A Not-So-Brief History of TEP's Lofts

A Not-So-Brief History of TEP's Lofts

Yes, a bit of history on those ephemeral pieces of Tau Epsilon Phi's architecture, those space-economizing sleep platforms, the edifices which make liability lawyers run in fear...

Compiled by Kohta Ueno (a.k.a. Batman), with contributions from: Fred, Crusher, Crank, Le Marquis de Fungus, U5, Stinky, Elisha, Bags, Gabe, Rico, Bunky, Steve Cohen, Tall Paul, Ricky Herrmann Leper, and, of course, Squanto. And probably others too. Oh well.


Was once a pair of very old platforms. In fact, Fred said that they were old by the time that he got to TEP in 1972.

One was taken down in 1990 during the Punk Huggie chancellor hack and replaced with a hanging desk and chair. Batman seized this opportunity to punt tooling and start on a new loft to replace the decrepit one, which would have spontaneously shattered if a rehang was attempted. Thus, a new loft was built under the auspices of Bat, Beef, Bird and Brian Construction, Inc. (another fine TepCo product) and completed in Fall 1990 after a protracted and painful construction period.

These lofts should be revered as the birthplace of the WeirsFlip(tm), invented by the incomparable Alan Weirsba. The flip was a reversible loft mounting maneuver that obviated the need for ladders, stairs, or ropes. One simply stands underneath the loft, grabs the edge like a chin-up bar, and flips one's legs and lower torso into the loft; the same maneuver works for dismounting, but it's a lot easier in that direction. If you want to see a demo, ask Leper or Schmooz, but with Deathtool.

The other loft (closer to the window) was in almost as shitty condition as the other when it was destroyed. Several of the structural members had major cracks (carefully repaired by nailing 2x4 scabs to the sides). It creaked a ..bit.. too much to be comfortable when you sat on one end of it.

The new loft, quite studly in structure and size, was built by Perlick and Schtick during Fall 1993 work week. On advice from Bats, they used a hardwood dowel insert in order to strengthen the screw joints. In the other loft in this room, the screws were driven into the end-grain of the 2x4's, and did not have very good holding power. With this newer method, the pullout strength, as well as frame rigidity, was substantially increased. Furthermore, overall rigidity was aided by the use of 3/4 inch (not 1/2 inch) plywood, as well as using construction adhesive to join it to the framing, resulting in a stress-skin type structure.

The presence of the sprinkler head and built-in fluorescent light were slight obstacles in the removal and replacement of the loft, but with careful planning and lots of big tools, they were overcome.

The loft was finished using acrylic-based super poly, which resulted in a distinctly lighter appearance than the other one. The previously existing chain hooks were utilized.

This loft was christened the "Maximum Bondage" loft, after the adhesive used to attach the plywood skin to the frame: Max Bond elastomer construction adhesive. To the best of my knowledge, it has not been used for the abovementioned purpose to this date.

Schtick and Perlick almost killed each other after having to work together for about 4 days straight, but that's no big deal.


The oldest known arrangement in this room were the low, modular, antiloft-like futon platforms. They were built by Roger and Sleazy. They took up lots of floor space, though, so after about a term, U5, when he lived there his sophomore year, reinforced and hung it from the wall and chains near the closet. Most know this particular item now as the THAS loft. It was built out of bits of the old loft, including 2by4s spliced together with carriage bolts.

When U5 rehung it, he let the leftover chain dangle from the corner of the loft into the doorway and cut it off at the five Unit mark so that when he walked by it would brush through the top of his big hair (at the time), while slamming others in the face/shoulder/chest/waist, to his great amusement. (Rocky was another person in the house who could fit under it.) During his tenure in the loft, THAS attempted to remove this obstacle by padlocking the end of the chain to the loft, thus doubling it safely out of the way. This became the favorite location for padlock-picking practice, and the chain reappeared in position with increasing frequency, to his distress. Since the key had been lost years earlier, THAS had to re-pick it in order to get it back out of the way. Some infidel finally cut the chain off.

THAS himself removed the pre-THAS ladder after one of the rungs came out as he was climbing it; he used the house stepladder for months thereafter, but inconsiderate brothers kept borrowing it for trivial reasons (like Work Week projects). He eventually built the post-THAS ladder, a celebration of simple design. In his inimitable style, he miscounted the number of rungs he needed, and instead of cutting another one, he just respaced them to fit. The result is a ladder with rungs way too far apart. Some modifications to the THAS loft were mandated by the safety inspector, but it remains largely the same as ever.

The THAS loft acquired its name not from THAS's contributions to its architecture or even from the infamous sucking noises that emanated from it when he and Nancy (now Mrs. Prager) were there, but because THAS lived in it for so long; he lived in 22 (and always slept in that loft) for at least five and a half straight terms, a modern record. The loft's real infamy, however, comes from the time (just) before THAS and Nancy were permanently attached: One evening, when THAS was asleep, Nancy, who at the time was not in complete control of her mental processes and so thought that she was in 32 rather than 22, stripped and got in bed with him. Neither of them realized the mistake until morning; this is how they ``discovered'' one another. This story should be known by all so that when THAS and Nancy bring their children around the House, the poor little ones can be suitably informed of their parent's depraved collegiate activities.

The other lofts in the room were the two free-hanging, swinging lofts, built by Crank, Tweety, and THAS, who refused to sleep in either of them, claiming that he got seasick. They are 3/4" thick sheets of plywood with big framing underneath, hung from chains. While pretty neat, the one near 21 was built too close to the wall, resulting in seismic tremors in both rooms proportionate to the activity of the loft-occupant, due to the loft ramming into the lightly-built wall. Pooter, for instance, was particularly disturbed when this knocked something off his shelf or made his Holst: The Planets CD skip. Also, Batman's wall-banging (so to speak) was particularly unwelcome at 0600 on Mondays, when he had to get up for ROTC stuff.

But alas, all damped simple harmonic motion systems must come to a stop, and modifications were thrust down our orifices due to safety regulations. The city safety inspector wouldn't sign off unless they went; after protracted whining, he agreed to let them stay if the MIT safety inspector passed them. He wouldn't do so unless plans could be produced demonstrating that the lofts were indeed hanging from 2 x 12 beams. The plans say nothing about where the beams are (in those days, construction workers could figure out that sort of detail on their own). Eventually the loft near the wall was bolted to it, and the other one was taken down for compliance, in addition to providing plywood for the Batcave.

This left two lofts in the room--the THAS loft, and the hobbled swinging loft. During the summer of 1991, Batman, finding himself with far too much free time after being punted by the Navy, took it upon himself to start the process of filling the room with pretty woodwork. The first result of this was the ladder leading to the THAS loft. It had the interesting property of having rungs of assorted tensions, which results in their making different tones when tapped. The upshot of this is that you can play the intro to "Break on Through" by The Doors and "Blister on the Sun" by The Violent Femmes on three of the rungs. This ladder also had the rare bonus features of being climbable, and of being attached to the wall.

His next piece of busywork was to build the loft over the fireplace that he had been planning for oh so long. The resulting edifice was completed in a week, from the last Slum Lum run to completion. It was christened the "Pool table loft," due to its uncanny resemblance to one, in the form of decorative side trim. Structurally, it is similar to the platforms of Leper's deathtool lofts, but with more adornment.

In a fit of esthetic angst, Batman then proceeded to detach, lower, and dismantle the crippled swinging loft, as well as the last remaining hazardous ladder in the room. This was done literally the hour before the freshmen arrived for Rush 1991.

Batman had so much fun doing all this that he decided to take the term off in order to allot full time to building instead of tooling.

In the summer before returning to school, Batman had another fit of retention, and decided that the ugly THAS loft had to go. Actually, he had been planning it starting from his trip to Japan, the Fall before. Outside, it resembled the pool table loft. The design, however, was an egg-crate structure, that is, a grid of boxes, which in this case was made of two layers of 2x3's. The outer sheathing was 1/2" plywood. Wasn't this rather heavy, you might ask? As a matter of fact, it took about 8 people to manage to carry it around the block, and up the stairs into 22. And it really sucked, even with that many people.

In fact, it was a _butt_huge_ loft. It is 5' 7" wide--wide enough for Batman to sleep on it widthwise. As it is extremely overbuilt, it won't flex without putting a car on it. It has been called the "orgy loft," for its size and weight capacity, but has not been tested out yet to that purpose.


This blooter death platform loft, held up by 4by4 columns, replaced a very high two-person loft supported by chains and the room's south and west walls. The new loft was built during dead week of 1985 by U5 and Paul, with help from the newly-bid Crank and construction advice, such as to use two drywall screws for each square inch of plywood, from Fred. Incidentally, this interrupted the prime tooling time of the Fisher students next door, who were apparently all ``very serious students,'' at least during their first week of classes. One of the features of this loft is its glass panel through which the floor can be seen from the loft. Speculation that this was one of the house's most overbuilt lofts---as well as the biggest---was quashed when Quake picked it up by an inch or so one day, tearing out the nails that attached it to the floor.

This was done during 23's period as a tool-o-rama center, as can be noted by the occupants.

The section of the loft to the right of the door, as you enter, was added over IAP when it was determined that the loft wasn't big enough to comfortably sleep five and a half people; the annex contains almost as many drywall screws as the rest of the house does. The occupants also installed a special Coffee Maker loft annex, hanging off of the main loft for the vall-important under-the-counter coffee maker, but that was removed later.

One of the few well-built ladders in the house (actually, it's more a steep staircase than a ladder) resides here. This was not originally the case, however. The first ladder was built using drywall screws (what else?) to attach the rungs, but failed the U5 ``run and jump on it with full body weight'' test catastrophically when half the screws sheared, and the rest pulled out. Therefore, they were replaced with nails and even more drywall screws.

The famous hanging sofa is also in 23; this was installed in the early 70s, and it held up well until around 1987, when one of the five chains either broke or pulled the eyebolt out of the sofa frame. Paranoia struck, and all the hanging hardware was replaced by similar material, but about five times as strong and sufficient to hold up any TEP loft, fully laden with five porkers. These chains will never break. At one time this sofa featured two lights and a phone. Its downside (according to the inhabitants of 33) was that whenever it swung, sounds of clanking chain and rubbing metal reverberated through the room above. The response was for them to crank their stereos all the way up or to dribble a basketball on the floor, but they usually tired much more quickly than whoever was peacefully (or forcefully, for that matter) swinging in the couch.

The improved lighting system, with the switches in a box for various color-coded circuits was put in Fall 1992 work week by Batman and Nikho. The original system was exposed zip-cord stapled to the wall and the loft and running to a box with a blooter knife switch. Its replacement was done in order to meet electrical code, due to the impending safety improvements. Anyway, it's nice to have fixtures that won't set the room on fire. The framing system is 1.25" Unistrut (tm) framing, and is joined to the joists overhead. Yes, you can hang from it, but the management strongly recommends against it.


This was built by the illustrious Fred, to support a waterbed---a king size waterbed at that. It supported it just fine during his time here, as well as when Berg and U5 put them there. In addition to having funny high sides, it is extremely overbuilt, even by TEP standards. Lead lag shields drilled into the brick were deemed insufficient to support it, so columns were installed on the walls on that side. The studs in the interior wall were notched to hold the loft joists, so the loft is actually now part of the structure of the house.

When building the loft, Fred wasn't sure if it would be strong enough, so he had Dave Caswell and two or three other brothers hang and swing from each joist. The joists moved only a tiny bit, so Fred figured they'd be sufficient. Caswell Testing---which involved Dave rumbling about on the loft, thereby demonstating its stability and ability to withstand stress---became the norm for all newly constructed lofts during Dave's tenure.


The two-person platform goes across the room for about half its length. It was built sometime after 1982 by Bunky Rhines and ``young Stevie Cohen, the boybarian.'' Some of Bunky's relatives were taking down an old barn in New Hampshire, so he reclaimed the old timbers to use in the loft. That's why it looks like nicely aged and seasoned wood---it's about a century old (as of the writing of this article)

The suspended desktop came later, but that approach was abandoned in favor of the Probedesk, built to support the desk, as well as medium-size American cars.


The ``original'' Porker-loft (named for the ``Porkers,'' Squanto and Ian Dowell), had a low-ceiling alcove area near the windows and contained Blooter desks with harsh green enamel acrylic surfaces as shields against black heel marks and dangerous nuclear breeder still radiation. The Ian nest in his half of the Porker Desk Zone was Mercury-capsule-like, being built of floor-to-lofttop milk crates and cheap DAK gimmicky stereo gear.

After the Porker Loft had no more Porkers to defend it, the infamous Roger and Sleazy duo (alternately, the trio of Bunky, Sleazy, and Josh) hacked away the Porker-desks and added a Spiral Staircase which quickly (in a matter of a few days) disintegrated. Thereafter, the `spiral staircase' was really four-inch pieces of 2by4s nailed flat side to a 4by4 post; eventually a standard ladder was also added in the SE corner. In addition, they installed the original hanging chain under the NW corner, and populated the loft with lounge furniture that had no legs. They had futons on the floor and some additional seating, a Bunky-built lighting system that never quite worked (destined to be replaced about a generation---four years---later by a Leper-built lighting system whose switches started breaking the second day of use but which was otherwise rather neat, allowing one to turn off the lights without having to walk all over the room to do so), and de facto control of the cappuccino maker (which was brand new at the time). All this, according to Rico, ``made 32 one of greatest caffeine-angst, weird-music, anti-tooling social rooms ever.'' But the lights from Comm Ave. hit sleepers in the eyes at night.

This was replaced in 1988-89 by the Ben Drucker Anti-Loft, which has its good and bad points. The complex contains one conventional loft, but with the other two sleeping spaces, tooling is done on the upper (more headroom) platform, while sleeping is done belowdecks. Originally, three anti-loft beds were planned, but having to climb over one in order to enter the room was deemed undesirable. Therefore, two people sleep underneath the antiloft platform while one sleeps in the attached loft. When sleeping is done, that is. Execution was acceptable overall, but with some poorly done sections, such as erroneous notching of members, using a machine thread bolt instead of a wood thread bolt, and the extensive use of nails. Esthetically, some dislike sleeping in the antiloft, which has generated numerous threats (some predating its construction) to tear it down but, as of yet, no action. The antiloft platform extends into the closet. The small space in the closet below the loft is now known as the Honig Shrine and contains assorted Honig memorabilia and artifacts.


The huge Blooter platform loft for four beds (not necessarily four people) was built by Honig and the Ickies (Ricky Herrmann and Dicky Fleischner) in the spring of 1983 (Blooter pledge class freshman year, second semester).

Properly called the MegaLoft, or "the freshman flat," it has been described as the loft that Armageddon might bring down, but probably not. It is long enough so that a hammock hung from chains at either end is quite comfortable. [Even if you're not Batman.]

Goon Boy, who slept in the closet, tried to attach pick-ups to the loft chains and play them like bass strings. The sound was unremarkable but caused much fear and trembling in 43.

On the other side of the room is the huge red hammock, which was hung around rush week of 1988. It is actually a big fishing net dyed red by TEPs. There were problems with the eye-bolts pulling out of the wall, until Queef attached them properly before rush week '89 with twenty-two (count 'em!) lag bolts.

Some of the Don Martin cartoons, by Dickie, are still preserved on the side, surrounded by frames of grey paint. No, it's not white paint. Skeezix likes grey--it's cool. It's not white. Three of the cartoons, however, were drilled through to install the improved lighting under the loft during fall 1992 work week. The sprinkler guard was grueszed from MIT libraries.


This loft was built by Ephraim Vishniac, according to Chairman (Joe Chapman, for the less knowledgable) It was built the year after Fred put up his fabled loft in 24. The family resemblance between the two structures is unmistakable--the wall column supports, the large platform across the room. However, the framing is irregular--whether this was done intentionally or not is not known. The framing members across the span are a mix of 2x6's and 4x4's. I suppose it looks neat, but not much else.

This is a loft of no fixed color. Within the space of three years, it has been painted yellow and purple, black with paintings, and black and white. There's no accounting for taste...


At first, there were bunk beds, but after being graffitized, there were replaced with two Murphy beds (they fold up against the wall to save space and when flat are about 4 feet up), built by Dan and Michah. The latter remarked, ``They would have been much better if we'd just installed the motorized winch.'' One was removed in order to make way for the evil fire door which had to be installed when Noise Bitch tore down the fire escape. The remaining one was taken down by Phil, but then replaced by Jamie, during their respective occupancies of the room. To be honest, it can be quite annoying at times. It's high enough to require some effort to get into, and when lowered, block off the part of the room that it occupies. It especially sucks when trying to use 41 as a double.


The most illustrious and/or infamous of all TEP loft legends come from the Piece of Shit, which was built by Roger, Sleazy, and an accomplice. The plan for the loft was presented at a house meeting; it was resplendent with features such as a conversation pit, a fish tank, spaces for a stereo system, and loads of shelves. The name for this edifice was to be ``The Nirvanarama,'' but the house allocated funds contingent on it being called ``That Piece of Shit in 42.''

Construction went well, but later occupants grew increasingly irked with inconvenient features. As a result, bit by bit, the piece of shit made its way from 42 into the BFI dumpster. (One event that sparked a particular anti-P.O.S. raid was the breakage of the fish tank, with its contents spewing into the loft, onto the floor, and through the ceiling of the floor below.) Until, one day, That Piece of Shit in 42 was no more...

After the demise of the P.O.S. came the construction of the Ricoloft, which is a platform in the corner near the closet. In order to conserve headroom and loftroom, and after much gnashing of teeth over whether the arrangement would be strong enough, the 2by4s in the frame were installed with the 2" dimension as the height. While the loft still causes taller folks to duck when passing under it, it is functional and aesthetically pleasing. Four stars. However, this loft, too, fell to the whims of the safety inspectors, and had to be reframed with the beams oriented the "correct" way. This destroyed the fine esthetic balance that it previously had, as well as hurting the heads of those just barely tall enough to graze their heads on the bolts protruding from the underside. The chains were rehung by Batman and Big Bird in October of 1991.

The loft above the fireplace was built for Morton by Batman in September of 1991. It was originally meant to be built in Fall of 1991, but both parties were hobbled by extreme lameness (big surprise.) Anyway, construction went smoothly up until the attachment of the ceiling chains. After drilling a three foot long line of test holes to find the ceiling joists (unsuccessfully), Batman did an extensive research check with various sagacious alumni sources (i.e., he called Leper), and found out about the three-foot high crawl space over 42. Yes, this means the ceiling was not structural. After much pondering, he cut an access panel above the loft (with a cover labelled: "ACCESS PANEL FOR REMOVAL CONTACT TEPCO SERVICES"), attached the chains to the joists above the ceiling, cut holes through the ceiling for the chains, and attached them to the loft. He really hopes that insulation in the crawl space wasn't asbestos.

Of course, this all took time. As a result, Morton, demonstrating his typical extrordinary bad luck, had to spend a week sleeping in the foam room instead of his loft. Eit.

A new ladder was added as a package deal with the loft. It was built by Batman as well, and it pivots on eye-bolts on the floor, (a la 23 hanging couch ladder) so that it allows access to both lofts. Completed in October of 1991.

A combination of the whining of T-Stop and Batman's desire to try out a cool new plan resulted in the removal and replacement of RicoLoft with the "Foam-Core Loft." The plan calls for using a two-inch thick layer of extruded polystyrene insulating foam, surrounded by 3/8" thick plywood. This is known as structural sandwich construction, and works using a principle to an I-beam--the greatest compressive and tensive forces are at the outside edges, where the strong material (plywood) is. A cool concept, but far too expensive to be practical in the future. Also, not nearly as blooter stiff as Batman likes his structures. (hmmm..?) However, this design did produce the thinnest loft in the house, being 2 5/8" thick.

Construction was started during IAP 1992. However, T-Stop happened to get himself a huggie, as well as get himself trapped in lab for a few weeks. As a result, he rarely, if ever, came home--also punting work week. Batman decided to build the thing anyway, and it went up (with T-Stop's help, this time) in February.


The original loft in this room was known as Deathsleep, due to the claustrophobic lack of headroom in the lofts. Chip Saltsman remarked, "43 had the infamous Falling Loft that would deposit me on Ty Bloomquist's desk if I tossed and turned in my sleep. Sort of a somnolent Russian Roulette." By 1985 (and perhaps earlier) no one slept on it any more, instead using it to store empty computer boxes and the like, which were about the heaviest objects it could comfortably support. Deathsleep was put out of its misery sometime between 1986 and 1988.

John Gold built a closet-loft (in the original closet, in the southwest corner) around six feet up. It survived about two years after John's occupancy and became home to other closet-dwelling vampire-types as well; typically its inhabitants were freshmen who were trying to keep far away from their roommates or who had been forced into the closet by the abundance of their roommates' belongings. The closet was virtually unusable as such and very dark, and the space was cramped.

Leper recalls having to sleep on a diagonal because it was about an inch shorter than he was. He says, ``I thought it was great because it was warm and 43 used to be very cold. (That was before I figured out how to fix the radiator.) My parents were less enthusiastic about my accomodations. I built a rope ladder to get up there; when you stepped on it the whole ladder swung back into the closet. Later on somebody who weighed more than I did (not hard---at the time I was 10lb lighter!) stepped on the ladder and the knots pulled through the rungs. I think Ouija had the smarts to rip that piece of shit out of there. You can still see where it was.''

The dulcet tones of demolition and construction returned during the fall of 1988 and spring of 1989, brought by Leper, with help from Schmooz and Batman. The new loft, called Deathtool for its integral desks, is a great piece of functional and aesthetic design. While it contains two beds and two spacious L-shaped desks, it is relatively unobtrusive, fitting in with the room's space. One example of fine design is the way the ladder is an intrinsic support for both beds and both of the desks. However, Leper's ability for superior design and precise construction was matched only by his general-contractor-like timetable, in part due to runs back and forth to the MIT hobby shop with boards in a shopping cart (Batman says, ``Now that TEP has a radial arm saw, this shouldn't be too much of a problem anymore.'') but mostly because of preoccupation with his inability to get tooling done because the room was a mess because Deathtool wasn't finished. He did complete construction in time to move out of 43. The shelves were also built by Leper, but were added later.

Big Bird took over the mantle of 43 construction god, making the room his own in his works. He finished the DeathTool lofts, sanding, staining, and polyurethaning them in situ. When the house got back up to 34 residents, 43 became a full-time triple, instead of oscillating between being a double or triple. Therefore, Bird decided to add a third loft, to make the room work. After initially dismissing the plan as "What a fucking stupid idea!," he decided to rip down the original closet, build a new one in the southeast corner/alcove, and put up a loft at the former closet location.

The moving of the closet took place during IAP 1993. Replastering the wall was started, but hampered by such annoying factors as taking classes. ("Take time off, Bird!" -Bats)


In the beginning, there was no loft. Then, Carl Gruesz made his waterbed monstrosity, and Teps saw it was bad. It was about three or four feet from the floor and held a queen size waterbed running crosswise and as near the window and radiator as was practical. It was originally built on a bridge of 2\by6s from one wall to the other, but Fred declared it unsafe and decreed the addition of several separately built trestles underneath. After the trestles were in, the Groozer jammed as much heavy and useless junk as he could fit underneath the bed. (This is, of course, the origin of the term ``grueszing'' or ``groozing.'') The result was a room useless for anything except things that can be accomplished on a waterbed (a short, but interesting, list). Perhaps not coincidentally, the Groozer then left the Institute.

After it was ripped out, there came another loft in 44, which caused great suffering. It was built by Ian Dowell, who (among other things) neglected a few basic points in electrical wiring. Like the fact that black to white means short circuit. Anyway, due to the low ceiling, the loft was built too low; the problem was exacerbated by the use of supporting 2\by6s which were attached end-on, projecting from the bottom of the loft every foot for the width of the loft. This resulted in assorted personages hitting their heads--for instance, most rush chairmen of that era (with resultant brain damage) and Julio (with no apparent effect). In fact, despite the fact that he lived there for an entire term, Julio managed to hit his head every day, often standing upright between the beams and then trying to walk out from under the loft. Erik Gentalen tore it down, sometime before Fall 1988.

When Morton took over the room in Fall of 1992, he once again managed to whine enough at Batman to get him to help build a loft. Actually, Batman did have a cool plan in mind already, so he was sort of psyched to do it. Learning from his blooter-22-loft example, he decided to once again use an egg-crate design, this time with 2x3's on edge, not doubled. This lightened the loft substantially. The outside decoration included a 45 degree chamfer around the edges, as well as a routed, gloss black racing stripe (really a bead) around the edge. It also has the distinction of being the fastest loft in the house--while moving it from the basement around the house to the front door, the carriers ran with it for a few yards. It is built a bit high, as you scrape your head if you sit up in the loft, but this leaves plenty of clearance below it. (Even Big Bird can stand up underneath it!) It was put up during dead week, Fall 1992, by Batman, Morton, and Big Bird.