MIT is launching a new interdisciplinary design center later this September, made possible thanks to a $100 million gift from The Morningside Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the T.H. Chan family, a dynasty of entrepreneurs that’s no strangers to massive academic contributions.
Located on the university’s Cambridge, Massachusetts, campus, the new MIT Morningside Academy for Design will be headquartered in the same building as the School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P). (Once Diller Scofidio + Renfro’s conversion of the National Registry of Historic Places-listed Metropolitan Warehouse, AKA the Met, is complete in 2025, the currently scattered SA+P will finally be aggregated into a single location on campus. A portion of The Morningside Foundation’s gift will go towards creating dedicated space for the MIT Morningside Academy for Design within the Met during the renovation.)
“Gerald Chan is a visionary who sees the profound impact of design education for technology and society, and not just on the traditional areas of design but on STEM education more broadly,” said Hashim Sarkis, dean of SA+P, in the March 14 announcement. “This is why this is an academy for the whole of MIT and not a department of design.”
The integration with the SA+P makes sense as the new academy is intended to share research solutions from engineering, architecture, urban planning, computer science, management techniques, and the arts to address global issues. To that end, John Ochsendorf, a professor of architecture and of civil and environmental engineering, will serve as the center’s founding director. Maria Yang, associate dean of the School of Engineering and Gail E. Kendall Professor of Mechanical Engineering, will be the associate director. According to MIT, Ochsendorf and Yang have been extensively involved with the academy’s creation, including hosting a series of discussions with students, staff, and faculty on what each group would like to see.
“The academy will be the catalyst that brings together the elements of the Met to create a design hub,” added Sarkis. “Strategically located at the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Vassar Street, it will also enliven the new center of the expanding, urban campus of MIT.”
“Many of our students think of themselves as designers, whether they are mechanical engineers or urban planners or composers,” said Ochsendorf. “The MIT Morningside Academy for Design creates a new community for us to elevate design across all of MIT, and to share best practices. At MIT we’ve always had a strong tradition of prototyping: If you have a design idea, you make it, break it, get feedback, and iterate on it. The academy builds on our many design strengths, including the tradition of the maker culture at MIT.”