MIT Architecture Opened Its Doors and A Lot of People Came In

Last week MIT Architecture’s fall open house ballooned to twice its 2012 attendance numbers. While we’re not sure exactly what’s going on, it’s clear that there is a buzz.MIT is bursting at the seams! While the school has been quietly killing it for many years, recently we’re starting to feel the effect of the amazing level of production. A research institution at heart, MIT is the most astonishing place for generating surprising and unexpected ways of thinking and doing architecture.  It’s not just the faculty that’s in on the action (Yes, it’s true that we’ve got a MacArthur prizer on our faculty and our department head was just awarded Top Design firm  by Architect Magazine and we’ve got a former TED Fellow and Rome Prize winner in our ranks) ; we’re also talking about our current students (check out ArchKiosk’s features on current students here) and our alumni. Having just had our Open House and our first Architecture-dedicated alumni event, it’s great to see how MIT is really a huge place, after all.

Marie Adams, MIT Architecture alum (MArch 2005)
Speaking of alumni, from now until November 23rd, take some time to head over to the MIT Keller Gallery to take in the enormity of Landing Studio’s exhibition of their Rock Chapel Marine project, which is—and has been—taking place in Chelsea, MA.

I’ve never thought much about salt. Whether it’s on my plate or under my feet, salt’s ability to change states is something that I definitely take for granted.  After talking to Dan and Marie Adams, the two founding partners of Landing Studio, I realized that salt really has a huge impact on not only perking up a bland dinner, it also has a major role in the infrastructural and industrial character of much of the northeastern seaboard.

Salt mining in the UK. Image from Landing Studio

Salt mining in the UK. Image from Landing Studio

Call me naive, but I always figured all that salt on our roads just came from the sea or somewhere else nearby. In fact, the salt is a much more complicated thing: it comes from everywhere—locally and as far away as Mexico, Egypt and Australia. It’s different colors: gray, pure white, brown. And, there’s hundreds of thousands of tons of the stuff. For five months a year, we wouldn’t be able to do much of anything or get anywhere without it.

Importing, distributing, and spreading all that salt needs to be headquartered somewhere: for decades, the Eastern Salt Company in Chelsea has been one of the big occupants of Boston’s Industrial port. While the company was doing a great job in their business of salt, their relationship to the local community and their occupation of some of the best stretches of waterfront in Chelsea was a point of contention with the neighboring residential communities. One of the most interesting things that I learned from Landing Studio’s work, was that they are architects who deal with a very, very squirmy kind of site. Some as tall as 50 feet, (that’s a 4-story building!) the salt piles are at the scale of a 4-story building that grows and shrinks throughout the year. What other kind of architecture does that? How do you create a park in those circumstances? How do you transform mega-sized salt piles into something beautiful?

The exhibition at the Keller Gallery is the first time that Landing Studio has been able to present a detailed site-based presentation of the Rock Chapel Marine project. Don’t miss out on getting a good look before it’s over.

99 Marginal: 9 Strategies for Landing Industry in the City 

The exhibition presents Rock Chapel Marine through three mediums: living photographs’ or time lapse videos paired with a sound environment derived from recordings of the salt dock which project the kinetic characteristics of the industrial and natural landscape into the gallery space, a large scale physical model which was exploded apart to show the various seasonal and operational transformations of the landscape, and a series of nine drawings which look back at the eight year long project and identify broader design strategies for landing large-scale global industry in local environments.


Formerly a 13 million gallon oil and asphalt batching terminal, 99 Marginal is the site of a monumental kinetic salt pile across the street from one of New England’s densest residential neighborhoods—at the margin of the global infrastructure of the sea and the neighborhood fabric of the city. These things do not naturally ‘fit’.

99:9 confronts the discrepancy between the seemingly scaleless dimensions of industry and the specific dimensions of place, drawing from a nearly decade long project to transform an industrial waterfront site into a new model of shared use, active marine-industry, and public recreation. 99:9 compiles 9 strategies of analysis, design, and building that conflate local interests with global systems and translate prohibitive conflicts into productive frictions.

Thanks to Michael J. Smith for help with coordination, fabrication, and installation. Sound design and video editing by MizoFizo.

Images of the salt projections here:

Images from the exhibition below:

99 Marginal at the Keller Gallery

99 Marginal at the Keller Gallery

Close up of decommissioned asphalt tanks and now park.

Close up of decommissioned asphalt tanks and now park.

Skeleton of the shipping vessels that bring the hundreds of thousands of tons of salt into the port.

Skeleton of the shipping vessels that bring the hundreds of thousands of tons of salt into the port.

Exploded view of the changing nature of the salt piles.

Exploded view of the changing nature of the salt piles.

Projections! On the piles and on the walls.

Projections! On the piles and on the walls.


One comment

  1. I’ve heard Dan and Marie presenting their initial salt research — really fascinating and great show in the gallery!

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