The Smith Campus Center is the keystone of Harvard’s “Common Spaces” initiative to bring all members of the university community closer together by providing spaces for students, faculty, staff, and visitors to interact and connect. The program calls for vibrant new spaces with an inherent flexibility that can provide for groups of varying size, ranging from individuals up to an event space for over 1000 people. A bold architectural response was necessary to provide the right kind of new spaces and overcome the physical challenges of a complex Brutalist building that had been substantially altered over the years in piecemeal fashion. At the same time, the changes had to be handled with a sensitivity and understanding that would gain the required public approvals, meet budgetary constraints, and adapt and reuse the building in the most efficient way to gain maximum programmatic benefit. The design solution reconfigures the first, second, and tenth floors with a series of additions to and removals from the existing fabric to create a family of new internal and external spaces.
The Smith Campus Center provides a center for campus life, an “indoor living room” to complement the outdoor space of Harvard Yard. Like the “cow paths” that cross the Yard, the different spaces of the building are interlinked by connective desire lines of communication that extend out into the campus, drawing students, faculty, and staff between the different programs.
New and rebuilt pavilions at the lower levels of the building create a suite of spaces across the entire building footprint. This new connectivity challenged the singular linearity of the central arcade but allowed its defining order to remain. All spaces have a physical and visual connectivity, and a relationship with each other within the wider composition of the project. New pavilions use the existing foundations, for efficiency of cost and program. Natural light now enters the Arcade through the landscape vitrine and glazed rooflights, whilst the Harvard Commons is daylit by a large central rooflight with carefully engineered glazing and external solar shading.
Hopkins Architects Partnership LLP; also Bruner/Cott Architects; ARUP; Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates; Consigli Construction Company