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View of Kresge Auditorium at MIT, Cambridge, MA

This is my painting of the Kresge Auditorium on MIT‘s Campus in Cambridge, MA, designed by Eero Saarinen. I did this sketch in September and only recently painted it. Cambridge officially snowed for the first time last night… so here is a nice memory of green grasses, leafy trees, and beautiful colors.

Click image for larger view.

The auditorium is defined by an elegant thin-shell structure of reinforced concrete, one-eighth of a sphere rising to a height of 50 feet, and sliced away by sheer glass curtain walls so that it comes to earth on only three points. Thin-shelled concrete technology was innovative for the times. The dome weighs only 1200 tons and is currently clad with copper. It was originally covered with smooth, bright, orastone was then replaced with lead sheeting attached with stainless steel wires. In 1980, cracks were found in the supporting structure and the auditorium was closed immediately for repairs. Copper replaced the lead at that time.

Sitting on a circular red brick platform, the dome contains a concert hall (with seating for 1226 people), plus a lower level that houses a small theater (seating 204), two rehearsal rooms, dressing rooms, offices, bathrooms, and lounges. The main stage is paneled with warm-colored vertical wood elements that echo the vertical glass panels of the building’s facade. The concert hall also contains a Holtkamp acoustic pipe organ, whose pipes visually resonate as a sequence of vertical elements of varying heights. The opening ceremony in 1955 featured that organ, including a piece of music that was commissioned for the event, Aaron Copland’s Canticle of Freedom.

Every seat in the concert hall has an unobstructed view, since there are no interior supports for the overarching dome. Working with renowned acoustical architects Bolt, Beranek and Newman, architect Saarinen employed free-hanging acoustic “clouds” that absorb and direct sound, instead of a traditional plaster ceiling. These clouds also contain lights, loudspeakers, and ventilation.


Kresge Auditorium sits on the Kresge Oval, opposite the MIT Chapel, also by Saarinen.

Creative Commons License
This work by Vernelle Noel is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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