February 27, 2012
Building 20 became a strange, chaotic domain, full of groups who had been thrown together by chance and who knew little about one another’s work. And yet, by the time it was finally demolished, in 1998, Building 20 had become a legend of innovation, widely regarded as one of the most creative spaces in the world. In the postwar decades, scientists working there pioneered a stunning list of breakthroughs, from advances in high-speed photography to the development of the physics behind microwaves... Stewart Brand, in his study "How Buildings Learn," cites Building 20 as an example of a "Low Road" structure, a type of space that is unusually creative because it is so unwanted and underdesigned... As a result, scientists in Building 20 felt free to remake their rooms, customizing the structure to fit their needs. Walls were torn down without permission; equipment was stored in the courtyards and bolted to the roof...Jonah Lehrer in The New Yorker.
The space also forced solitary scientists to mix and mingle. Although the rushed wartime architects weren’t thinking about ... the importance of physical proximity when they designed the structure, they conjured up a space that maximized ... these features, allowing researchers to take advantage of Building 20’s intellectual diversity.