Quotes and Stories about Building 20

Quotes from books and archival sources


Quotes available on other websites


The Radiation Laboratory has been demobilized, its staff of 3900 reduced to 15.... And...the Institute space occupied by the war projects has been largely recaptured, and the temporary buildings, built primarily for war work, have been retained by the Institute to aid us in handling the postwar overload of students.
[Karl T. Compton (MIT President, 1930-1948), from MIT President's Report, 1945-1946, p. 5]

The edifice is so ugly...that it is impossible not to admire it, if that makes sense; it has 10 times the righteous nerdly swagger of any other building on campus, and at MIT any building holding that title has a natural constituency.
[Fred Hapgood, from his book, Up the Infinite Corridor: MIT and the Technical Imagination, Reading, Mass., 1992, 106.]

By choosing Building 20 we [the Research Laboratory of Electronics] probably got twice as much space as we would otherwise [had received] and I think we were all very happy about it.
[Albert Hill (RLE, Associate Director, 1946-1949; and RLE, Director, 1949-1952), quote from the videotape made for Generations: The Story of Building 20 an exhibit held in the Compton Gallery in 1980. Videotape now in the MIT Institute Archives, AC 48. MIT. Committee on the Visual Arts, Records, 1945-1980.]

I have a sense of affection and respect for this old building [Building 20] and all that's happened in it over the years.
[James R. Killian (MIT President, 1948-1959), quote from the videotape made for Generations: The Story of Building 20 an exhibit held in the Compton Gallery in 1980. Videotape now in the MIT Institute Archives, AC 48. MIT. Committee on the Visual Arts, Records, 1945-1980.]

You might regard it as the womb of the Institute. It is kind of messy, but by God it is procreative!
[Jerome Y. Lettvin, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Bioengineering, quoted in an article by Simson Garfinkel, "Building 20: The Procreative Eyesore," from Technology Review, 94 (November/December 1991), page MIT11.]

A short descriptive outline of the project is as follows: The construction of a three-story temporary wood frame building meeting with the requirements of the Radiation Laboratories to be located east of Radiation Laboratory Building #22, and north of the present M.I.T> Swimming Pool. This structure together with its connecting bridges has a total floor area of 196,200 sq. ft. ....
[McCreery and Theriault (architects), from AC4, MIT Institute Archives.]

Our floor construction consists of 2" plank, a layer of building paper, an da 2 1/4 face log run birch, beach and maple finish flooring. The exterior walls will have asbestos shingles on the exposed surface, underboarding rock wool insulation bats and 1/4" plywood as the exposed inner surface.
[McCreery and Theriault (architects), from AC4, MIT Institute Archives.]

Physically the Laboratory occupies approximately 32,000 square feet in Wing A of Building 20.... An additional 5,000 square feet are devoted to the radar and intelligence section of Project Meteor, a development of guidance systems in connection with the M.I.T. guided missiles program, and there is an associated document room containing reports amassed by the Radiation Laboratory. Although our present housing leaves much to be desired, the Laboratory is extraordinarily fortunate in the provision of materials and equipment for instruction and research.
[Julius A. Stratton (first director of RLE, 1946-1949; and MIT President, 1959-1966), from the report about the RLE in MIT President's Report, 1946-1947, p. 155.]

I think that a lot of things were better because of Building 20. You had ample space: a little more than you needed, rather than a little less, which is the normal situation.
[Jerome Wiesner (RLE, Director, 1952-1961; and MIT President, 1971-1980), quoted in an article by Simson Garfinkel, "Building 20: The Procreative Eyesore," in Technology Review, 94 (November/December 1991), page MIT10.]

More than any other facility at MIT it [Building 20] is the breeding ground of new programs.
[Jerome Wiesner (RLE, Director, 1952-1961; and MIT President, 1971-1980), quote from the videotape made for Generations: The Story of Building 20 an exhibit held in the Compton Gallery in 1980. Videotape now in the MIT Institute Archives, AC 48. MIT. Committee on the Visual Arts, Records, 1945-1980. ]

I think it [Building 20] is a place where things start. We started all sorts of aspects of things...with the military. We started the big Laboratory for Nuclear Science at MIT. We started the Research Laboratory of Electronics. We started what was called the Educational Research Center. ...you not only start things but you also start [them] with a certain independence of mind. It's this attitude that I think you should look for in a place.... It doesn't matter that it's dirty and noisy and hot. The important thing [is] the people.
[Professor Jerrold Zacharias, (LNS, Director, 1946-1956), quote from the videotape made for Generations: The Story of Building 20 an exhibit held in the Compton Gallery in 1980. Videotape now in the MIT Institute Archives, AC 48. MIT. Committee on the Visual Arts, Records, 1945-1980. ]

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