Visit to Boston & MIT Impressions

This week I’ve been truly fortunate to finally visit Boston, where mainly the purpose was to visit the Admitted Student Weekend at Harvard. I need a little more time to reflect on that experience though (keep checking, it won’t be long), so I thought instead I would comment on a brief campus visit to MIT-Sloan, as I was staying nearby.

I have to point out that this was not an official visit. Depending on your point of view it was either an unofficial visit or even that me and my friend just snuck in..! It was on Saturday afternoon, and was just a quick skim round of the building with no events planned. It was a rather grey and cold day in Boston, which inevitably makes a less favourable impression than a nice sunny one. The snow was nice though!

The first observation is simply that the MIT area is a very urban campus. We were staying around 100m away from the Sloan building and got to know the area well in only a few days. It’s extremely well connected to both Downtown Boston (we were actually walking from the downtown area back to our apartment and the walk was not at all difficult. (By contrast, it would be quite a trek to HBS). The Boston ‘T’ system and the Red Line is literally yards away.

The building itself was a little… clinical. My friend (also an admit at HBS but not familiar with MIT) asked when walking up to the building “Is this the hospital?”. I kind of thought I had the wrong place until I walked in the door as the sign was partially covered by snow, there was no obvious sign it is actually Sloan. Perhaps this understatement is intentional compared to its more extravagant brother. The glazed frontage on the river side is probably a bit more impressive, but I would say looking at access routes that surely this is still the main way in.

The exterior of the entrance

The exterior of the entrance

Inside it reflected the exterior of the building. Ultra-modern, clean, ordered. This building (called officially E62) was only finished in 2010 and it showed. Everything was immaculate, and there was a definite ‘new building feel’ still. It was a really quiet day on a Saturday afternoon so being quiet would be understandable, but even so I was a bit troubled by the lack of signs of life – for example, most noticeboards were spread far apart (I always look a club/society posters) and were usually only half covered.

There were some lectures going on in the new building (er..? Weekend classes?) but we had a peek in the window. The lecture theatres looked really comfy and well furnished. Sorry no picture! I have to admit the wood paneled HBS rooms looked a little dated compared to these, and my friend outright preferred them. They did look good.

Unfortunately we couldn’t stay for long as even though I have an application pending I still felt guards might rush from a corner and take me at any moment for being an intruder.

Inside Sloan

Inside sloan: view over the main central space and view of the cafe

There’s no denying that as a new building it was a really impressive space. If I was the architect I’d be pretty pleased with my efforts. However, I’d just have liked to see a bit more sign of life in the building itself. To be perfectly honest, it reminded me (both in style and feel) heavily of some of the top Engineering schools in the UK, or even trendy art galleries. All polished chrome and glass, and a little too much quiet and lack of warmth. These served me pretty well, but you do get a particular type of experience. Having said that, it is still new and could be very different in a year’s time.