MIT & Harvard Campuses

Pedro standing in front of the most famous view on the MIT campus. After we took this shot he posted the photo to facebook and told his friends he was at MIT tuition-free!

In my last post I talked about our Sunday morning in Boston. One of the friends we were going to meet is a minister and was busy with Catholic services in the morning. But my friend Romain, whom I have mentioned before because we have been beloved friends since 2006, came to pick us up in the afternoon.

Romain worked for a time at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, just across the Charles River from Boston. Pedro wanted to see the campuses of Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), so when Romain arrived, I asked him to give us a tour. We started at Harvard, since he knew it better.

These birds waited with us for our friend Romain to arrive and pick us up.
One of the many gates into the Harvard Campus from the city of Cambridge.
Pedro capturing memories of Harvard.
Step through the gates in the photos above, and you enter Harvard Yard. This is the first piece of land owned by the school, and the location of its first buildings.
The older buildings on campus are close together, using the space as well as they can.
We wanted to touch the lucky shoe of John Harvard, namesake of the college.

Romain said he has seen parents pressing their students to touch Harvard’s lucky left shoe, just in case. It turns out, that is a myth perpetuated by tour guides, but so many visitors are enthralled by the possibility of luck, that the toe of the left shoe practically sparkles in polished bronze, while you can see the rest of the statue is dark. One real tradition is that seniors on their way to graduation will remove their caps as they pass the statue.

A church on Harvard Yard.
A lone human passes in front of the Widener Library.

Romain commented that the campus looked strange to him in the pandemic. “I’m used to this area filled with people,” he said.

Since the purchase of Harvard Yard in 1637, the campus has grown quite huge. We got into Romain’s car to see more of it, since it was too far to walk. We chose a random direction and ended up near the Zoology and Anthropology buildings.

Much of the current Harvard Campus looks nothing like the historic buildings around Harvard Yard.
We enjoyed the animals found in the walls of the Zoology buildings.
Here’s a closer look at the Giant Ant Eater and the Iguana.
And we couldn’t resist the rhino.
At the anthropology building, the museum was closed, but we liked this Mayan statue outside.

We then drove the short distance to the MIT campus. While Pedro had been interested in the first campus, at MIT he became distinctly animated. It hadn’t occurred to me that he would have enjoyed the visit so much, but it should have. His first degree was in chemical engineering, his next degrees were in computer engineering, and currently he is a data scientist, so this school is more up his alley.

The Ray and Maria Stata Center by architect Frank Gehry holds classrooms, research and fitness facilities, and a childcare center.
A fabulous statue in front of the student activity center. If you are intrigued by the sculpture, as I am, please check out this post my blogger friend Nemorino.

We passed an interesting building. Or, I should say another interesting building, as the MIT campus has some outstanding architecture. I was pointing out the clever design elements and Pedro got excited, pointing to the signs about MIT.nano. Romain and I played along but had no idea why he was so excited. Pedro was peering eagerly through the windows, trying to guess at what we were looking at.

I have never even heard of nanobionic plants, much less glowing ones.
It says Welcome, but sadly it was closed.

I looked it up later, and learned more about this place, which is a facility for research on the nano level. Nano means “one billionth,” so the focus here is on things very, very small. It’s for students and faculty, but also for anyone around the world to do research with individual atoms, and use these amazingly clean and quiet and stable and monitored facilities.

A five-minute video if you want to know what this place is about.
We seriously need to come back and get this man a tour.
Standing in Killian Court in front of Building 10 of the Maclaurin Buildings.

We finally made our way around to the river-facing side of the campus. In Killian Court it was fun to see that we were not the only tourists! Despite the cold and snow and darkening sky, we had to take our turn getting photos in front of the impressive Maclaurin buildings as tourists from around the world (we heard multiple languages) got photos there.

View of the Boston skyline across the Charles River from the MIT campus. The Prudential building is the second tall one from the right, with the radio towers on top.

It was getting quite dark at this point, and Romain had one last thing he wanted to share with us. At the top of the Prudential building is a floor with huge windows where visitors have an outstanding view of the city of Boston below. We headed there next, first parking near the church where Romain lived when he first came to Boston. He told us stories about learning the city in those days as we walked over to the building and found our way to the elevators. But no! They were closed to us. The Prudential Observatory is undergoing remodeling and scheduled to open to the public again in 2023. We would have to try another day.

Instead, we found a restaurant that looked promising and went inside. We had a marvelous meal of seafood and celebrated my birthday! As yes, Sunday was my birthday and I turned 52. Romain spotted a “celebratory cake” on the menu, and ordered it for us after we had eaten all the sea creatures. With three forks, we all shared the celebratory cake.

It had been a splendid birthday.

13 thoughts on “MIT & Harvard Campuses

  1. I’ll venture a wild guess and speculate that the statue in front of the M.I.T. student activity center is called “Alchemist” and was made by the Catalan sculptor Jaume Plensa. Here in Frankfurt, there is a similar (but not identical!) statue of his called “Body of Knowledge” (from the same year, 2010) on the Westend Campus of the Goethe University.

    1. That’s not a wild guess! It’s spot on. Thanks for the link to your great post and with your permission I’ve linked to your post. Alchemist is a great sculpture. I was able to walk right inside it. Is the one in Frankfurt the same?

      1. Thanks for linking to my post on the “Body of Knowledge” sculpture in Frankfurt. Yes, you can walk inside, and little kids can ride inside on their tricycles.

  2. I guess because of my background (I went to a technological institute in Indonesia, majoring engineering physics) I’ve been wanting to see MIT’s campus for a long time. However, since my graduation day I have drifted away from the engineering or scientific world and found jobs in the financial industry instead. But that excitement upon seeing what is often described as among the best higher education institutions in the world remains within me. So I can definitely relate to what Pedro felt. Happy belated birthday, Crystal!

    1. Thanks for the birthday wishes, Bama! It’s nice to know that you can relate to Pedro’s interest in the MIT campus. The first time I saw it, I was impressed because it’s famous. But I’m sure it’s more significant to people like you and Pedro with backgrounds that would have more relevance to the work done at MIT. I am now fascinated about what they are doing with nano technology. Do you ever use the things you learned in school, even though your career is now somewhat different?

      1. For the most part, it is the thinking process I learned at school that has so far helped me do my job. So yeah, learning those things for four years isn’t useless after all.

  3. So lovely, all of it. That it was your birthday, that Pedro was so enthusiastic, that you got to see your friend, a whole lot of incredible art – have a look at those animal doors behind the rhino!! – and the Gehry architecture and the happy end in the shape of a cake. 🙂 I do hope you return in warmer weather.

    1. Oh yes, the doors at the Zoological building! I saw them but didn’t have the lightbulb come on till you said something. A missed opportunity. Ah well. The Gehry building is remarkable from every angle. I think on a sunny day the colours would really pop too. It made me happy that Pedro was excited about the campus at MIT (and Harvard). He was being such a good sport, coming to Boston on a whirlwind weekend because I got this crazy idea. And then meeting my friends, AGAIN…seems like I’m always pressing new friends upon him and he’s so good about it. So it made me happy that something we did was something that he particularly enjoyed.

  4. This whole post made me happy, Crystal. I got a better understanding of who Pedro is since our brief meeting. I hear things and when I’m a bit nervous, they go in one ear and out the other. His joy is palpable from your description. I wish I had seen this before I went to Frankfort. Loved the video too. I really liked all the photos and how excited Pedro got. He’s a good man.

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