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Winthrop House Next for Renewal

10.30.13

Winthrop House's Standish Hall

Winthrop House's Standish Hall

Photograph by Jon Chase/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications

Winthrop House Gate

Winthrop House Gate

Photograph by Harvard Magazine/JC

Winthrop will be the next undergraduate residence renovated as part of Harvard’s plan to renew the House system, Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Michael D. Smith announced on October 30. Winthrop is expected to close for 15 months, from Commencement 2016 until fall 2017.

During that time, student residents will be relocated to “swing space”—apartments on Massachusetts Avenue and Prescott Street, as well as rooms in the former Inn at Harvard, where construction for converting the hotel to undergraduate use is well under way. In the years ahead, the hotel is expected to become the dining and social hub for undergraduates temporarily dislocated by House renewal projects. (Renewal of the House system is among FAS’s principal capital-campaign priorities.)

Smith also confirmed that during the 2015-2016 academic year, planners will conduct a strategic assessment of the first three House renewal projects: Quincy's Stone Hall, just completed; Leverett’s McKinlock Hall, now undergoing construction; and Dunster, where interior work will begin next summer. (Dunster is the first entire House to be redone; during the summer just past, exterior work was undertaken on the roof, chimneys, and windows.) According to the news announcement, the strategic assessment will document “the lessons learned in design, construction, financing, and programming from the first three test projects.…assessment activities will include surveys of students living in the three completed projects, audit energy use, confirm life cycle and operating cost analyses, evaluate engineering strategies, and identify and evaluate strategic procurement opportunities.”

“We learned a great deal” from the work on Stone Hall, Smith said in the announcement. “We are already learning more from the second test project, Leverett McKinlock, the first facility that includes a dining hall, social spaces, and a master's residence. We are applying these lessons as we tackle the first full House, Dunster.” One lesson already learned is that “preparations for the renewal of a full House [are] better done over four years, not three. We’ll be using that timing with Winthrop House.”

The Winthrop renovation will follow guidelines informed by the recommendations of the House Program Planning Committee—a group of House Masters, faculty members, administrators, and undergraduates who from 2008 to 2009 examined the mission and purpose of the undergraduate Houses.

The renewal of Harvard’s Houses comes at a time of increased interest in online education (sometimes viewed as a threat to residential colleges), and represents a clear commitment to campus life as a key component of the undergraduate experience, as described in a feature article in the November-December issue of Harvard Magazine

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