Posts tagged with "Harvard University":
On June 1, a few dozen Cambridge, Massachusetts, officials, business leaders, and other key figures in the area gathered around a breakfast spread in Parsnip, a tony neighborhood restaurant owned by the billionaire investor Gerald Chan. They were there to glimpse a long-awaited plan for another one of Chan’s properties, the long-vacant Harvard Square Theater at 10 Church Street. Anthony Galluccio, Chan’s attorney and the former mayor of Cambridge, unveiled a bold proposal to knock down the 82-year-old cinema and replace it with a 60,000-square-foot mixed-use building with two theaters below-grade, street-level retail, and five stories of office space.
Two renderings released to the public show a light-filled atrium enclosed by glass and visible from the street through a gap in the facade, which is composed of alternating bands of glass and textured cork-and-cement panels rising out like classical pilasters. The design, by architects Paulo Martins Barata and Luís Teixeira of the Portuguese firm Promontorio and Elizabeth Whittaker of Boston-based Merge Architects, “will be contemporary in its presence and identity, while remaining culturally respectful of the overall architectural language throughout Harvard Square,” according to a statement from Whittaker.
Chan’s plans for the cinema building were well-received, staking out a rare bit of common ground in the long-running and increasingly heated debate over the future of Harvard Square. The cinema is the latest and perhaps most striking change in a flurry of new development that will transform Harvard Square for good—and, some local activists fear, for the worse.
Although the cinema building dates to 1925, preservationists did not object to calls for its demolition. Charles Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission, described it as a “big brick box” interrupting the flow of Church Street.
Not all the changes to the neighborhood, however, are being welcomed quite so warmly. Take the block enclosed by Brattle, Mt. Auburn, and John F. Kennedy Streets, for example. Developer Regency Centers owns three adjacent buildings on the site, and has plans to replace one with a new five-story structure. In addition to restoring the historic facade of the neighboring flatiron Abbott building, Regency would widen the retail footprint on site, replacing the “World’s Only Curious George Store” with a concourse and escalator at the head of the building’s prominent frontage onto Harvard Square.
Some worry the overhaul will amount to a glorified mall, attracting chain stores instead of locally owned businesses and turning the site’s back on the center of the square.
“This has been a longstanding issue in Harvard Square,” said Charles Sullivan of the Cambridge Historical Commission. As a practical matter, however, Sullivan said Regency is not calling for a mall, because all of the building’s stores would open onto the street, not an enclosed concourse. City officials are in discussions with the developer about how many stores would be allowed in the new building; current proposals range from five to nine.
Perhaps the most contentious property in Harvard Square is also its smallest. After three decades as an eclectic newsstand, a former subway-station headhouse at the heart of the square has become a stand-in for a broader debate about the character of the neighborhood. The Harvard Square Subway Kiosk was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, but its future remains unclear.
A $4.6 million renovation plan for the square initially called for the kiosk’s demolition, but last year Cambridge City Council launched a study to landmark the building in response to public outcry. A city-appointed committee evaluating options for the kiosk’s future had its first meeting in May.
Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, would like to see the kiosk become a permanent showcase for area businesses, featuring wares from a rotating cast of small businesses in the neighborhood. That would mean the end of Out of Town News, the 500-square-foot kiosk’s current tenant, which Jillson derides as a purveyor of tobacco, lottery tickets, and pornography.
About 15 years ago, development in Harvard Square settled into a relative lull, said Sullivan. With several high-profile projects underway today, however, tensions run high once again.
“As real estate development waxes and wanes, the temperature of the discussion changes accordingly,” said Sullivan. “There probably have been dozens of watershed moments in the history of the Square. It’s always evolved.”
Old and new technologies combine in renovated anthropology building.Tasked with transforming Harvard's 1971 Tozzer Library into a new home for the university's Anthropology Department, Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA) faced a unique set of challenges. In addition to balancing the desire for a distinct architectural identity with the building's literal and metaphorical connection to adjacent structures including Peabody Museum, the architects had to accommodate an expanded program within the old library's footprint and structure. As for Tozzer Library's facade, a mold problem and poor environmental performance meant that preserving the brick exterior was never an option. "It's a generic problem of envelopes from buildings that aren't that old, yet can't stand up to contemporary needs," said principal Sheila Kennedy. "What are you going to do with those buildings? The bold approach here was, 'we're going to build on [the existing] value." By stripping Tozzer Library down to its steel and concrete-slab bones, adding space under a two-story copper roof, and wrapping the exterior in a parametrically-designed brick skin, KVA seamlessly negotiated between Harvard's storied past and the mandates of a 21st-century curriculum. Both Kennedy and founding principal J. Frano Violich are quick to dismiss the notion that the problems with the 1971 building, designed by Boston firm Johnson, Hotvedt and Associates, were anything other than a product of their times. "Attitudes toward energy consumption were very different at the time," said Violich. "[Tozzer Library] was built by intelligent people, but everyone's understanding was different from today." In contrast, he said, for the new Tozzer Anthropology Building, "everyone was on top of every [LEED] point." (The project achieved LEED Gold.) KVA began by substituting 6-inch wall studs for the original 2 1/2-inch studs, making way for improved air circulation and insulation. In addition, they eliminated the potential for mold growth by increasing the air gap between the outside sheeting and the back of the brick veneer from 3/4 inches to 2 inches. With the mechanics of the exterior walls in place, "the challenge, aesthetically, was how do we get a sense of both thickness and thinness in the veneer?" said Violich. Luckily, the question of how to breathe new life into flat surfaces was nothing new for the architects. "At KVA we've been very interested in how one designs with contemporary wall systems, with materials that are thin," explained Kennedy. "How do we express their thinness, but by architectural means and devices give them an architectural thickness, manipulate them formally so there can be a game of thin and thick?" In the case of Tozzer Anthropology Building, the answer was a new entrance pavilion with a three-dimensional brick pattern meant to "seem like carved thick brick—like an archeological find," said Kennedy. Drawing upon their early experiments with digital brick, including those at the University of Pennsylvania Law School building, the designers used parametric design software to tie each brick unit to the building's overall form. "As we manipulated the physical form in 3D, we could see various brick patterns that could develop," explained Kennedy. "It was a hybrid of low-tech and high-tech," she said of the process of zeroing in on corbeling, a brick-stacking technique that allows for overhanging layers. The digitally-derived corbeled texture complemented the depth of ornament found elsewhere around Harvard's campus. "We didn't want to make something that was arbitrary and ornamental, but something that was authentic to our time," said Kennedy. To arrive at a final design for the multi-story entrance wall, the architects again combined cutting-edge technology with traditional expertise. "The actual pattern was achieved through physical experimentation," explained Kennedy. "We did a lot of dry stack work with local masons: We would take the designs out of the computer, then pass them to the masons to test. That was a really fun part of the process." KVA then took what they learned from their real-life experiments back into the virtual world, adjusting the digital design accordingly. Even the flat facades appear unlike typical brick walls, thanks largely to an unusual window arrangement. "When you're looking at the windows, you're not looking at traditional punch windows, or a strip window with a long relieving angle," said Violich. Rather, the windows are shifted to conceal the vertical control joints in the brick. "That helps defuse the veneer quality that brick sometimes brings on," he explained. The floor-to-floor windows further confound expectations by concealing the plenum and—because they are frameless, and punch out rather than in—appearing as much like light monitors as the actual skylights cut into the building's roofline. Tozzer Anthropology Building's recycled-content copper roof completes the dialogue between thick and thin established on the brick facades. "We worked hard in the massing of the design to give a twist to the building," said Kennedy. "That could really only happen in the two new floors." KVA textured the copper roof with vertical standing seams, again using parametric software to arrange different panel types in a corduroy-like pattern. "A lot of times people think advanced facades are super technical, but we can get lost in the technology and why we're using it," observed Kennedy. "[This project] is a good combination of an aesthetic agenda, an architectural agenda, and a technical agenda." For KVA, Tozzer Anthropology Building represents more than just a repurposed campus building. Rather, it offers a provocative answer to one of today's most pressing questions: how to rectify an inherited aesthetic preference for glass with the current push for improved energy efficiency. "Everybody loves glass—we love transparency in architecture," said Kennedy. "But as we move on in our energy transition, we're going to have to develop new ideas about mass and opacity. How can we go back to a pre-modern time, but create something that is contemporary?"
Could evaporating water be the newest renewable energy source? Columbia researchers harnesses the power of bacterial spores
Asensio_mah & Harvard's Graduate School of Design's moss-covered installation is architecture on the cellular levelWhen visitors stroll through Quebec's Redford Gardens, the first of many large installations they come upon is Surface Deep, an undulating, moss-covered structure designed by international architecture firm asensio_mah in collaboration with students from Harvard's Graduate School of Design. It was built last summer, but with this year's Metis International Garden Festival, Surface Deep is once again getting major foot traffic in the most literal sense of the word. Surface Deep is a mountable, climbable series of snaking panels that invites visitors to explore it in its entirety, from its long, sweeping form to its small, mossy nooks. The panels vary in height depending on their angle, but have a constant width of 0.5m. The plywood frame and the patterned overlays were made at the Harvard Graduate School of Design's Fabrication Laboratory over a two-week period using CNC milling, robotic water jet cutting and welding. White celltech plastic trays were constructed to house the moss substrate, which were then fixed within the plywood frame and covered with panels. The parts were shipped to Quebec and assembled on site with steel anchor plates. Once the team had an idea of the overall gesture of the installation, they worked with a local biologist, Suzanna Campeau at Bryophyta Technologies, to determine which species of mosses were best suited to the microclimates created by the varying orientations and lean of the individual panels. Some panels, for example, receive full sunlight while others are in constant shade. According to the students, "the first 11 units were made with Niphotrichum canescens (a sun-loving species), unit 12 is planted with Callicladium haldanianum while the other units remaining (13 to 22) were made with a mixture of Callicladium haldanianum and other shade-loving, forest species such as Pleurozium schreberii and Ptilium crista-castrensis." Campeau grew the moss on a geotextile, a permeable fabric often used with soil for erosion control or slope stabilization. The "moss textile" was then installed on a plywood substrate and into the panel system where it's held in place by the webbed overlay. The team used the cellular structure of moss as their design inspiration for the web-like panel pattern, though they have practical applications as well. The panels help with water retention, keep the moss protected and actually provide it with some shade, albeit on the micro level. It requires watering, but the overall maintenance is quite low. And though Surface Deep is not considered permanent, the installation will be kept in the park for several years to come.