The Infinite Corridor
How the design of MIT represents its philosophy
“How do I get to MIT?” I asked.
It was a sunny afternoon with a crisp fall breeze. I was only 2 weeks into my first trip to the US, but I was already missing the warmth of Mumbai air.
“Well, you are already at MIT,” the lady standing near a white sculpture of human body replied. “Just walk straight into the building, keep walking and you will cross the infinite corridor.”
I felt disoriented. No grand entrance gate, no historic monument, not even a campus wall. You just cross the road and enter? My subconscious self was seeking some grand gesture of pride to indicate that I had arrived to such an eminent institute. Well, I had also just visited Harvard that morning. The architect in me started studying the campus design and layout structure (or the lack of it) right away. I could not help notice the absence of segregating demarcation between the buildings. I wondered if the organic nature of the interstitial spaces was intentional, if the lack of boundaries was the bold statement I was seeking.
This place was starkly different from Harvard just down the road – less grandiose, less segregated and more open. One place felt more individualistic while the other more collaborative.
The Infinite Corridor. The term intrigued me. What would an infinite corridor at a tech institute feel like? Was it a nerdy pun or was it the iconic architectural feature I could take pictures of for my trip collection, the tourist in me wondered.
As I entered MIT, I was struck by the energy of this place. I soon realized the infinite corridor had nothing infinite about it – at least not in the first glance. As I walked through the spine connecting the buildings, I struggled to keep up within the swarm of students pacing in both directions. It felt chaotic and noisy – but strangely had an underlying order.
The sea of colorful posters pinned on both walls was a burst of information – on countless organizations, activities, events, opportunities, courses, collaborations, research groups, jobs, initiatives, policies and much more. It was like racing through chaotic traffic with a sea of hoardings fighting for your attention – an experience I was so familiar with on Mumbai roads.
As I was trying to process all the information while avoiding breaking the unspoken rules of traffic, I did not realize when the poster-walls transitioned into glass walls of labs. I was quite literally getting a peek into the world of science and innovation at MIT. It was striking how diverse labs were located right opposite each other doing diverse work. I wondered how often they just observed each other’s work and sought inspiration from neighboring researchers.
No wonder there were so many interdisciplinary opportunities – the place is designed to breed collaborative work. I was envious of the students around me who had all these opportunities and resources at their disposal. It would be hard not to stay inspired when you daily walk up and down this passage of endless energy and knowledge – the infinite corridor.
I was instantly in love with the openness and energetic vibe of MIT. It was ironic that the lack of architecture fascinated the architect in me. It was like entering a city with no historic landmarks, no tourist spots but you just feel the warmth it in the air, in the people around you.
For someone living in Mumbai, this place thrilled me. The organic and intricately interwoven fabric of this new place seemed oddly familiar. I was suddenly not missing the Mumbai warmth anymore.
Two years later, I was now a student at MIT. But as I stood in front of the odd human sculpture, I remembered the lady’s reply. “Well, you are already at MIT. Just walk straight into the building, keep walking and you will pass the infinite corridor” I said to myself.
As I entered the infinite, I knew I was home.
(Here is a link to a short video of my architect colleagues and professors describing their experience of the infinite corridor: https://vimeo.com/141066889)
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