The Rad Lab and the Stata Center


The whole campus was a war machine in the 1940s. It all started with Vannevar Bush, the former Vice President of MIT known for being the head of the U.S. Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD) and overseeing the little development known as the atomic bomb. A makeshift building of plywood and cinder blocks was parcelled off for the study of radiation and magnetism at the beginning of the war. It came to be known as the Radiation Laboratory, or Rad Lab (gnarly, dude!).

Many significant discoveries happened at the Rad Lab. Here, RADAR was developed for the Americans. The Soviets, Dutch, British, French, Italians and Germans had done it, too, all independently, and all very secretly, but this is where we Americans figured it out. Or at least the building that used to be here was where we figured it out. Today, the Rad Lab is gone, having been assimilated into the MIT Research Laboratory of Electronics (RLE).

Now standing on the same site is the funky-looking Stata Center, the building that consistently puts MIT near the top of the list of schools with the most interesting architecture. Built in 2003, the Stata center is designed by world famous architect Frank Gehry, whose curved walls and jutting edges recall cubist artwork or famed Catalonian architect Gaudi. Funding came from some huge bigwigs in the tech field, primarily from Ray and Maria Stata, though the likes of Bill Gates had a hand in it.

Gehry’s architectural design firm got $15 million of the $300 million spent for the construction, and despite the fact that construction company Skanska asked for remodels in the rickety design which they feared would leak, Gehry went ahead with his design. In 2007, MIT sued Gehry’s firm for the leaking, cracks, and falling ice that blocked emergency exits.

By 2010 the problems were fixed. Gehry, shrugging the whole situation off, claimed, “MIT is just after our insurance,” as he knew full well that any large complex like this will have kinks to work out. The building is currently home to MIT’s Linguistics and Computer Science department, alongside its Philosophy and Artificial Intelligence Lab.