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SADP Dean Mahesh Daas publishes book on architectural legacy of Charles Vest, MIT president

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

LAWRENCE — The publisher Rowland & Littlefield has released "Leading With Aesthetics: The Transformational Leadership of Charles M. Vest at MIT" by Mahesh Daas, dean of the School of Architecture, Design & Planning.

The book illuminates the potential of those who lead universities to use architecture, art and design to accomplish institutional goals such as shaping the image of an institution, helping to articulate a common purpose for those it serves and resolving institutional incongruities.

Charles M. Vest, who was president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology from 1990 until 2004, was the inspiration for the book. He increased the amount of square footage on the campus by 1.5 million square feet.

But what was perhaps more important to MIT’s stature was his hiring of architects who are well-known within the profession, including Frank Gehry, who designed the controversial Stata Center, and Fumihiko Maki, who created the iconic MIT Media Lab. Steven Holl built Simmons Hall, an unusual 10-story dormitory that looks like a small city, with internal and exterior spaces designed to encourage interaction between its residents.

Daas says that institutions such as universities depend on architecture to deliver on their missions more than any other type of organization because buildings are the foundations upon which societies stand and depend upon as their existential anchors.

“An institution without its architecture is like a soul without a body or a person without a face. I chose to write Vest’s story because it is a great one on so many levels,” he said. “He demonstrated how a principled leader, with a supportive and collaborative team, can use architecture to engage and motivate people by helping articulate a common purpose and the highest expectations for excellence.

“He used buildings to reshape MIT’s image, and that helped overcome the daunting challenge of accelerating the evolution and progress of what was already one of the most revered institutions of higher learning on the planet,” he said.

Daas is a recent arrival on the KU campus, assuming his post as dean in June. He conducted the research for the book while he was a student in the executive doctorate in higher education management program at the University of Pennsylvania.