The iconic Great Dome of Building 10 on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus was closed off for more than 70 years from the Barker Engineering Library reading room, which is located directly below. In an effort to restore the reading room to its original condition, the team renovated the dome—preserving historic features and adding new structure.

The Great Dome originally contained a 27-ft-dia oculus with a glass block skylight. The oculus had been covered since World War II, when authorities thought it could be a beacon for potential bombing raids. The original oculus skylight was made of more than 1,000 patterned glass blocks set in a grid of narrow structural concrete ribs. When work began, the remaining glass block skylight was covered with plywood and EPDM roofing membrane.

The team's scope included re-establishing the oculus skylight; providing sufficient lighting at all times of day; and reducing the echo effect of the dome. The original design called for a concrete rib structure similar to the original construction. But engineers showed that a stainless steel structure would be a more reliable option. The completed space includes a new stainless steel framed oculus skylight; new laylight below the oculus with laminated glass; a new aluminum framed skylight above the oculus to provide weather protection; and new lighting at four levels within the dome.


MIT Great Dome, Cambridge, Mass.

Key Players

Owner Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Design Firm Simpson Gumpertz & Heger

General Contractor Shawmut Design & Construction

Lighting Sladen Feinstein

Electrical Consulting Johnson Engineering and Design

Steel DeAngelis Iron Work