Greetings, freshman, and welcome to MIT. I see you’re looking at Random Hall as a possible place to live. While Random is not for everyone, it’s certainly a place that I enjoy very much. If you have the time, I’d like to take you on a visual tour of Random Hall during the summer nighttime hours.

This is in no way a substitute for taking a tour with a real tour guide during Rush. It’s merely intended to serve to whet your appetites for the real thing. I can’t possibly convey how awesome Random is by simply showing you pictures – you have to see for yourself :) In particular, the dorm was unusually empty when I was walking around taking these pictures. There’s really nothing better for getting the feel of a dorm than walking around with a resident.

DISCLAIMER: The opinions and explanations expressed here are my own and are not intended to represent the dorm in any official capacity whatsoever. Again, this is not a substitute for a real tour.

Follow me through the front door, and we’ll begin…


Warning: The following page contains a great deal of images and may take a long time to load.

We’re standing outside Random Hall at about 11:30PM. Glancing to the left, we can see Munchies (the Sunoco gas station with its 24/7 mini-mart – convenient for late-night caffeine or ice-cream runs).

As we approach the door – look, someone’s posted a flowchart to help the frosh out.

We’re greeted by the friendly deskworker as we pass through the airlock – the enclosed area that provides security for the dorm and also houses our mailboxes.

Once we’re through the airlock, we spot the “Physical Plant” and the base of the RNA, the tensegrity tower that occupies the central area of the 290 side stairwell.

We’ll take a quick detour to the right, into the Main Lounge. Here we can see the Random Hall Athena quickstation, which is nice to log in to quickly if you’re in the lounge and are bored or in a hurry.

Taking stock of the Main Lounge, we see Nina, our awesome, friendly, and helpful housemaster! She’s always happy to see you and she’s great to talk to. She’s standing in the middle of the Main Lounge, where house meetings and dorm-wide events are held – and where you’ll have the opportunity to participate in many Rush events. The Main Lounge is also Foo Lounge – three residents live on this all-male floor.

Leaving the lounge, we hear voices and glance upwards. It’s (clockwise from upper left) Shawn (shawest), Kenan (kdiab) and Josh (velsonj). They’re having an animated conversation, but they glance downwards at our shouting (and the flash from my camera :) )

We’re not going to go upstairs just yet, though. Heading to the right, we spot some stairs leading downward, into the Random Hall basement. Let’s follow them.

As we enter the basement, the first thing we see is the Darkroom on our left. It is very dark in there, which is good if you want to develop photographs, but bad if you fear grues.

We take a right through a doorway, then another right. Before us we see AiW, Random Hall’s Alice in Wonderland Lounge – so called because its floor is purple, checkered, and non-planar. AiW is a great place to relax and watch movies and TV, or play video games on the 10′ screen. There’s also a pool table and a Foosball table.

… as well as a Coke machine, for when you’re too lazy to get a soda from the Random Hall Soda Fridge, which sells cans and bottles of soda at cost (as long as Desk is open, which is generally from 8AM to 2AM, but will be 24/7 during Rush).

Turning to our right, we see another of Random Basement’s amenities – the kitchen / music practice room. We have a piano that, in the words of Keach, is “almost in tune”, down here. Additionally, this is a fine place to work on group work or to prepare food for the entire dorm.

Reversing our direction, we can see the door we came through, as well as the aforementioned Foosball table and a glimpse of Random’s small computer room. Let’s head in that direction.

This is

, Random Hall’s dialup / public Athena station. It’s available for anyone to use, and Random residents can log in to it remotely.

This room also contains


the printer, the most visible physical incarnation of J. Arthur Random, the legendary founder of Random Hall. Anyone can print here for free (though sometimes the printer runs out of paper). Next to it is the small copier, but as far as I know, it doesn’t see much use. Moving along.

Our laundry room is kind of a mess right now. I’ll stop to do my laundry, but we won’t linger long here. There are some nice things about our laundry room, though, one of which is the laundry server – a server which you can check to see if your laundry is done. More convenient than going to the basement!

Another nice thing is that you can keep your detergent down here – as just about everyone does.

Moving through the door to our right, we enter the bike room. You can also keep your bike in the basement, should you own one.

Before us we see the stairs leading upwards to the 282 side.

However, a quick glance to our left reveals the Random Hall EE lab, which contains many public tools and components which Random residents are free to use.

Let’s head up the stairs. Once we reach the first floor, we can see the stairs leading upwards to the second floor, but we’re not going to take this path.

Instead, let’s glance out the other door. Random has two entrances, one of which “anyone” can enter as long as they can pass the deskworker (the 290 side entrance – from 290 Massachusetts Avenue). The 282 side entrance requires a key, but can be used by any Random resident. The mailboxes for residents of the 282 side are also located here.

We take a right and head into Destiny floor – an all-male floor on the first story of the 282 side. The tale of how Destiny got its name is a fun one, but I’m not going to give it away here – ask a real tour guide :) Here we see some of the residents of Destiny tooling and punting – two activities common to Random residents. (Tooling – to work so hard on something that you forget everything else, what MIT basically requires, “to put one’s brain to the grindstone”; punting – to deliberately choose not to do something (“I punted that problem set”) or to engage in recreational activities instead of work (“I’m punting instead of doing my psets”))

Past residents of Destiny have constructed a set of monkey bars along this hallway, which we’ll walk under shortly.

Reaching the end of the hallway, we come across the entrance to one of the “small-halves”, a particular type of room that you may be placed in as a frosh. These tiny rooms are miniscule indeed, but are effectively singles and are therefore prized.

Opening the door, we see the back staircase of Random Hall. This twisty, narrow staircase is often useful for heading directly to the basement, but we’ll climb it for now.

We’ve arrived on Loop floor, one of Random’s two all-female floors. We’ll head through the open doorway onto the kitchen-side.

As we pass along one of Random’s narrow hallways, we see that our kind and friendly GRTs have put up some posters encouraging us to feel welcome. GRTs (Graduate Resident Tutors, known elsewhere as RAs) are graduate students who live in Random and serve as counselors and sources of advice, inspiration, and free food :)

Loop Kitchen is empty but festively decorated. Loop residents enjoy cooking, often making dishes for the entire dorm to enjoy. One of the greatest things about Random is its kitchens – the dorm could never be such a wonderful place to live without the dual benefits of communal hang-out space and the ability to cook one’s own food at any hour of day or night.

At any rate, we now head out the door towards Loop lounge. Loop lounge often has a cat in residence, but we don’t see him here. What we do see is our first glimpse of a floor lounge (most of which are shaped like this).

Someone seems to have made some cake and left some here. We’ll pass it by, though it looks tasty, and head upstairs.

We’ve reached Clam floor, an all-male floor on the third story of 282. Note that we won’t see one of the notable aspects of Clam – the connecting hole in the firewall which joins it with BMF floor on the 290 side. This makes both Clam and BMF hubs for the social interactions of the dorm. However, we can get a good look at Clam kitchen, which is sadly empty (many dorm residents have summer jobs that have not yet ended; consequently, they are asleep).

Turning around, we see the Clam that gave the floor its name. Once again, I’m not going to tell the full story here – you’ll have to ask a tour guide!

We’ll head out into the stairwell and glance upwards. Above us we see the hanging pirate ship that marks Bonfire floor. We’ll take the stairs upwards and head left.

This hanging pirate flag marks the entrance to Bonfire Lounge. We’ll push it aside and enter.

The residents of Bonfire spend a great deal of time in their lounge, and have set it up to present a sizeable array of media choices.

The Bonfire media server allows users to browse the Internet, watch media, or play video games.

We’ll head down the hallway. On our way, we’ll pass the Bonfire Stargate.

Entering the back stairwell, we see that, despite being on the highest floor of Random, the stairwell continues upward. We’ll ignore the “DO NOT ENTER” sign and proceed to climb the back stairwell once more.

We’re confronted by a heavy metal door blocking our way. It’s easily opened, but we’ll make sure to check that it can be opened from the other side before closing it behind us.

We’ve arrived on Random’s roofdeck. Random is one of the few dorms to have a roofdeck – they’re prohibited by Cambridge housing codes, but Random has been grandfathered in. It’s a great place to host parties – or to come up to during the night and look at the Cambridge skyline (when the weather’s good, at any rate).

It’s quite extensive, actually. Random will be having a Movies on the Roofdeck event during Rush, where we hang up a screen and show movies and provide popcorn!

One side of the skyline is completely obscured by the nearby Novartis building.

The roofdeck is also home to some of the housemasters’ plants as well as several chairs.

We’ll cross the roofdeck and enter the stairwell leading down into the 290 side.

We’ve reached Pecker floor, the fourth floor of the 290 side. Its hallways are also home to several murals, including this door, which the Stargate on the other side was painted to match.

… as well as this one, from the cartoon Rejected.

Pecker is also host to MegaHAL, Random’s resident AI. He lives in Pecker lounge, and you’ll have a chance to talk to him during Rush.

Glancing over towards the double, we can see inside. This “two room” is the other sort of room that is generally assigned to freshmen – it’s a large room shared between two people. We’ll leave it behind for now and head into the stairwell.

Looking upwards, we can see the skylight, which is illuminated during the daytime, and from which hangs…

… a flying cow.

Passing through the door in front of us leads us to Pecker kitchen, which is entirely empty. To the right, we can see the Pecker kitchen blackboard, which is usually covered with equations and other miscellaneous mathematical scribblings. Pecker as a whole is renowned for its love of math.

Pecker kitchen is a good example of how Random’s kitchens are laid out. Each kitchen has a stove, a dishwasher, and a large sink, as well as a multitudinous assortment of cupboards, each of which houses food and dishes for a particular resident.

Each kitchen also has several tables, which are used for tooling, eating, and other communal activities.

The story of how Pecker got its name is no secret.

We’ll head down the back stairwell once more, this time heading towards BMF floor.

We’ve reached BMF floor, the third floor on the 290 side. Passing the mural of Sephiroth, we’ll head over towards the kitchen.

On our way, we pass some upperclassmen who are engaged in a deep discussion of cosmology.

Entering BMF kitchen, we can immediately see one of Random’s most memorable murals. BMF is the other all-female floor in Random, and it’s known for having several exuberant, creative residents.

We’ll take a closer look at this mural – as far as I know, it’s one of the oldest in Random.

If you live in Random, you can even paint your door or doorframe. You can also decorate your door with (pretty much) whatever you want.

Glancing up the stairs, we can see the entrance to Pecker floor.

Leaving the kitchen, we’ll enter BMF lounge. BMF lounge is noteworthy for its many murals which are only faintly visible under normal light, but are vividly fluorescent under black lighting.

Here’s another creative example of Random Hall door painting.

BMF’s most famous mural. Ask a tour guide for the expansion of “BMF”. For now, we’ll leave the lounge and head out into the hallway.

Each floor has several signs which can help you find your way, should you become lost. Since we’re not lost…

… we’ll head down the stairs to Black Hole, where our tour ends.

Black Hole is the floor where I live, and I enjoy living here very much. We’re a group of nerdy people whose interests include tabletop RPGs, building electronics, science fiction, coding for fun, advanced musical composition, video games, backpacking, live-action roleplaying, amateur radio, and so many more. Come check us out during Rush. </plug>

We’ll head through this door into the lounge.

Our lounge is very comfortable, and we often spend time playing D&D or other tabletop roleplaying games here. There’s also a large stock of RPG manuals and other miscellaneous books (we like books).

Looking down the Black Hole hallway, we can see the “five room” at the end. Let’s head down there for the final leg of our tour.

On one side of this hallway is a mural…

… and on the other side is a wall of quotes. (Clicking this photo will bring up the flickr page where you can view these photos in a higher resolution).
Quote Wall

We arrive back at my door.
Potterclock installed

This is where I leave you – good luck, and have fun during Rush!

-Christian Ternus
ternus at mit dot edu

4 Responses to “A Visual Tour of Random Hall”  

  1. 1 Nina

    Great job ternus — the only thing that’s slightly misleading about this tour is how few friendly faces are shown. In fact, Random is usually buzzing with several different types of activity at any hour of the day or night, and is a sociable (but not frenetic) place.

  2. 2 Sean el GRT en 127

    I feel more at home already! One amendment: Most of the roofdeck plants have been nurtured from germination by Val and me, the two newest GRTs at Random.

  3. 3 shawest

    This is a great tour. Now I can finally find my way around! Anyway, great job, Ternus. Although I feel describing Black Hole residents as being “nerdy” fails to differentiate them from the rest of the dorm very much :-P

  4. 4 jhamon

    Jesus, that’s a lot of pictures. Nice job! Only cool thing I can think of that you missed is the collection of tiles in the main lounge and assortment located elsewhere in the dorm.