School of Architecture and Planning

The Stata Center (Cambridge)

Photo: Emmanuel Huybrechts

The First in the Nation

No one can tour MIT and fail to notice the Stata Center.  This bizarre, almost Whoville-like structure stands out from most buildings in the Boston area, let alone the Institute.  Whether you like the look of it or not, the Stata Center cannot help but catch the eye; more than that though, it also salutes one of the five schools in MIT: the School of Architecture and Planning.

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MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning was the first of its kind in the United States, dating back to the Institute’s founding in 1865.  Although the Institute’s primary mission was to create a school that promoted polytechnics (specifically engineering), it made sense to include studies in architecture so that this education could be put to good use; construction and engineering go hand in hand, so why not teach both?

Disciplines in Detail

Today, SAP enrolls about 650 students every year—a significant number, considering how MIT only accepts around 1,500 freshmen a year.  Just like the Institute as a whole, SAP is also divided into five disciplines: Architectural Design, Building Technology, Computation, History, Theory, and Criticism, and finally Art, Culture, and Technology.  Even by their names, it’s clear that these courses offer much more than learning how to draw a blueprint.

Architectural Design

Architectural Design focuses on the demands of modern construction.  A building needs to be more than four walls and a roof; it needs to be spacious, ventilated, and energy efficient.  A growing concern in this field is how to make buildings less hazardous to the environment, especially now that more corporations are searching for “green” offices.  SAP offers studios, workshops, lectures, seminars, and research opportunities in architectural design ranging from basic concepts to application on real world structures.

Building Technology

Building Technology involves the tools that turn the blueprint into a structure.  Architecture is a major industry worldwide, and like any industry it demands materials that are (to different extents) limited.  Innovations in building technology can provide stronger, more accessible, or more reliable tools and materials that can make better buildings.  This field crosses the School of Architecture with the School of Engineering in order to tackle the most important issues facing buildings today.


Computation is much like Architectural Design, but the architect uses a computer instead of a blueprint.  Computer assisted design (or CAD) is a rapidly growing practice in architecture, and with its growth comes challenges for the old ways of building as well as the new.  This discipline involves a deep understanding of computer science in general, which helps in many careers that have nothing to do with architecture.

History, Theory, and Criticism

History, Theory, and Criticism explores architectural aesthetics and the evolving structural patterns through the centuries.  When it comes to buildings, taste and function are not mutually exclusive, but a problem arises when the function of a building conflicts with the environmental aesthetic; how can a new church or temple mesh with its neighboring financial firms? This discipline proves very useful when trying to blend a new building with its surroundings.

Art, Culture, and Technology

Art, Culture, and Technology turns a building into a cultural or philosophical statement.  It goes beyond structural practicality and function and turns to meaning.  This discipline is the point behind the Stata Center’s unique appearance, and it is architects that explore these studies that (for better or worse) stand out from the rest.

MIT has been the alma mater for three Pritzker Prize winners and five AIA Gold Medalists.  Alumni of the School of Architecture and Planning have gone on to design the Lincoln Memorial, Rockefeller Center, and the home of the United States Supreme Court.  Not every graduate’s building may be as memorable as the Stata Center, but with an education from the School of Architecture and Planning, they have a better chance than most.

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Map Location of MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning

[pw_map address=”Ray and Maria Stata Center, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02142″]