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    Harvard University: Smith Campus Center


    Restoration and extension of a historic building to provide new communal space at Harvard


    The new Smith Campus Center is a radical re-appraisal of the existing ten storey building on the site designed by Josep Lluis Sert in the 1950’s. Originally designed as the meeting place of ‘town and gown’, the main common spaces at first and second floor are open to the public to gather, socialise and attend special events. The project is part of a wider ongoing initiative designed to ensure the University’s physical spaces continue to foster intellectual, cultural and social life across the campus.

    The first, second and tenth floors have been reconfigured, reinterpreting the history and logic of Sert’s architecture. A series of interventions to the existing fabric create a new sequence of internal spaces punctuated by landscape. A new landscaped vitrine in the Smith Campus Centre brings light and greenery into the heart of the common spaces, and together with the green walls and other landscaped spaces, creates an ambient quality of light throughout the building.

    A series of internal and external landscape “thresholds” mediate between the Arcade and the largest new space within the Smith Camus Centre, the new Harvard Commons, a multi-level, flexible and open-plan series of spaces capable of supporting large scale events, as well as functioning day-to-day as a gathering and social space. A new pavilion at the front of the building faces directly onto a refurbished public plaza to provide a distinctive entrance for the University. The tenth floor has been re-organised to provide a flexible suite of gathering spaces that openly engage Sert’s building with the campus, and the city beyond.

    Sert’s facades, animated with precast concrete fins and windows of clear and translucent glass have been meticulously restored to their original vibrancy. Materials were selected to complement the existing building fabric with steel, glass, timber and stone sitting alongside the insitu ‘brutalist’ concrete and traditional brick paved sidewalks of Cambridge.

    “Harvard’s most interesting building in years is the Smith Campus Center, in Harvard Square. The center is a stab at what one suspects Harvard is thinking of as the future of higher education, especially in connection with the ways that the public world of the city and the private domain of the academy can usefully merge.”

    Robert Campbell, the Boston Globe.