I visited Simmons Hall in Cambridge Massachusetts in 2006 when I went to the United States for a sort of Pilgrimage in adoration of Steven Holl: one of my favourite contemporary architects. Simmons Hall is visible from great distance since it is facing a vast sporting ground part of the MIT Campus. This condition is perfectly understood by Steven Holl who is capable of transforming the building in an articulated sculpture beautifully responsive to its surroundings.
The building is a porous lively barrier, a condition which is greatly emphasized by the numerous perforations of its facade: its numerous eyes that observe the world around. The fenestration becomes a lively and happy crowd ready to enjoy the next sports event happening in the adjacent field; it becomes therefore its natural extension.
Outdoor steps and large frameless windows also contribute to add joy to the architectonic crowd of the facade. The ground floor discloses at times the life inside the building: the cafeteria, the television room, the sitting room, and all these events lead to the entrance which is located in the corner of the building. This is slightly recessed and underlined by a generous canopy: it is a beautiful corner that welcomes everybody. Once inside I was lucky enough to have been granted access and a student took me for a visit of this otherwise inaccessible world. I had the most insane thought: to apply to study at MIT just to be able to live in this place.
It is a reassuring space: solid grey walls acquire the value of fossils on them we can read a story written by warm wooden plates that have imprinted their skin on the concrete. This materiality is pervasive it freely unfolds in the indoor space; it climbs the walls up to the skylights and marks the edge between the public and private space inside this fragment of the world.