Barker Center for the Humanities
Harvard University, Cambridge, MA
Bringing departments together to support a new focus on collaboration
Our renovation of three historic buildings adjacent to Harvard Yard brought together 12 academic departments in a single Center for the Humanities. Our design provides opportunities for closer intellectual collaboration while respecting the individuality of each department.
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The largest of the three buildings, the 1901 McKim, Mead & White Georgian-style Union Building, served as a freshman dining room for nearly seven decades until Harvard decided to relocate the dining and re-use the complex for academic purposes.
- In developing the project’s program, Goody Clancy worked with representatives from each department to define their needs, examining ways to organize the groups within the buildings to achieve fair standards for assigning space and building consensus among faculty, staff, and university administration.
- The resulting design creates a shared dining area and a multi-level cluster of common spaces surrounding a skylit “great stair hall” at the heart of the building to provide a critical mass of activity. A 75-seat café serves as a common area and a meeting place for faculty and students.
- Each department has a well-defined headquarters core that includes reception and lounge space, administrative facilities, a seminar room or a library. Faculty offices radiate from each core, providing flexibility for growth and change at the margins between departments.
- Severe restrictions on exterior changes led to a series of delicate modifications to bring daylight into previously dark spaces – through new dormers and skylights not visible from street level. McKim's exterior was meticulously restored including areas where previous additions had compromised the building's integrity.
- Interior oak carvings and paneling were stripped, restored, and matched in the frames and mullions of the new interior windows. Original limestone pavers, door surrounds, and mantelpieces were also cleaned and renewed.
- New landscape design integrates the main building with the smaller Burr and Warren Houses into a cohesive quadrangle.