I am a leading member of xDesign, a collaborative group made of students from Harvard Graduate School of Design, The Harvard Business School, and Harvard College. It explores design and technology in pursuit of innovation through means of conferences, workshops, and other creative events. I hope to create a greater emphasis on social innovation and incorporate the Harvard Kennedy School.
Life at the GSD
This guide holds the wisdom of many students from over the years, organized into three parts. The first is a tour of the GSD campus, the second explores student life opportunities, and the final part outlines the basics of academic life at the GSD. If you're a prospective student, this guide illustrates what it might be like to study at the GSD. If you're a new student, you'll find helpful information about GSD services and how to navigate life in Cambridge. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us.
If you’re in a studio-based program, you’ll get a desk in “the trays.” The basic layout for desk spaces is a cubicle with two desks one for you and one for your “buttmate.” From minimal to cluttered, your GSD desk space is your space to do with as you wish. Desk arrangements include a computer-height surface and an under-desk storage locker, castered and topped with a cutting mat.
The Frances Loeb Library houses a book and journal collection of some 300,000 volumes and hundreds of thousands of individual images as well as original materials related to the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, and urban design and planning. In addition, hundreds of web-based resources are available. The library is home to the service desk, the Visual Collections, the Materials Collections, and Special Collections. There are several other Harvard libraries the GSD students have complete access to as well.
In many ways the Chauhaus is the heart of the GSD. Much more than a school cafeteria, it is visited by virtually everyone at the GSD and used for informal meetings. Just behind the Chauhaus, there’s an outdoor courtyard called The Back Yard where students study, eat lunch, and hang out.
Student Exhibition Space
In addition to participating in more formal exhibition events, students may apply to exhibit work in the two student-run exhibition spaces, Kirkland Gallery and exhibitionWall. Kirkland Gallery is student-run and occupies two rooms on the first floor of 40 Kirkland house. All GSD students are invited to submit proposals for exhibitions and other events. In addition to work produced at the GSD, the gallery welcomes projects pursued elsewhere–even things you make in your free time.
This space, complete with a collection of equipment, is available for students to photograph their models and other work.
Experimentation with materials, prototyping, testing, physical mock-ups, and the exploration of new fabrication processes are integral parts of design culture at the GSD. In support of these pursuits, the Fabrication Lab features a wide range of equipment, include most of the campus’ laser cutters. The Shop Store provides convenient access to consumable materials and tools for use in the Fab Lab.
The core of the Fab Lab is the Project Room, it’s open 24-hours and acts as the primary workspace. However, when working with certain materials you’ll find yourself needing to utilize the Wood Shop, the Metal Shop, or the Machine Shop.
The robotic devices that are also available in the machine shop allow for unprecedented flexibility in terms of application and programming. We have a larger six-axis robotic manipulator, an ABB IRB 4400L-30 as well as a smaller six-axis robot, an ABB IRB 140. Because of the flexible nature of industrial robots, programming files can be generated in a variety of ways for applications with an endless number of tools.
For rapid prototyping purposes, there are three types of 3D printing machines available that will allow complex physical geometry to be realized–especially valuable for stuff that can’t be created with traditional techniques or tools.
Notes & References
- Gund Hall — Designed by Australian architect and GSD graduate John Andrews, Gund Hall opened in 1972. The dramatic facade and extensive glass surfaces make an eloquent statement about the design excellence and professional creativity for which the school is known. Gund Hall offers students a stimulating environment in which to work, including studio and office areas for approximately 500 students and more than 100 faculty and staff.
- 7 Sumner Road — This houses the Academic Finance Office, various admin offices, and a few classrooms.
- The Houses — Three wood frame houses that are home to the MDes and DDes program offices, research labs, faculty offices, the Center for Green Buildings and cities, and Kirkland Gallery.
- The Trays — The central studio space extends through five levels under a stepped, clear-span roof that admits natural light and provides views of Boston.
- Buttmate — A colloquial term used to describe the relationship shared by two students sitting back-to-back in their shared cubicle.
- Web Based — HOLLIS, RefWorks, and the Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals are available to all GSD students in their entirety.
- Service Desk — The staff at the service desk can help you make the most of Harvard’s wealth of library resources. Stop by or email with any questions or to set up an appointment.
- Visual Collections — The Visual Collections include digital images, 35mm slides, videos, DVDs, maps, plans, photographs, GSD public lecture recordings, and equipment to facilitate digitization projects.
- Materials Collections — The Materials Collection allows for tactile browsing and is organized into five material families: biocomposites, synthetic polymers, metals, minerals, and ceramics. Holdings range from new, innovative materials to those found in the everyday constructed environment. By foregrounding material composition and functional traits, the collection allows students to rethink conventional application and promote material experimentation in design practice.
- Special Collection — The special collections department includes the Rare Book Collection, the Le Corbusier Research Collection, and the Special Collections archive of original materials.
- other Harvard libraries — Lamont Library, The Harry Widener Memorial Library, Pusey Library, Houghton Library, Fine Arts Library, Fung Library, Cabot Science Library, and Law School Library. Photo Credit: “Widener Library” by Caroline Culler is licensed under CC.
- Chauhaus — The Chauhaus’ sunny, corner café is a convenient and tasteful stop for hearty but simple fare to fuel you for the day. The made-to-order deli pairs perfectly with homemade soups and chilis and an extensive salad bar.
- The Back Yard — When the weather is nice, you’ll see the yard used for basketball, volleyball, picnics; as an exhibition area for class projects; and as the setting for commencement ceremonies.
- exhibitionWall — Run by the Student Forum, exhibitionWall provides an experimental space on which to display works in progress, recent collaborations, competition submissions, and other creative content that could have otherwise gone unseen.
- submit proposals — In addition to work produced at the GSD, the gallery welcomes projects pursued elsewhere–even things you make in your free time. Past exhibitors have hung work from the ceiling, others have designed large-scale interactive installations. See their website for proposal instructions.
- collection of equipment — Lights, light stands, backdrops, screens, and umbrellas are available.
- laser cutters — These machines typically require 2-D CAD software and drawing plot files in ACAD, Illustrator, or Rhino. All of the laser cutters can cut paper products and thin wood veneers.
- Shop Store — Chip board and acrylic sheets cut to laser bed size, polystyrene foam, expanding urethane glue, bondene, and wood glue are available.
- Project Room — Equipped with work tables, a hot wire foam cutter, sink, and spray booth, the Project Room also has temporary storage space.
- Wood Shop — A variety of traditional woodworking hand and power tools are available, including a SawStop table saw, drill press, jointer/planer, band saws, pedestal sanders, miter saw, and panel saw.
- Metal Shop — Equipment in the Metal Shop includes a horizontal band saw, compound shear/break/roller, abrasive saw, sandblaster, MIG welder, and a spot welder.
- Machine Shop — Equipped with two metalworking machines, a lathe, and two CNC machine tools. The first, a CNC Prototrak knee mill, that allows the machining of metals in addition to softer materials. Second, an Onsrud high-speed three-axis router equipped with dual work surfaces and vacuum beds, capable of surface milling and routing materials, such as foam, modeling board, wood products, plastics, and aluminum.
- ABB IRB 4400L-30 — Primarily used for abrasive waterjet cutting, but is also capable of routing and a variety of other applications that could include painting, additive manufacturing, or whatever you can dream up.
- ABB IRB 140 — Primarily used for material handling, routing, process experiments, and automation prototypes
- 3D printing machines — A few ZCorp starch-based 3-D printers, a Stratasys Dimension ABS fused deposition modeler, and a high-resolution Objet PolyJet printer.
Student groups are an essential part of life at the GSD. Each year, newly formed groups join long-standing groups in contributing to the academic and social discourse of the school. There are more than 50 student groups at the GSD. What’s great about our groups is that they’re not easily categorized–cultural and social groups spark rigorous academic discussions, advocacy and academic groups know how to party, and a publication or exhibition can do both in an instant. Everything kicks off at the Student Group Fair.
The GSD produces several publications on various themes, including Harvard Design Magazine, The Incidents, New Geographies, Platform, and Studio Reports. In addition to these, there are a number of student-produced publications, including Open Letters, and Very Vary Veri (VVV).
Student groups sponsor a variety of academic and social events throughout the year. Popular gatherings include Beer n’ Dogs, the Halloween Party, Thanksgiving Dinner, and the GSD’s quasi prom, the Beaux Arts Ball.
Arts at Harvard
The Office for the Arts at Harvard offers several programs available to GSD students, like Learning from Performers, Arts First, and the Public Art Program. Other programs centered around jazz, dance, and ceramics are also available.
In addition to museums around the city, Harvard’s museums includeThe Harvard Art Museums, Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard Museum of Natural History, THe Harvard Semitic Museum, The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, and the Harvard Film Archive.
Notes & References
- cultural — Cultural groups include Africa GSD, Asia GSD, Canada GSD, China GSD, Club MEdiNA, Greece GSD, GSD West, India GSD, Japan GSD, Korea GSD, Latin GSD, Spain GSD, and Space GSD.
- advocacy — Advocacy groups include AASU: African American Student Union, Project Link, Queers in Design, Women in Design, and Working GSD.
- academic — Academic groups include ASLA Student Chapter, Code without Frontiers, GSD History & Philosophy Launch, HUPO: Harvard Urban Planning Organization, Real Estate Development Club, Urban Metabolism Group, and xDesign.
- publication or exhibition — Publication, Exhibition, and Multimedia groups include; Animation GSD, Backpocket Projects, exhibitionWall, Film GSD, Harvard Journal of Real Estate Kirkland gallery, Newsroom, Open Letter, Poetry GSD, Projection GSD, and Video Game GSD.
- Student Group Fair — At the beginning of the year, students can connect with existing groups and generate ideas for new groups at the Student Group Fair.
- Harvard Design Magazine — There are two issues published every year, each focusing on a different theme.
- The Incidents — This new book series chronicles uncommon events held at the GSD, bringing the energy of lectures, dialogues, and performances to its pages.
- New Geographies — This annual journal produced by doctoral candidates in the New Geographies lab, presents the geographic as a design paradigm through critical essays and projects.
- Platform — An annual volume that offers a curated view of the past year at the GSD. It includes work from studios, theses, and other research projects, as a record of the school’s major events and activities. A companion exhibition coincides with its release.
- Studio Reports — This publication catalogs the research and pedagogy of select option studios. select option studios . Students contribute content to and participate in the production of each report.
- Open Letters — This print experiment tests the epistolary form as a device for generating conversations about architecture and design.
- Very Vary Veri (VVV) — This student-edited journal draws on all of Harvard’s professional schools for diverse perspective on design from law, finance, government, real estate, public health, education, and beyond.
- Beer n' Dogs — Nearly every Friday, second-year MLA students host this crucial event in Chauhaus. Good for student morale, bad for digestion.
- Halloween Party — Forget studio and really put your creativity to work. First by participating in the poster contest, then by building yourself a spectacular costume. The Halloween Party is consistently the most well-attended student event of the year.
- Thanksgiving Dinner — On the Monday before Thanksgiving, the GSD hosts a traditional Thanksgiving dinner for students. We dim the auditorium lights, pass the gravy, and enjoy a special evening of kinship.
- Beaux Arts Ball — Each spring students pitch theme ideas in the form of a poster contest for the Beaux Arts Ball, and a favorite is chosen by popular vote. Attire, music, and drinks are outrageously classy.
- Learning from Performers — The program sponsors visits from a range of professional performers who work directly with students in workshops and master classes. Past artists have included Alec Baldwin, Laura Linney, and Barenaked Ladies.
- Arts First — This annual four-day student arts festival is the culmination of a year’s worth of arts activity and features the work of over 2,000 students in more than 100 concerts, plays, dance performances, and exhibitions.
- Public Art Program — This program commissions emerging or established artists to develop new work for Harvard’s public spaces. It offers students opportunities to engage visiting artists, join field trips to Boston-area projects, and create work.
- jazz — Bringing masters to Harvard, the Jazz Program connects artists to students through clinics, rehearsals, and performances.
- dance — The Dance Program offers semester-long dance technique classes, guest artist workshops, as well as choreography and performance opportunities for both new and experienced dancers.
- ceramics — The Ceramics Program offers noncredit courses, interdisciplinary symposia, and access to a studio. Students can register for any course or event, or enjoy a weekend drop-in option.
- museums around the city — Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Institute of Contemporary Art, and the The Museum of Fine Arts. Photo Credit: “IMG_7192” by Laura Blanchard is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- The Harvard Art Museums — Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Institute for Contemporary Art, and the The Museum of Fine Arts.
- Harvard Film Archive — Housed just down the street in the Carpenter Center, the HFA is one of the largest university-based collections in existence. They hold daily public screenings that are free for GSD students. The HFA frequently invites filmmakers to discuss their work and engage with attendees.
Hear from Our Students
My greatest extracurricular commitment is the GSD’s African American Student Union, which I now serve as President. This group has not only served as a support system for me, academically and personally, but it has also provided a unique opportunity for its members to further individualize our experience here at the GSD. The AASU also has a packed social calendar, helping to ensure a little extra fun in our time here.
The Community Development Project was a great forum for meeting Kennedy School students and work with a real community outside the Boston area. The MUP Student Recruitment Committee has been a great way to help guide prospective students through the difficult grad school application/decision process.
International Student Life
The Harvard International Office can help you decipher the complexities of immigration, working in the US, and adjusting to living as an international student. In addition to a special orientation, the HIO offers weekly sessions international students and their families. The office also keeps a list of enrolled international students who have volunteered to be a resource for other students.
Through playgroups, outings, and potluck dinners, many families have found the Harvard Students Spouses and Partners Association (HSSPA) to be a nice resource for building a community. Check out our Resources for Partners and Families page or visit the HSSPA website for more information.
The Harvard Divinity School, just across the street from the GSD, organizes a wide variety of religious and spiritual activity for the Harvard community. They host speakers from various religious traditions, hold occasional retreats, and can refer seekers to many retreat centers and spiritual organizations around New England. Private Prayer Space, Harvard Chaplains, and weekly service are also available.
Graduate school is an intense and rigorous experience that can be stressful or overwhelming at times. We are committed to the mental and physical well being of all GSD students and offer a number of resources and activities free of charge. Join us for yoga sessions twice a week, pop-up massage and reiki sessions throughout the year, or for one of our weekly meditation sessions. A number of other services are provided on an individual basis through the Center for Wellness and Harvard Health Services. We also offer a number of fitness opportunities. Enroll in a Harvard gym membership for complete access to all of the campus athletic facilities or join one of the graduate club sports teams.
Working as a Student
Where to Live
Live as close to the GSD as possible. GSD students have a lot of late nights and early mornings, and winter weather can make relying on public transportation tricky. The closer you are to your apartment, the more likely you are to stop at home for a quick meal, shower, or nap. We recommend trying to find a place within a 15-minute walk of Gund. Harvard housing is available to a limited number of GSD students, but renting will give you the the greatest variety of options in terms of location, price, roommates, and pets. You can search online or try to find a room from another GSD student. Check out our guide to living in the vibrant city of Cambridge for tips on shopping, entertainment, and more.
Getting Around the City
The MBTA is your answer to public transportation – the subway and bus are the easiest way to get around the city year round. Biking is another great option, just be sure to gear up. There are a number of advantages to owning a car, but parking can be a challenge. Harvard Transportation is free to students, but of course serving a narrower radius than public transit. Otherwise, Uber, Lyft, Zipcar, and taxis are all widely available in the area.
Notes & References
- HSSPA — Harvard Student Spouses and Partners Association provides opportunities to families to build a network of friends during their time in the Boston area.
- Private Prayer Space — Reserve the GSD Quiet Space any time.
- Harvard Chaplains — Harvard’s interfaith coalition represents 25 of the world’s traditions. They offer programs, worship events, and confidential counsel. Photo Credit: “Memorial Church” by Marco Zanferrari is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- weekly service — Wednesday noon service is held each week at Harvard Divinity School. Each service is hosted by a different group, and all are welcome to pray or meditate together across boundaries of traditions. Sunday service is held each week at Memorial Church. Photo Credit: “Memorial Church” by Marco Zanferrari is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- yoga sessions — GSD offers free sessions twice a week. Open to students of all levels, these hour-long classes provide a meditative environment for focus, strengthening, and healing.
- massage and reiki — Pop-up massages and reiki sessions happen sporadically throughout the academic year. They are announced by email and are free of charge.
- meditation — Free, weekly meditation sessions are held at the Center for Wellness. Practice is eclectic and includes breadth meditation, body scan, and more. The CFW also hosts a quarterly, four-week meditation series called “Calming the Mind, Opening the Heart.”
- Center for Wellness — The CFW offers holistic services, innovative programs, and community outreach. Individual treatments include acupuncture, massage, Reiki, and shiatsu. Programs include movement, exercise, yoga, pilates, and safety classes. Photo Credit: Justin Ide/Harvard Staff Photographer
- Harvard Health Services — HUHS provides high-quality, comprehensive health care–including primary care, pediatric care, and mental health counseling–24 hours a day, 365 days a year. A patient advocate is also available to assist with any health-related questions or concerns.
- athletic facilities — Facilities include the Hemenway Gymnasium, the Malkin Athletic Center, the Quadrangle Recreational Athletic Center (there are tennis courts on the roof!), the Sailing Center, the Weld Boathouse, the Blodgett Pool, the Bright Hockey Center, and the Gordon Indoor Track and Tennis Center.
- club sports — There are over 20 club sports teams at Harvard, visit gocrimson.com for details.
- teaching opportunities — Teach the Career Discovery program, work as a teaching assistant to faculty, participate in the Community Service Fellowship Program, or teach the English for Design Course.
- research — Become a Research Assistant and conduct research on a specific research account for a faculty member.
- work-study — Go through the financial aid application process to be considered for federal work-study.
- 15-Minute Walk — This is roughly from Central Square to the southeast, Inman Square to the east, Kirkland and Beacon Streets to the Northeast, and a bit below Porter Square to the North.
- Harvard Housing — The GSD receives an allotment of dorm rooms in GSAS dorms. Students must apply for dorms and affiliated housing in the spring. Dorms are convenient for those wanting a furnished place and a meal plan, but most GSD students move into independently leased apartments after a year in the dorms. The Harvard Housing Office provides apartment and roommate listings. Pictured: Peabody Terrace
- Roommates — Get them! Studio and one-bedroom apartments are over $1,000 per month. Photo Credit: “Beacon Street” by Tim Sackton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- Search Online — Try boston.craigslist.org first. Keep an eye out for places with heat included (frigid winters can make for pricey gas bills). Some listings have an associated broker’s fee that needs to be paid by the tenant. If you’re apartment hunting from afar, this can be worth it. The fee is typically one-half of a full month’s rent. On top of this, most landlords ask for the first and last month’s rent in addition to a security deposit (usually one month’s rent) when you sign a lease.
- Find a room from another GSD student — People are constantly moving in and out, so you may be able to adopt a lease from someone who is graduating or studying abroad. Make sure to join the “Harvard GSD Housing” group on Facebook.
- Subway — Boston has the oldest underground subway system in the United States! There are 5 subway lines – Red, Green, Blue, Orange, and Silver. The Red Line is the line that runs through the parts of Cambridge and Somerville close to the GSD.
- Bus — At least in Cambridge, the bus system is often more direct than the subway. Photo Credit: “MBTA 71 trolleybus leaves Harvard” by Adam E. Moreira is licensed under CC BY-SA-3.0
- Biking — You can get almost anywhere you want, even in Boston, in under 30 minutes. Most of Cambridge is pretty flat, so it’s not too strenuous.
- Gear Up — A helmet, a blinking taillight, and a headlight for your bicycle are safety necessities. Invest in a strong lock–bicycles do get stolen.
- parking — Look for apartments that offer off-street parking, otherwise you’ll need to get a parking permit. On-campus, there’s a lottery for student parking permits.
- Harvard Transportation — Harvard Shuttle buses, the M2 Longwood Medical Shuttle, the Harvard Accessible Van Service, and the Evening Van Service are all available to GSD students.
Photo Credit: “Harvard Shuttle Eldorado EZ-Rider II MAX” by Jason Lawrence is licensed under CC BY 2.0
Where To Live
Davis Square , equal parts Cambridge and Somerville, is a bit far from Gund, buts students living here make it work by cycling and taking the T. A mix of trendy new restaurants and working-class diners surround the historic Somerville Theatre. Photo Credit: "Somerville Theater" by Steven Isaacson is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- 35 min
- 12 min
- 13 min
Porter Square is another great option for GSD students looking for an affordable place to live. It's a five-to-ten minute bike rider away or one T stop outbound from Harvard Square. What it lacks in charm, it makes up for in a convenient grocery store, hardware store, gyms, etc.–and the fantastic Japanese food at the Shops at Porter.
- 20 min
- 7 min
- 10 min
Kirkland Crossing is the intersection of Kirkland/Washington Street and Beacon Street. It's densely populated with GSD students due to its relative affordability and proximity to the GSD.
- 8 min
- 3 min
- 5 min
Union Square is just up Kirkland/Washington Street. It's not on the T, but buses and bicycles make the commute quite quick. It's got a good selection of music venues, restaurants, and specialty grocery stores. Photo Credit: "Union Square Farmer's Market" by Todd Van Hoosear is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- 20 min
- 8 min
- 10 min
Harvard Square is very close to the GSD, but its proximity to campus also makes for a high cost of living. Restaurants, bars, chain stores, and local boutiques fill the square’s commercial spaces. Students make up the majority of the surrounding neighborhood’s inhabitants, while tourists usually populate the square itself.
- 5 min
- 2 min
- 0 min
Inman Square is home to a number of bars and restaurants that are worth the short walk from Gund. Inman's diverse resident population of locals, families, and students lends it a neighborhood feel. Photo Credit: "Cambridge - Inman Square" by Niklas Tenhaef is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- 15 min
- 7 min
- 8 min
Central Square lies one T stop inbound from Harvard Square and anchors a cluster of live venues that host dance parties and rock shows, not to mention a plethora of bars, eateries, and clubs. Photo Credit: "Central Square from above" by Eric Kilby is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
- 20 min
- 8 min
- 10 min
Kendall Square is MIT turf, but a number of GSD students live around there, too. For the past decade, MIT and the CIty of Cambridge have invested heavily in making this area a destinatio
- 35 min
- 12 min
- 17 min
The studio method is central to design education at the GSD. Students enrolled in studio-based programs take one studio course each semester and it will meet 2-3 times a week. If you don’t come from a design background, studio is probably unlike any other class you’ve ever taken. A studio is composed of a dozen or so students under one critic’s tutelage. Student desks are organized by studio and are located in Gund above the lobby on the five terraced levels known as “the trays.” They are home-base for desk crits. Throughout the semester students will share their work and get feedback during pinups, midterm reviews, and final reviews.
After all core studio courses are completed, students begin to takeoption studios. There are about 40 offered each year, one is offered abroad. Students indicate their preferences in a lottery system after option studio presentations. Visiting critics and site visits are highlights of the semester.
While studio courses are a large component of the GSD’s professional degree programs, nonstudio coursework constitutes the academic backbone of the school and the basis for research-based programs. Professional degree candidates also take required and elective nonstudio courses. Formats include lectures, seminars, and workshops and cover an extraordinary range of research concerns and methodologies. Some operate on an ordinary liberal arts model (assigned readings, lectures, class discussions, student presentations, term papers, etc.), while others are more like ministudios with field trips, semester-long projects, and final reviews. Students are even able to take nonstudio courses outside of the GSD.
Thesis and Research
The thesis is an opportunity for students to pursue a project that is researched and developed independently. The completion of a thesis is required of all MArch I and MArch I AP students and is optional for all other studio-based programs. Students of any degree program may also pursue a nonthesis, faculty-advised independent research project.
Notes & References
- the trays — The central studio space extends through five levels under a stepped, clear-span roof that admits natural light and provides views toward Boston.
- desk crits — Desk crits are one-on-one project critiques given by an instructor at a student’s desk during studio time. You can learn a tremendous amount amount not only from your instructor but also from your peers by observing how the same problem may be attacked in many different ways.
- pinups — These are informal presentations that take periodically during studio. Students plot their work in progress and present before their classmates and sometimes other studios. Pinups give students a chance to observe peer approaches to the same project and also to practice the art of presentation.
- midterm reviews — More formal than pinups, these presentations are given to guest critics, which can include people from within the GSD, as well as outside professionals and academics.
- final reviews — The final review is the culmination of studio work during the semester. It is a chance for students to present the context and rationale for their projects and to make a case for their merits. Final reviews are typically held as all-day events and are open to visitors. Schedules are posted on the GSD website a few weeks beforehand.
- option studios — These studios address a range of issues topics and contexts. Students may event take option studios hosted by departments outside their own.
- abroad — Past locations have included Los Angeles, Paris, Tokyo, Rotterdam, and Basel.
- option studio presentations — Before classes begin, studio critics present plans for their upcoming option studio. These presentaitons provide a glimpse into the critics’ interests and work and are attended by everyone in the school. The studio lottery take place immediately following the presentations.
- visiting critics — Students have a special opportunity to work with prominent practitioners who often serve as visiting critics. Pictured: Farshid Moussavi is a Professor in Practice in the Department of Architecture and was the Kenzo Tange Visiting Design Critic at the GSD in Spring 2005.
- site visits — Site visits vary widely depending on the project and sometimes take place abroad.
- outside of the GSD — Students may cross-register into courses by other Harvard schools (HKS, HSPH, HLS), MIT, and Tufts. Pictured: Harvard Law School.
Digital Media Workshops
This series of workshops is for developing skills and techniques for the studio environment. The modeling software programs that are mostly used in studios are taught, including Rhino, 3ds Max, Catia, and Digital Project. Morespecialized applications are also taught in the context of seminars or lectures.
English for Design
This course is offered to first-year students wanting to improve their comfort with the English language with an emphasis on design discourse at the GSD.
Whether you are still improving your English or a native speaker, everyone can use extra help in the area of research, writing, and even mapping. Research Support Services has a variety of integrated opportunities to help define and refine your academic narrative.
During the first two weeks in January, a set of free workshops and non-credited courses are offered as an opportunity for students, staff, and faculty to hone skills, learn new ones, or just have fun. Courses are taught for the GSD community, by the GSD community..
Speakers & Workshops
The GSD sponsors a lively public lecture series that provides prominent designers, artists, and thinkers with an opportunity to present their work. The series of exhibitions and events transform the lobby, library, and many areas of the school into places to discover new knowledge and work.
Research Centers and Design Labs
With a tradition of groundbreaking innovations, research at the GSD forms interdisciplinary bridges to the university and beyond. Interests usually fit into three general areas of focus–technology; urbanism and landscape; and history, theory, and design–and take shape through a blend of sponsored research initiatives, design labs, affiliated centers and institutes at Harvard, and faculty-led projects. Thus, the wealth of opportunities to collaborate with both faculty and students is founded upon the integration of design education and research. These programs provide a lot of research jobs for students, check out project websites for Research Assistant positions.
Notes & References
- specialized applications — Programs such as Ecotect, Maxmsp, Rhinoscript, and Grasshopper. Instructors may be professors, practitioners, or students from one of the GSD programs, who are assigned to give two-to-four sessions on a software package.
- writing — Writing support is available to all GSD students wishing to address general concerns or guidance on a specific written draft. In addition, students are encouraged to schedule sessions with reference staff who can assist with locating resources for class assignments as well as thesis research.
- mapping — Mapping Teaching Assistants hold regular office hours, providing one-on-one and group instruction of GIS.
- by the GSD community — Even students are able to propose a course or workshop to teach.
- public lecture series — Poster for the Fall 2017 Public Lecture Series.
- research initiatives — Key research initiatives include the Aga Khan Program of Islamic Architecture, Health and Places Initiative, metaLAB, Real Estate Academic Initiative, South America Project, Transforming Urban Transports, and Zofnass Program for Sustainable Infrastructure.
- design labs — Design labs include: Energy, Environments & Design Lab, Geometry Lab, Material Processes and Systems Group (MaPS), New Geographies, Responsive Environments and Artifacts, Social Agency Lab, and Urban Theory Lab.
- centers and institutes at Harvard — Research centers include the Harvard Center for Green Buildings and Cities and the Joint Center for Housing Studies.
Hear from Our Students
People here are nice! I love my classmates, I sing their praises on a daily basis and to anyone who asks! It is truly a supportive and collaborative learning environment. I feel so lucky to be a part of this community.
My peers are extremely passionate and take their studies seriously, but they’re also really fun people to work and hang out with. Turns out, the school is very artsy and design-focused.
One of my favorite parts of the GSD is the lectures/speakers/exhibitions. These reflect and produce a critical part of the broader interdisciplinary conversation going on throughout the building and the wider professional worlds.
Join the next generation of leaders advancing design's global cause.
The Harvard Graduate School of Design offers a dynamic setting for the exchange of ideas across the fields of architecture, landscape architecture, urban planning and design, and design studies – united in the pursuit of a more just, coherent, and beautiful world.