College of Computing headquarters to replace Building 44

Anticipated completion date is late 2022, with demolition to begin this fall

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Building 44, or the Cyclotron, is expected to be demolished this fall to make way for the College of Computing’s new headquarters. MIT has emphasized the ideal location of this site, which is close to other computing-related buildings.
The Tech

The current site of Building 44 (known as the Cyclotron) has been identified as the preferred location for the new College of Computing headquarters, according to an article by MIT News published Dec. 19.

“Proximity relative to multiple campus communities was a key factor” in selecting Building 44, Associate Provost Krystyn Van Vliet — who is responsible for Institute space planning, assignment, and renovation — wrote in an email to The Tech Wednesday.

“Other key factors were availability of an appropriate volume of space, and the impact to the current MIT campus teaching and research activities,” Van Vliet continued.

Building 44 is located on Vassar Street on the block between Main Street and Massachusetts Avenue. It is about a six minute walk from most buildings on main campus. The MIT News article described Building 44 as having a “centralized location,” citing its proximity to “a cluster of computing- and AI-focused departments, centers, and labs.”

“You can think of [the] intersection of Vassar and Main as the ‘entrance to computing,’ ” Van Vliet told MIT News.

The final design of the headquarters is “still months away,” the article said, but in addition to the main purpose of providing space for faculty groups, possible features include “convening spaces” for interdisciplinary seminars and an “open office” concept to promote collaboration.

“It is likely that some classes will be held in the building, but those details will be developed later in 2019,” Van Vliet wrote in her email.

The anticipated completion date of the headquarters is late 2022. All current occupants will be moved to new locations by late summer of this year, with demolition scheduled to begin in the fall.

Building 44 contains the Edgerton Student Shop and houses approximately six members of the Laboratory for Nuclear Science, Van Vliet wrote. Two physics classes are also taught there.

Perhaps the most distinctive exterior feature of Building 44 is the “J” sign, which refers to the J particle discovered by Samuel C.C. Ting and his group in 1974.

Ting, a physics professor at MIT, won the Nobel Prize in Physics for this discovery in 1976. His office is located in Building 44.

(The full name of the particle is the J/ψ meson, with the ψ referring to the nearly concurrent discovery by Burton Richter ’52 and his group at Stanford. Richter shared the Nobel Prize.)

In the FAQs regarding the College of Computing published in October, the new building was projected to be large enough to house 65 faculty members and their research groups, resulting in an estimated size of 150,000 to 160,000 square feet. The article, by contrast, said the new building will be large enough to house 50 faculty groups.

The location of Building 44 was repeatedly emphasized in the MIT News article.

The buildings housing the Department of EECS, the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, and the Research Laboratory of Electronics (38, 32, and 36, respectively) are directly across the street from Building 44, the article said.

Down the road are the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the Broad Institute, and behind the building is an area known as “Technology Square,” which contains many biological engineering, nanotechnology, and biophysics labs.  

Also emphasized was Building 44’s neighbor: Building 46 is home to the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory, and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research. The new building may connect to Building 46, thus emphasizing the connections between human and machine intelligence.

“Right now, when you walk down Vassar Street, people don’t know what’s happening inside most of these buildings,” Van Vliet told MIT News.

The building could help “activate” Vassar, by drawing pedestrian traffic and allowing passersby to get a glimpse of the research being done inside via window displays, Van Vliet said.

As next steps, “MIT will request formal approval of the site and project timeline from the MIT Building Committee (chaired by the Provost and EVPT) and the MIT Executive Committee (of the Corporation), as well as from the City of Cambridge for construction permitting, in 2019,” Van Vliet wrote to The Tech.