This article originally appeared on MIT News on November 29, 2018.
The proposed renovation of the Metropolitan Storage Warehouse as a new location for the MIT School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) is one step closer to becoming a reality thanks to a significant gift from Carmen ’78 and John ’77 Thain, both members of the MIT Corporation.
The project, announced by the Institute in June, would create a new hub for interdisciplinary education and research in art, design, and urbanism at MIT with ties to dozens of other departments and centers across the Institute. Relocating SA+P to the Metropolitan Storage Warehouse, centrally located on campus, could expand MIT’s classroom and design studio space, increase exhibition capacity, create a new center for the arts, incorporate areas for collaboration-based work, and open new spaces for public use. The possible move would also bring SA+P into closer proximity with the residential population of MIT’s campus. A new makerspace in the renovated building, with expanded design and fabrication facilities, would be available to the entire MIT community.
“We are happy to support the effort to reimagine the historic Metropolitan Storage Warehouse for SA+P,” says Carmen, who earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture at the Institute. “This is an exciting opportunity for MIT to create new spaces that serve the needs of today’s students and educators while preserving a historic building of distinctive character at the heart of campus.” Adds John: “This renovation has the potential to benefit SA+P—and indeed the whole of MIT—in many ways, from adding modernized facilities to consolidating MIT’s strengths in cross-disciplinary design research and education to connecting communities across the Institute. Carmen and I are proud to be a part of this important project.”
The Thains have a long history of support for the Institute. Carmen is a term member of the MIT Corporation and serves on the Corporation Visiting Committee for Architecture. She is a co-chair of the MIT Campaign for a Better World and a member of the MIT Campaign Leadership Council. John, a former chairman and CEO of the CIT Group, is a life member of the MIT Corporation and serves on the Corporation Executive Committee. He is chair of the Corporation Visiting Committee for the MIT Sloan School of Management and is on the MIT Sloan Americas Executive Board. He is also on the Corporation Visiting Committee for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The couple have also hosted events during the MIT Campaign for a Better World. They are long-term supporters of the MIT Sloan Annual Fund and various core needs across campus.
“For many years, John and Carmen’s foresight, wisdom, and generosity have contributed greatly to the life of the Institute,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “Their support for the proposed conversion of the Metropolitan Storage Warehouse into a new design hub will help to transform a building whose purpose was to shield its contents from the outside into a vibrant, open community brimming with new ideas and inspirations and eager to share them with the world. We are deeply grateful to the Thains for their commitment to advancing MIT’s mission.”
SA+P is consistently ranked as one of the world’s top schools of architecture, planning, and design. It is a place of many “firsts”: the first department of architecture in the United States—which this year is celebrating the 150th anniversary of its first graduating class—and the oldest continuously running department of urban studies and planning. SA+P was also the first academic center for real estate to offer a professional degree and the first school to graduate an African-American architect (Robert Robinson Taylor 1892).
“For more than a century, SA+P has been turning out some of the most influential figures in architecture and design. Today, our students, faculty, and alumni are the leading voices in their fields, offering inspiring new visions for the built environment, a livable planet, and the innovation economy,” says Hashim Sarkis, dean of SA+P. “With the extraordinary support of the Thains, the Metropolitan Warehouse renovation project is poised to add fresh energy to this impactful work, generating opportunities for design research and education and creating a new gateway for MIT.”