Kresge Auditorium and the MIT Chapel, designed by Eero Saarinen in 1955, are world renowned works of architecture. In 2013 MIT commissioned a comprehensive renewal of the Auditorium and Chapel to meet contemporary regulatory standards, and provide necessary program, envelope and system enhancements so that they might regain their original luster as cherished icons for the next 60 years.
The work in the Chapel focused to the greatest degree possible on technical enhancement in the service of restoration. Lighting and HVAC were updated and fire protection was routed – virtually invisibly – through areas without chase space. Architecturally, the restoration started with the concrete moat, which leaked for most of its life, was waterproofed and rebuilt to match the original texture and appearance and a special fountain installed to keep the water moving just enough to prevent stagnation. Masonry at the arches was restored, the roof replaced and the bell tower sculpture raised 8” to facilitate drainage. Finally the steel and art glass curtain wall was rebuilt to provide a more technically sound enclosure without altering its visual appearance.
At Kresge the decision was made to replace the curtain walls with a stainless steel system that would replicate the profiles and appearance of the original aluminum system but with greater strength and weatherability. The distinctive copper roof, concrete edge beams and three pin supports were carefully refurbished and the drainage around the supports was improved as part of the regrading and rebuilding of the plaza. Considerable program improvements were made to practice and rehearsal areas, and the HVAC systems were replaced with new energy efficient systems. The primary purpose in renovating both Kresge and the Chapel was to provide increased weatherability, better energy performance, and increased safety, comfort and accessibility – while reinforcing and enhancing the historic character.