Brilliant Walls by Frank Gehry at MIT Stata Center

My visit to the Alexander Calder stabile at MIT in November led me to explore other forms of art outdoors on the university’s campus. The most compelling discovery there for me this winter was the Ray and Maria Stata Center designed by architect Frank Gehry with his firm Gehry Partners LLP. At a distance I had at times passed by the leaning, looming, oddly angled cluster of buildings, and I had meant to get closer. Finally, more than ten years after the completion of the Stata Center, I did get close enough to see how very much there is to see! The abundant pleasures and puzzles of these buildings keep calling me back. I hope the photos and notes in this post convey my enthusiasm.

Frank Gehry’s architectural firm worked to develop an enormous complex of buildings that enabled creative communication among scientists from different areas of expertise, including robotics. He described the groups of towers and interactive forms as looking like “a bunch of drunken robots got together to celebrate.”

By now I know of problems for people who must work and study within the walls of the Stata Center for Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences. Yet my own experience is limited to being a local tourist and my focus is solely on what happens while outdoors. Even more specifically, my interests have narrowed to the courtyard, or plateau, where silvery stainless steel walls reflect bright colors from nearby structures and zigzag patterns from the brick floor. People pause and test their own animated, fragmented forms and other fluid shapes in the shifting mirror surfaces. Alcoves and alleys entice us to take part in a complicated, changing flow within clusters of huge sculpted forms.

On the plateau. outdoor spaces formed by the exterior walls and structures have an interior, protective quality, maybe more inviting than some indoor spaces. The varied surfaces  glow or dazzle with changing sky and weather.They command attention and promise positive surprises, again and again.

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For more about Frank Gehry’s life and work, the Wikipedia biography offers much verbal and visual information ad-free. If you can block or ignore advertisements, an article by Matt Tyrnauer from Vanity Fair offers perspective on Gehry’s accomplishments, especially the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

 Update with new resource about Gehry’s work and life,  inserted September 10:

Frank Gehry’s Lifelong Challenge: To Create Buildings That Move NPR Morning Edition interview by Susan Stamberg with Frank Gehry and Paul Goldberger, author of a new biography Building Art: The Life and Work of Frank Gehry.

To find out more about the Stata Center or find your way to it, use the MIT Public Art Map.

To add your own thoughts, experiences, or questions about the Stata Center, please comment. You will enrich this post and shape other posts ahead. Many thanks!


  1. Wonderful, Deb! Thank you. Its even better on the website…



    1. Thanks, Terry, for your encouraging response!


  2. This is really great, Deb! These fascinating images have got me totally psyched to explore the Stata Center. Your photos are amazing. I love your shot of that robot peeking out a window, especially after quoting Gehry about the towers and interactive forms looking like “a bunch of drunken robots got together to celebrate.”

    Very informative. Thanks!


  3. Thank you, Sharon, for your positive, thoughtful comments! I love the way you note specific images and connect them with phrases. This offers valuable feedback about the effects of my intentions and decisions.


  4. bernardgurman · · Reply

    Deb: When Zena and visited Bilbao, we were not overly impressed at first. The “fish scales were obvious, but we didn’t see the building as a fish as many reviews had commented about. But at the end of a second day, we were on a street, that started or ended at the square, at the end of the day and looked back at the fish, now with a setting sun, that “painted” the fish with gold. AH! a Goldfish.


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