The Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT, Building 32

Designed for the Computer, Information, and Intelligence Sciences programs at MIT, Frank Gehry and his architectural team at Gehry Partners envisioned a sprawling academic complex of visually amorphous structures which provide a combination of study and social space for students. The project is comprised of 47 unique elements, using a variety of materials, from brick to glass and architectural metals.

Zahner developed the geometry and cladding the structure with rain screen panels in stainless steel, aluminum, and titanium. As the facade provider, Zahner designed the structural forms to match the designer's aesthetic, fabricated the forms, skins, and window units, and installed the facade onsite at the Cambridge, Massachusetts campus.

Designing the Building Envelope for Stata Center

Because of the complex nature of the project, the designers used ZEPPS, the Zahner-patented structural system for building complex forms. Using ZEPPS allows the engineers to simplify the design into buildable components using 3D fabrication processes. Parts were then assembled either at the Zahner shop or in the field depending on their complexity and ease of shipment.

An onsite team of installers lifted and secured each ZEPPS assembly. In total there were 1,500 individual ZEPPS assemblies manufactured for the project. Each of these assemblies was lifted into place for this project and then surfaced with a metal skin in one of several specified metal surfaces. More than 10,000 individual skins were installed to the surface and roof.

One of the distinct advantages of the ZEPPS is that it allows fully functional window boxes, over six feet in height, to be pre-installed on these panels. For that reason, the system is often described as prefab for custom buildings.

Detail of the flatseam panel system for Stata Center at MIT.
Detail of the flatseam panel system for Stata Center at MIT.
Facade installers in their office at MIT.
Facade installers in their office at MIT.
Detail CAD comparison of the Giraffe building at MIT Stata Center.
Detail CAD comparison of the Giraffe building at MIT Stata Center.
Interior metalwork, mirror-polish stainless steel flatseam panels  at MIT.
Interior metalwork, mirror-polish stainless steel flatseam panels at MIT.
Mockup for one of the buildings at MIT Stata Center.
Mockup for one of the buildings at MIT Stata Center.
Construction comparison of the MIT Stata Center giraffe building.
Construction comparison of the MIT Stata Center giraffe building.
CAD rendering for MIT Stata Center.
CAD rendering for MIT Stata Center.
Aerial photograph of MIT Stata Center during construction.
Aerial photograph of MIT Stata Center during construction.
Sunrise glows over the Pisa building at MIT Stata Center during construction.
Sunrise glows over the Pisa building at MIT Stata Center during construction.
Vista building at MIT Stata Center during construction.
Vista building at MIT Stata Center during construction.
Twins building during construction revealing the ZEPPS panel understructure.
Twins building during construction revealing the ZEPPS panel understructure.
The Twins building at MIT, installation detail.
The Twins building at MIT, installation detail.