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MIT Better World

By Christine Thielman

The residence’s two distinctive parallel buildings are now undergoing a major renovation, with plans to reopen to students in fall 2025.

Before East Campus closed this past summer, a renovation committee and advisory group including MIT students, faculty, alumni, and administrators launched a project to digitally preserve some of the most beloved student art. Thanks in part to a generous gift, all student artwork was photographed, and students from each of the 10 halls selected a piece of particular significance to be captured in high resolution, printed, and reinstalled in the renewed building.

The dragon of Fifth East is among the art chosen for future display. Legend has it that undergraduates initially painted the creature to be visible only under a black light. The dragon is believed to be the first mural ever painted in East Campus; eventually, nearly every wall was covered with wildly creative art.

While the refreshed East Campus will look more modern and provide more comfortable and sustainable living, the project team has taken care to provide space for artistic expression: large, movable wall panels in the residential corridors will provide a fresh canvas for the East Campus artists of the future.

The Drowning Man muralA rendition of The Creation of AdamThe Anarchy muralMural that pays homage to Josan Gonzalez
“The Drowning Man from Fourth East is one of the most detailed murals,” says East Campus president Jordan Tierney ’25, noting that the artist, Bob Sabiston ’89, SM ’91, went on to develop a new technique for film animation called interpolated rotoscoping while working in the MIT Media Lab. “It makes sense that he became an animator, given the quality of the mural,” adds Tierney.


In the spirit of Michelangelo’s Creazione di Adamo, a fresco painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, this East Campus favorite did not appear on a wall. Students painted their rendition of The Creation of Adam on the ceiling of Second East.


Chosen by the residents of 41 West, the Anarchy mural and the walls of the surrounding lounge were “repainted every year with black paint and became a new canvas for the year’s residents, including newly admitted first-years,” says Rachel Dzwonkowski ’26, a member of the East Campus Transition Team, which worked closely with the Division of Student Life and project architects. The beloved mural was in the lounge (lit only by black light) used for most of the community’s social events.


A favorite mural from Fifth West is an homage to the art of Josan Gonzalez, who illustrated William Gibson’s 1984 science fiction novel Neuromancer, one of the earliest and most famous works of literature in the cyberpunk genre, which features futuristic technological and scientific achievements in dystopian settings.



Give now: Just as the generosity of MIT Class of 1893 alumni made it possible to break ground on East Campus  in 1923, support from today’s alumni and friends will shape East Campus—right down to the art on the movable panels—for future generations.

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