An Academic Environment in Three Communities – Cambridge, Allston and Watertown

Prerequisites: GSD 1221 or equivalentCourse Description: With its recent purchases of land in Allston andWatertown, Harvard University has more than doubled its land ownership. Itsoptions for long-term growth are thus vastly expanded beyond the constrainedCambridge campus and environment. In possession of a territory as large ascentral Boston, but stretched across a much wider physical and culturalgeography, the university begins planning for a vastly different physicalfuture then its famous symbols of place: Harvard Yard and Harvard Square. Any long or even short-range plans will be complicated by the increasinglycomplex and contentious environment in which the university operates, nowsignificantly in three municipal and social jurisdictions. In addition toalways difficult internal decisions about allocating space, the growth ofacademic programs, circulation, affiliated research & commercialdevelopment, housing, parking, and architectural identity, the universitywill have to respond to jurisdictions with different histories, physicalfabric, and political and regulatory structures. Any proposals will also have to deal with well-organized communityopposition to university expansion. Plans will come up againstlong-standing traditions about who occupies which territory. \”Culture wars\”over architectural styles and symbolism may expand. And a three century-oldview that the center of gravity is Harvard Yard, implying, of courseimplying that Allston and Watertown are remote and far less desirableenvironments will have to be addressed. Who will volunteer to be reassignedto the proverbial \'provinces,\' and then how should they be site planned anddesigned?Given Harvard\'s own famously non-centralized administrative structure (inthe tradition of \”every tub on its own bottom\”) coordinated planningdecisions may become even more difficult as the university spreads across amuch larger territory. Can it continue to produce multiple and sometimescompeting plans? Conversely, can the tradition of a strongly nucleatedcampus environment (in juxtaposition to the academic autonomy of the \”tubs\”)be maintained as the distances between parts of the university grow? Is itimportant for a central (or commonly held) physical identity for theuniversity to be maintained?The studio will address such complex issues at several different levels,among them:* The idea of \”campus:\” the academic environment as a special kind ofurban system. * Conceptualizing the future of the Harvard campus in relationship tocurrent perspectives on the nature of community and urban life. * Physical planning alternatives in relationship to administrativestructures. * The formal — and social — implications of a strong core vs.decentralized campuses; the advantages and constraints of a main campus withsatellites; a system of equal campuses each offering a range of activitiesand services; a pattern of specialized environments based on academicprograms or analogous functions, and so forth. * How to reconcile or mitigate the oft-perceived incompatibilitiesbetween large specialized institutions (like universities) and thecommunities which surround them?* The significance of place, image and character in the life of acampus q and how to derive appropriate models. We will be fortunate to be working closely with Harvard\'s Office of Planning& Real Estate, which has assembled a remarkably extensive data set about theuniversity that will be made available to us. Individuals from theuniversity and citizens from host communities will also be available forinterviews, and later for react