John Harvard's Journal
Harvard Loves Hard Hats
The crimson couture of choice this summer—for buildings and those engaged with them—was the shroud and the hard hat. In a frenzy of construction, the former Holyoke Center (being refurbished and transformed into Smith Campus Center) and Gordon Hall (at the apex of Harvard Medical School’s quadrangle, undergoing a complete façade cleaning, repointing, and, where required, replacement of deteriorated marble panels and volutes) were progressively scaffolded and wrapped, Christo-style. The shrouding material at Barker Center (roofing repairs) in fact was crimson-hued.
The scale and scope of the work are impressive. In the core of the Cambridge campus, the year-long renovation and expansion of Winthrop House—the fourth piece in the sweeping program to renew the undergraduate River residences—began immediately after Commencement. Memorial Church is being spruced up and reconfigured on its lower level; it is closed until year-end. (Fall-term Sunday worship will be at Radcliffe’s Knafel Center, while Morning Prayers relocate to Holden Chapel.) The Greenhouse Café is closed, as part of the transformation of Cabot Science Library and associated Science Center spaces into a digital research hub; Cabot closed for the summer, but the second floor will be available in the autumn. The entire Harvard Kennedy School campus, opposite Eliot and Kirkland Houses (whose renewal has yet to be scheduled), remains a work zone. And then there were the sundry nips and tucks needed to maintain hundreds of vintage buildings in working order: roofing projects at Barker, Dana-Palmer House, and Lamont Library; repainting the window sashes and mullions at Barker and University Hall (where John Harvard, protectively screened, remained visible to adoring tourists); modifications in a second-floor classroom in Harvard Hall and University Hall’s Faculty Room; renovation of Lamont’s circulation desk)—all calculated to drive budget-minded administrators mad.
Even bigger projects are under way, or gearing up, across the Charles. Harvard Business School, a serial construction zone in recent years, began extensive site work and excavation for Klarman Hall, its replacement conference and convening facility, even before the early-June dedication of the newly completed Chao Center. The prefabricated Life Lab, an extension of the Harvard Innovation Lab, was assembled as if meant to symbolize the building blocks of life itself—presumably, the stuff that engages the bioentrepreneurs eager to get to work there. At the edge of the campus, the four-year renovation of the Soldiers Field Park housing complex, itself a nearly $200-million project, began in earnest. And just across Western Avenue, less visible work continued to prepare the existing foundation for modification and then erection of the $1-billion science and engineering complex (a huge new building, a renovation, and an associated energy plant), designed as the new home for much of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences come 2020.
Virtual sidewalk superintendents can follow the major action at http://construction.harvard.edu. Nor do the diverse amusements tracked there exhaust the schedule of events. Coming attractions said to be in various stages of academic planning, design, and, of course, fundraising, include such significant projects as reconfiguring the Sackler Museum space (accommodating space needs for history of art and architecture, the Graduate School of Design, and possibly others); addressing the economists’ constraints at Littauer Center; pursuing the athletes’ goals for their basketball and football facilities; and proceeding on the new academic and administrative Gateway building in Allston. The University’s contractors can count on being enrolled at Harvard at least as long as its degree candidates.