to drive it into commercial production, initially targeting housing, aiming at developing world markets in particular. 

Computational Making Research Group
Director: Terry Knight
The Computational Making research group is articulating a new area of interdisciplinary research on the processes and practices of making across contexts and scales. In recent years, there has been growing interest in materials and material practices, and in “making” and “makers”, usually revolving around digital fabrication. Our work aims to expand the study of making beyond its current bounds. We view making as an improvisational, action-centric, embodied, and situated activity. We examine the potentials of computational theories and techniques for understanding and enhancing making activities. 

Digital Design and Fabrication
Principal researcher: Larry Sass
The Digital Design and Fabrication group is a center for education and research in areas of rapid prototyping and CAD/CAM fabrication for architects and designers. The group engages faculty, students and staff in research focused on the relationship between design computing and physical output used for design representation and reflection.

Digital Structures, a research group at MIT working at the interface of architecture, structural engineering, and computation. Digital Sructures focuses on the synthetic integration of creative and technical goals in the design and fabrication of buildings, bridges, and other large-scale structures. The group is particularly interested in how digital techniques and tools can play an unexpected, collaborative role in these processes. Led by Professor Caitlin Mueller, the group is based in MIT’s Building Technology Program in the Department of Architecture, and also includes contributors from Civil and Environmental Engineering, and the Center for Computational Engineering.

The Guastavino Project 
The Guastavino Project at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology is dedicated to documenting and preserving the tile vaulted works of the Guastavino Company. In the late 19th and early 20th century, Rafael Guastavino Moreno and his son Rafael Guastavino Exposito were responsible for designing tile vaults in nearly a thousand buildings around the world, of which more than 600 survive to the present day. 

Platform for a Permanent Modernity
The Platform for a Permanent Modernity (PPM) investigates operational templates of public form that integrate architecture, infrastructure, and landscape into elements of a lasting territorial order. Its hypothesis entails the possibility of a public reading of the territory through forms of permanence, while accommodating uncertainty and change within and around these interventions.

Shape Grammars
Principal researchers: George Stiny, Terry Knight, Takehiko Nagakura
This group is engaged in a broad range of work on Shape Grammars, a visual and generative system for creating and describing designs on multiple levels. Work on shape and shape representation at the theoretical level aims at a new computational basis for design. Work on practical applications focuses on the potential of shape grammars in stylistic analysis and in the creative design process. Faculty and students are also exploring the use and development of digital and web-based technologies, computer software, and remote collaboration for supporting shape grammar applications. 

The West Philadelphia Landscape Project
Anne Whiston Spirn, Director
The West Philadelphia Landscape Project (WPLP) is a three-decade-long action research project, which integrates research and practice in ways that are synergistic through strategic design, planning, and education projects that restore nature and rebuild community. WPLP studies vexing problems that are usually treated separately, such as vacant urban land, polluted water, and troubled public schools, and views them as opportunities for integrated solutions rather than disconnected liabilities. It combines top-down (comprehensive) and bottom-up (grassroots) approaches. Since 1987,  WPLP has engaged many organizations and hundreds of individuals, including groups who rarely work together such as inner-city residents, middle-school children, university students, and municipal water engineers.