Kennedy School’s Campus Makeover
The Harvard Kennedy School’s (HKS) light and airy new campus, unveiled at a ribbon-cutting ceremony this morning, looks like an intentional antithesis to its older, stuffy buildings. As architect Graham Wyatt put it, “When we came to your campus, we found a group of buildings that had become outdated—I’m being charitable—and that had been built in a series of campaigns, leaving the school with a disjointed accommodation, ringing a courtyard, dominated by parking and a loading dock.”
The new buildings create an inner ring within HKS’s campus and add about 91,000 square feet of classroom, office, and common spaces to the school, but its bright glass and wood materials make the space appear considerably larger. “We have gone from being a series of buildings to being a campus,” remarked former dean David Ellwood.
“We’re here to mark a new era for a school that champions reasoned debate and informed governing,” said President Drew Faust at the ceremony. “The Harvard Kennedy School will continue to advance this important mission in this new and glorious space, a space that is going to enable learning, enhanced community, and enhanced vigorous and rigorous debate.”
Leslie Wexner, a businessman and lead donor for the project for whom the Wexner Building is named, spoke about the “first connection” that he had with the institution, at an event for John F. Kennedy’s presidential campaign in Ohio, and his later connections with many of the University’s presidents. He and his wife, Abigail, have been the benefactors of a number of Harvard initiatives, including HKS’s Center for Public Leadership and the Wexner Israel Fellowship Program, which pays for Israeli public officials to study at the school. The Ofer Building, which connects the Taubman and Belfer Buildings along Eliot Street and houses a new student lounge, is named for Israeli donors Idan and Batia Ofer; in 2013, they also funded a fellowship for Israeli and Palestinian students to attend HKS.
The construction was part of HKS’s now capital campaign, now winding down; it has also yielded five new endowed professorships, expanded financial aid, and other institutional initiatives. The campaign is chaired by David Rubenstein, a member of the Harvard Corporation and co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group, the private-equity and investment-management firm, who remarked: “I want to remind everybody of one of the first universities created, almost 1,000 years ago, in Bologna. There were only students and teachers, and that’s what universities are, students and teachers—everything else is irrelevant….But we’ve learned over the years that we need buildings to make students and teachers work together well, and by having an extraordinary building, we can finally say that the Kennedy School has a building as good as the students and teachers in the school.”
“This moment is going to be a transformative one for the Kennedy School,” said HKS dean Douglas Elmendorf. “Soon we will be concluding the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the school’s history, a campaign that was launched and led for a number years by David Ellwood and has raised crucial resources to build a new campus, provide financial aid for students who could not be here otherwise, and expand our efforts to tackle the key challenges of public policy and leadership across this country and around the world…Our buildings are the structural framework for our lives here, and we are so fortunate that our buildings are beautiful as well as practical.”