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Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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  Occupying 153.8 acres alongside the Charles, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) provides an intellectual counterweight to the otherwise working-class character of East Cambridge. Originally established in Allston in 1865, MIT moved to this more auspicious campus across the river in 1916 and has since risen to international prominence as a major center for theoretical and practical research in the sciences. Both NASA and the Department of Defense pour funds into MIT in exchange for research and development assistance from the university's best minds.

  The campus buildings and geography reflect the quirky, nerdy character of the institute, emphasizing function and peppering it with a peculiar notion of form. Everything is obsessively numbered and coded: you can go to E15 (the Weisner Building) for a lecture in 4.103 (advanced computer-assisted design), which, of course, gets you no closer towards a degree in 17 (political science)。 Behind the massive pillars that guard the entrance of the Rogers Building, at 77 Massachusetts Ave, you'll find a labyrinth of corridors through which students can traverse the entire east campus without ever going outside - known to Techies as the Infinite Corridor. Atop the Rogers Building is MIT's best-known architectural icon, a massive gilt hemisphere called the Great Dome. Just inside the entrance to Rogers, you'll find the MIT Information Center (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm), which dispenses free campus maps and advice.

  MIT has drawn the attention of some of the major architects of the twentieth century, who have used the university's progressiveness as a testing ground for some of their more experimental works. Two of these are located in the courtyard across Massachusetts Avenue from the Rogers Building. The Kresge Auditorium, designed by Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, resembles a large tent, though its real claim to fame is that it puzzlingly rests on three, rather than four, corners. In the same courtyard is the MIT Chapel, also the work of Saarinen. Shaped like a stocky cylinder and topped with abstract sculpture crafted from paper-thin metals, it's undoubtedly the city's least traditional religious space. The I. M. Pei-designed Weisner Building is home to the List Visual Art Center (Tues-Sun noon-6pm; free), which displays student works, often heavily influenced by science and involving a great deal of computer design, and more technologically impressive than visually appealing.

  Of perhaps more interest, down Massachusetts Ave at no. 265, is the MIT Museum (Tues-Fri 10am-5pm, Sat-Sun noon-5pm; $3, students and seniors $1.) The museum has two main permanent displays, the Hologram Museum and the Hall of Hacks, the latter of which provides a retrospective on the various pranks ("hacks") pulled by techies. Among other things, the madcap funsters have placed a fake cow and a real MIT police car atop the Great Dome, and have wreaked havoc at the annual Harvard-Yale football game by landing a massive weather balloon in the middle of the gridiron. Both shows alone warrant a visit, though there are excellent rotating exhibits as well.


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