Bringing Harvard Yards to the River

This studio deals with an immediate reality, that of simulating a process of improvement and transformation of the main university quads; at a point in time when the campus is subject to changes within its strong internal dynamic and the University\’s role in a post-industrial society is in constant reevaluation. Most likely, the most immediate spaces around campus, those we experience on a daily basis might seem rather fixed and we might easily take them for granted. On the contrary, a critical reading of these everyday spaces will allow us to understand its spatial limitations and its qualitative potentials. Furthermore, to think in terms of design, these urban campuses allow major improvements on its operative nature, and a more efficient integration of existing and new services. The overriding subject of the Studio deals with the monographic working \”pieces\” within the contemporary city – like university areas-, and the new concepts that will proffer its own ambitious development and even more important its integration to broader urban systems. The studio will use the Harvard campus as an urban laboratory to experiment on the issues described above.The studio should allow for:

  • A specific reading of the current campus morphology. In fact, the particular urban condition of the \”city campus\” will generate modes of interpretation that depart from the traditional urban analysis conventions. In this manner, the evaluation of the \”yards\” and other seminal urban spaces, the reinsertion of adequate public transport and traffic management, the functional relationships between the different university campuses and other activities, will begin to take a very specific and precise dimension.
  • An in-depth understanding of the Anglo-Saxon campus and its evolution through case studies of other American and European campuses.
  • The relationship of the campus and its public spaces with the river has been rather shy and distant, despite the fact that previous plans for the university have extensively suggested such connection by designers such as Olmstead, McKim and Sert and others. In reality, the urban life and spatial structure of the different university areas is fairly autonomous and does not capitalize on the spatial potential a tentative extension to the Charles River might proffer, where the existing traffic flows could be complemented by more comprehensive recreational and outdoor activities.
  • The working hypothesis for the studio consists of using the Harvard Campus as a spatial laboratory considering:a)an \”incrementalist\” method, which will allow for major transformations that emerge from the reinterpretation of monographic spatial analysis.b) establishing a design methodology through a process of contrast, where the current spatial configurations are tested with certain proposals that suggest a stronger link to the river. In this context, it will be important to be aware that the University is considering a future expansion into Allston, and the latent potential to use the river as a central \”place\” for the overall expanded campus.
  • A general study of public and collective spaces, the definition of relationships among campus areas, the restructuring of such spaces, and the introduction of new uses and activities will be the main focus of discussion. The studio will generate and test a new vision or set of visions for the campus and their ability to revitalize its spaces and foster new perspectives on an intermediate run.

The studio is part of on-going research and has a large amount of cartographic and bibliographic information that will be available to the students at the beginning of the semester.This option studio is primarily geared to students who are interested in working both at an urban scale as well as a more immediate one that tackles the design of a particular campus a