Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Chapel (Building W15)

Cambridge, MA




2017 Excellence in Architecture Award for Rehabilitation, Restoration or Preservation, Society for College and University Planning/AIA-CAE
2017 Engineering Excellence Award, Silver, American Council of Engineering Companies of Massachusetts
2017 Best Use - Educational & Institutional, Arts & Culture, Preservation Massachusetts
2017 American Architecture Award, The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design
2016 Preservation Award, Cambridge Historical Commission
2016 Honor Award, AIA New England
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Chapel (Building W15)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Chapel (Building W15)
Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Chapel (Building W15)

Designed by Eero Saarinen and dedicated in 1955, the chapel (Building W15) at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is a nondenominational space for worship and gathering. As part of their Capital Renewal Program, MIT undertook a major renovation at this mid-century icon with a goal of preserving the Saarinen design while addressing sixty years of weathering and deterioration. SGH consulted on the building enclosure and was the structural engineer for the project.


Scope | Solutions


SGH assisted the architect in developing a design to maintain the appearance of the iconic steel and glass window wall, while addressing deterioration and performance issues. Highlights of our design include the following:

  • Removing the original seeded glass, laminating it to improve safety and breakage resistance, and reinstalling it in new panels

  • Exchanging previously replaced glass, which did not match the original, with new laminated seeded glass from Germany

  • Replacing the corroded and buckled steel frame with a custom, painted stainless steel frame matching original profiles and designed to accommodate thermal movement, preventing reoccurrence of the buckling issue


SGH designed repairs for the chapel’s failed and leaking concrete moat, including reconstructing the structural slab-on-grade, installing a waterproof liner, and constructing a topping slab to recreate the original configuration and texture.


Our design to restore the skylight illuminating the altar and iconic Bertoia sculpture hanging from the oculus included replacing broken glass, refurbishing the frame, installing new glazing and flashing, and designing a protection screen to protect the skylight from ice and snow falling from the bell tower.


SGH also assisted with designing a replacement roofing system to address persistent leakage. To install base flashing details beneath the legs of the bell tower sculpture by Theodore Roszak, the contractor removed and reset the bell tower in a single day.

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