Simmons Hall
229 Vassar St

Cambridge, MA 02139


Steven Holl 2002


Described as 'the sponge' by both architect and residents, Simmons Hall is an exploration of porosity, built for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the height of the iconic architecture era.


Its profile against the skyline is uncompromisingly hard: a square-cut monolith ten storeys high surrounded by open space, the machined harshness emphasised by the overwhelming square grid, the shimmering aluminum cladding and the bright, primary colors.



Relieving this tough, skeletal building are its voids, large, irregularly placed cut-outs for entrances, terraces, views, light and air: "Large, dynamic openings are the lungs, bringing natural light down and moving air up," according to the architect.



The contrasts continue inside the building, with exaggeratedly organically shaped concrete stairways breaking the monotony of the long, straight interior streets.



Among the building's many love-it-or-hate-it characteristics, the colors of the window recesses is not abstract ornament, but a revelation of the building's structure: the colors are coded to represent the thickness of reinforcement behind each of the aluminum panels.


Simon Glynn 2010 (updated 2011)



How to visit


Simmons Hall is in on the northwest edge of the main MIT campus, across from both Aalto's Baker House (a very different answer to a similar program) and Saarinen's MIT chapel.


Simmons Hall is building W79 on the MIT campus map.


Simmons Hall's web site provides helpful information for visitors; you can also email to arrange a tour at, or call +1 617 253 5107. You will not be able to go inside the building without prior arrangement.



Books and other web sites


Steven Holl Architects provides further information, drawings and photographs, including interor photographs, on their web site.




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