Artifact/Plan Report

Plan Report Assignment

The last project was all about learning about MIT in the 19th century through the careful study of textual sources. This project is about the analysis of visual sources and will focus on (not surprisingly, given this year's celebrations) the design and construction of the Cambridge campus. Our focus will be on a set of drawings created by architects, engineers and draftspeople who worked for William Welles Bosworth (MIT's new campus architect) and Stone & Webster (the builders and interior designers).

This project is quite different from the previous one in that you will only consult other sources incidentally. Most of your time will be spent observing (and recording your observations), drawing and photographing. I want you to really look at and appreciate the history of this remarkable campus.

Thus, I want to introduce you to some of the techniques used by historians for basic analysis of visual sources. Your final report will include drawings, sketches and photographs as well as your notes and answers to some basic questions. You will also be asked to write a short caption for your drawing that could potentially be used for a new website.

  1. Your Plan
  2. Every student will be assigned a construction plan from one of the original buildings designed by William Welles Bosworth in the 1913–1916 period. This plan may have been created by Bosworth's team or by the engineers from Stone & Webster. Each student will work on a different plan, of the 60 on loan.

    (Students in STS.050 were given access to plans of MIT from the Facilities department. These plans cannot be shared with the public.)

  3. Researching Your Plan
  4. The first step is to carefully study your plan. Plan to spend at least 20 minutes (you are allowed to spend longer) just looking at the plan and taking as many notes as can in that time. I strongly recommend using pencil and paper. Write down anything and everything from inscriptions you notice, details, decorations, patterns, shapes, colors, how many openings (windows and doors), how many stories or how many rooms, what is the scale, or even how this plan makes you feel, etc. There are no guidelines, no right answers for this step, but the quality and quantity of your observations will be assessed. You will need to include your notes with your final report.

    The second step may seem strange at first. You need to pick a familiar space—your dorm room, a classroom—and "draw" that space, mimicking your drawing. In other words, if you have a floor plan, you should sketch a floor plan of your room; if you have an elevation, you should go outside and draw an exterior elevation. You will need to be able to take some basic measurements (width, length, height) so pick a space that is both accessible and manageable (ie: Simple is better). This is not a masterwork. The sketch can be pretty crude. The goal is to get you to appreciate what went into making your plan and to notice details that you might have missed the first time around. You will include your sketch with your final report.

    The third step is an exercise in consolidating the raw observations and notes and focusing on the "design" and "functions" of the structure (rather than its "form"). I would encourage you not to attempt to do this before you have completed the first two steps.

    Going back to your plan, please consider the following questions (in no particular order):

  • Again, what are you looking at?
  • How is your plan organized? Is it one drawing or several?
  • What kind of information does you plan communicate?
  • These are construction plans but what is being "constructed"?
  • Looking only at this plan, what can you tell about the structure's functions?
  • Please explain how people move around in this structure? How do they gain access and egress? What can you tell about circulation?
  • Can you tell what building materials the architect or engineer hopes to use?
  • If you have an exterior elevation, how are the volumes arranged? Where is the weight concentrated?
  • If you have an interior plan, can you find the utilities? Heating, Ventilation? Light? Can you figure out how these are provided for?
  • Looking again at the aesthetic elements, can you figure out what "problems" this plan is trying to solve?
  • Do you think this plan makes sense?

To complete this step, you will need to write a short essay (200 words, or a little less than one page double-spaced) that consolidates what you have learned about your "structure," how it was designed and how you think the architects and engineers thought it would "work."

Finally, the fourth step: I want you to go onto campus and look at the real structure. Your goal is to figure out the actual space that is represented in your plan. Walk around the public spaces, inside and out. You may want to bring your printout with you and sketch on it today's configuration. What are the building and room numbers (today)? What is the same? What has changed? Take notes, take pictures. Again, you will include these notes and pictures (maximum 10) in your final report.

Please answer this question (1 paragraph): Considering only the space represented by your plan, do you think the people who created MIT in 1916 would be surprised by what exists today?

  • Report Requirements
  • General Information:

    Your final submission will be a mix of notes, sketches, pictures and a small amount of text that summarizes what you have learned about your plan.

    1. First page
      1. Your report needs a cover or title page that includes your plan number (found on the plan itself as well as the name of your document) and your name.
    2. Information Summary Sheet
      1. Because we hope to use your report to help catalog these plans you need to include the following information:
      • Short Title (a modified version from the plan itself)
      • Title on the Plan
      • Firm responsible for the plan (either William Welles Bosworth or Stone & Webster)
      • Maker (many of the plans have initials or names of the people that drew them)
      • Materials (these are all ink on linen)
      • Place Made
      • Date Made
      • Geographic location (include current building number plus Cambridge, MA)
      • Plan Type (most of these plans are elevations or floor plans; this information is usually on the plan)
      • Description (short description of the plan content)
      • Other notes or relevant information (you may want to reference handwritten notes or other details about your plan)
      • Label (In 50 words or less, describe your plan in a way that would help someone identify what it is and some particularly interesting or relevant feature that you think would be important to know.)
    3. Notes, drawings, sketches, photographs and essays.
      1. Please collect these materials together. If you don't have access to a scanner, you can always photograph your notes, drawings, and sketches from steps 1–3. You will include your responses for Steps 3 and 4 here. Please label these pages (eg: Notes for Step 1, Drawing for Step Two, Essay for Step 3 etc.)
    4. Acknowledgements
      1. Please acknowledge any resources you may have drawn on to help you with this project. For example, if someone gives you permission to look at their office, please include their name and MIT address. If you use a book or website to gather information, please list here.

    Submission Deadline(s)

    Early submission with option to revise:

    You have the option of submitting your completed report early. Reports submitted the week prior to the final due date will be graded with time to revise for the final due date during Week 10. You have the option to revise and resubmit your report by the final due date, at the end of Week 10. While there is no guarantee of a higher grade, you cannot receive a lower one.

    Final Due Date is Class 18


    Students often wonder how much time it should take to do an assignment. In general, this project should take 4–5 hours to complete.

    Go back and reread all the steps! Then get out your pencils…