MIT to dedicate monument to Sean Collier

Steve Annear Boston Globe

An opening in the granite walls of MIT’s new Sean A. Collier memorial looks out onto the area where the MIT police officer was shot and killed on April 18, 2013. A set of lights set into the ground nearby mirrors the alignment of the stars that night.

The massive gray structure, set to be dedicated Wednesday, is a monument to Collier’s dedication to the school that he served.

The Sean Collier memorial Photo by Iwan Baan

The Sean Collier memorial Photo by Iwan Baan

Meejin Yoon, head of MIT’s architecture department and the designer of the structure, brought 32 massive granite blocks together as a singular object to reflect the notion of what it means to be “Collier Strong.”

“The idea of being strong, and what is strength, was one of the things on all of our minds, and I wanted the memorial to not only look strong, but to have a position about that strength. So this is strength through many pieces coming together,” Yoon said in an interview.

The 190-ton structure, which curves into a starlike shape at the intersection of Vassar and Main streets, near what’s known as North Court, will be dedicated at noon Wednesday. The event will be followed by a community picnic.

Once it was conceptualized, and the quarried blocks of granite were shaped and brought to the school’s campus, Collier’s stepbrother, Robert Rogers, who works for Boston-based Suffolk Construction, oversaw the project’s assembly.

MIT President L. Rafael Reif, MIT Police Chief John DiFava, and Cambridge Mayor David Maher are among those scheduled to speak at the ceremony.

Collier was shot and killed by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev three days after the Boston Marathon bombings. He was sitting in his cruiser on MIT’s campus when the suspects ambushed him in a failed attempt to steal his service pistol.

The smallest opening on the memorial’s gray walls, described by Yoon as a window of sorts, looks out onto the area where the 27-year-old Collier was murdered.

The date of the officer’s death, and a snippet from the eulogy delivered by Rogers at Collier’s funeral are inscribed in the stone.

Lights set in the ground around the memorial are arranged to match the constellation of stars that were visible in the sky the night Collier was killed.

Yoon said in designing the stone structure’s shape and tone, she relied heavily on information provided by the MIT community, and input from a special committee tasked with figuring out the proper location for the memorial and what it should look like.

“It was a project that was all about heart,” she said, adding that she learned much about Collier throughout the yearlong process.

Yoon said she sought to create the shape of an open hand, with soft edges and open underpasses. That was a challenge on many fronts, including the installation process.

Yoon said that sheer force, gravity, and geometry help fit the 32 megalithic blocks of granite together in such a way that they support each other, and create the centralized space beneath the structure where people can roam.

“Every block is individual and special, and no block is like another block. They come together in the middle to perform this kind of magical act, floating several tons of stone in the air,” Yoon said. “It’s strength through unity.”

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