City of Knowledge

Approaching the \’City of Knowledge\’ along the Charles river you sense that you are passing into a place apart. The surreal spires, boldly shaped and brilliantly colored domes and lush landscape denote the presence of a community consenting, for the most part, to leave temporal gears and levers behind in order to dwell in the realm of the mind alone. The premise of this studio will be to explore a new contemporary ideal of dwelling in community – a new \”City of Knowledge\”.In the case of an academic community, \”dwelling\” is a form of existence with a purposeful continuity of intent. In that place, few boundaries exist between experience and achievement. The acquisition, propagation and advancement of knowledge cannot be limited to formal divisions between living, pleasure and labor. There are not empty spaces in between them. The penetration of an idea or the mysterious arousal of original thought are invited by seemingly arbitrary moments of beauty and through chance spirited encounters between individuals. Learning and invention are formal and informal, conscious and unconscious, expected and unexpected. They arise out of a culture of contemplation and discourse where seemingly unrelated experiences can intersect and become aligned into structures of significance and truth. A \”City of Knowledge\” is truly the object of the architect\’s desire – a place where no moment is empty and where no detail is senseless. The studio will begin with an immediate tabula rasa design investigation into idealized configurations of learning, living, dining, and research with emphasis on the room and room aggregation scales. We will then enrich the direct work with reference to antecedent academic utopias – in particular those which help illuminate the reciprocal functional, symbolic and programmatic relationships between the academic community and its urban or pastoral context. Drawing upon resources developed for current Harvard planning efforts, we will also begin to develop an understanding of the university\’s constituencies and their missions as well as delving into the functional criteria for building our own portion of an academic community sited in the city.The physical context will be the nearby riverfront neighborhood of Allston – a formerly industrial sector of the city separated from its original center by transportation infrastructure. It is a place which is seeking new meaning as much as the adjacent university is seeking new physicality. The studio will organize a brief schematic group planning effort, in order to identify and coordinate sites for individual student work. The sites may be contiguous or dispersed. The majority of the studio\’s efforts will focus on the building complex scale with each student positing a combination of learning or research, student and faculty living and urban amenity. Taking into account contemporary modes of ideation and discourse we will attempt to approach an urban and \’campus\’ configuration using the primary building blocks of academic society and community. The studio will consider both graduate and undergraduate facets of academic life and possible interactions between the two.